Training leaders in north India

The School of Biblical Teaching (SBT) was founded in 1993 to help train current and future leaders in these emerging churches. This network of churches and organisations has helped hundreds of church planters and leaders to study, apply and teach God’s Word. It has given them simple and effective tools to enable them to teach clearly and with impact from a Bible passage, within the framework of the Bible’s story as a whole.

South Asian Concern has played a key role in SBT, with Raju Abraham and Robin Thomson as part of the original team of resource people, now led by Rev Devender Verma, a senior pastor of Delhi Bible Fellowship.

As leaders grew in ability and qualifications, how could they be retained in their local churches? In February 2015 SBT launched the Ezra Theology Course (ETC), to make available recognised, seminary-level training in Hindi from a local church base. “Because most of these churches began in villages, most seminary courses would not be equipped to train leaders in their own ministry context.” Pastor Devender explained. “We wanted to bring training to them right there.”

Twelve local church leaders who had been part of SBT were selected. They continued to serve in their church, working closely with a mentor who monitored their progress in personal character, ministry skills and study. They also attended regular ‘intensive’ sessions, three times a year, led by Indian and international resource people. Students appreciated the servant attitude of the teachers, all the more when they realised how much ministry experience and training the teachers had received. Thus ETC built on the experience in SBT and students continued to help in the SBT workshops. Twelve new students joined each year.

The impact has been considerable. The students already had some grasp of the skills of teaching the Bible. But the opportunity to spend more time and to study a broader range of theology and ministry subjects has been very rewarding. “These courses have changed my life,” said Joel Robinson. “Many questions were answered, both theological like the Trinity, and practical, like how to preach and deliver a sermon.” “I learned a lot about managing my time,” said Pastor Robin Masihi. “Our ministries will always have an effect on our families or marriage. So it’s important to leave time for family and not just our ministries.”

Of course, there were struggles. “My trouble was hitting the books. I have not studied any for a very long time,” said Joel. Ranjeet Joseph’s challenge came when he had to leave his church for a week, with nobody to take care of it.

“You see these people come on the first day, and then watch how they develop, prosper, understand harder theological concepts,” said Anand Lal, one of the ETC teachers. “You get excited about their growth. One of them said he wanted to leave on the second day of our first module and look at him now. He’s about to graduate.”

The first group of 12 completed the Ezra Theology Course in November 2017. They will continue teaching and training in their own churches and also serve as mentors for the next batch of ETC students.

Article by Robin Thomson, SAC Partner

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