In three weeks we will start our Mission Training School. Our goal is to train seven people who are called by God to be church leader or church planter. We hope and pray that after nine months they will return to their respective tribal villages equipped to share the gospel, plant a church and shepherd the flocks.
Together with other missionaries and a local pastor, we form a team of teachers that would facilitate the training. We struggle initially with the curriculum. Our questions are, what courses should be included or excluded? What are the needs and how are we going to meet the needs? Is consultation among local theological educators and pastors needed to come up with a curriculum that would be useful in the particular context?
We have copies of curriculum from different Bible school and seminaries. These are good guide in developing our own curriculum. However, as we study these we found out that most of the courses would be irrelevant to tribal context. It is agreed that intellectualization of Christianity, its theological abstraction is not essential. How would Augustine, Calvin and Barth fit in the picture? Do they need to know the debate about inerrancy of the Scriptures or the different theories of atonement? For a while, we think that it is better if we would not bring them in the picture.
So we came up with an agreement that we should start it focusing on the Bible. All theological reflections and articulation should start from the Bible. Perhaps this is the peril of many theologians. They attempt to do theology apart from the Bible and this could not be done.
The work of the missionaries or development workers is not only to feed people of knowledge but to give them skills to take charge of their own live and theological articulation. Through deep study of the Scripture we are providing them a theological discipline that empowers them to be the people of God. Our goal should be to enable them to read and obey Scripture for themselves. Theologies have their own relevance only from particular context that they have been developed. Outside of it, they may contribute to learning but for the most part making them relevant to a different culture and context is difficult if not impossible. And this is most especially true with Western theology.
As Christian, we should have the conviction that the Gospel has inherent power to be understood across cultures. It is God’s power for salvation. It is the means of delivering people from all kinds of bondage and leading them to enjoy the freedom appropriate for his children.
Because of this, we are not copying any curriculum at all. We (together with the locals) will be developing our own as we go on. Bible first then we will allow them to tell their own stories, to tell us what they need and we will proceed from there. By telling their stories they have a voice and it is the first step not only in Christian growth but in more conscious theological reflection.