“Send us wood,” wrote John Calvin, recruiting for his new theological college in Geneva, nearly 500 years ago. “We will send you back sharp arrows.”
The Ezra Theology Course in north India, (part of the School of Biblical Teaching), also produces arrows. The difference is that these students have already been sharpened by their experience in ministry. As leaders in their local churches they come together three times a year for an intensive study session and continue in ministry while they are training.
When I visited the recent session in Delhi I was impressed by the quality of the students and their range of backgrounds. Some are leaders of small village churches, while others lead larger churches of 100 or more. Others are part of their church leadership team while continuing their professions – for example, one runs his family jewellery shop while another is a high ﬂying bank executive. They all spoke with enthusiasm about the course and showed their commitment by their regular attendance, some planning months ahead to make sure they could take leave to attend.
One pastor of a church in the city of Kanpur completed the Ezra Theology Course last year and has now sent three of his leadership team to join the course. In July he came back himself to attend the session, as there were new subjects that he had not studied earlier.
The main focus of the course is to train leaders to teach and preach the Bible effectively. In addition they gain a broader framework of theology, along with the study of religious and social movements in India, counselling, mission and the history of the church. Everything is taught within a framework of prayer and personal spiritual growth. It is all in Hindi.
This time they learned about Hinduism and how to communicate the good news of Jesus with Hindus. They were taught by a man with many years’ experience as a distinguished scientist and evangelist. The other subject was ‘personal growth and spiritual transformation’, led by a team from the Biblical Counselling Trust of India. For both subjects there were assignments to be done in the coming weeks, both theory and practice. Each student also has a mentor, whom they meet once a month to reﬂect on their ministry and personal lives.
ETC graduates in Delhi have the opportunity to join a monthly Preachers’ Club, where they meet other leaders and take turns to preach and be evaluated. At the July session, I listened to two men preaching. They have both attended the School of Biblical Teaching workshops and then completed the Ezra Theology Course. I last met them around seven years ago, when they were starting out. Listening to them again, I was struck by how effectively they were teaching, explaining the Bible with conﬁdence and accuracy, and applying it with relevance to their hearers.
The arrows have become very sharp.
Article by: Robin Thomson – SAC Partner