We are seeing unprecedented gospel expansion across south Asia. In this context, church-based theological education is critical for the stabilization of churches, the development of needed leaders at scale, and the preparation of church networks to become platforms for continued expansion. This week’s blog features a report from Steve Kemp in India where he is training competency cohorts, teams of top leaders who will shepherd the C-BTE process within their church planting movement.
We know that God is at work in India because we see the evidence of conversions, baptisms, and church planting. India has a rich Christian tradition dating back to Thomas (who is memorialized atop St. Thomas Mount in Chennai), but only now are we seeing a massive movement of God, even in parts of India that have never been reached successfully with the Gospel.
I am in the fourth week of a trip to India. This is not a “mission trip” where I “train pastors.” Rather, it is a series of intensive 2-3 day training events for the “competency cohorts” of church networks and church planting organizations. Essentially, top leaders (CEOs, training directors, seminary faculty, leading pastors) gather together for a high-level training process using BILD resources, such as the core Leadership Series courses, Paradigm Transformation Project seminars, SIMA MAP, and the Personal Development Assessment tools. Most of these participants are earning Doctor of Ministry degrees from the Antioch School while doing research and producing practical ministry artifacts to support CBTE in their organizations and movements.
Each of these key leaders is also using BILD resources to equip a cohort of other key leaders in their church networks and church planting organizations. For instance, they don’t “take the Acts course” from me, but rather they “teach the Acts course” to their key leaders. And most of their leaders are enrolled in Bachelor of Ministry and Master of Ministry degree programs of the Antioch School (who are also each training a cohort of leaders using the Acts course). This means that in a “competency cohort” of 15 top leaders, each is training a cohort of 10 leaders (who are also each training a cohort of 10 leaders) for a total of 1665 leaders being trained using the BILD Leadership Series courses. Additionally, each student in the Antioch School is also using the First Principles to disciple a small group of believers and/or train a small group of grassroots leaders.
Although the Antioch School is an academic institution, we don’t start by determining who is to be trained based on academic qualifications or personal desires for academic degrees. Rather, we start with a commitment to help church networks and church planting organizations train their leaders according to their existing leadership structure regardless of academic level. The Antioch School degrees help to bring motivation and discipline to the leaders who are enrolled, as well as giving them academic credentials that have cultural currency in ministry and non-ministry contexts. It is not primarily about degrees, but about building “competency” within their networks and organizations.
We think that this focus on “competency cohorts” allows us to support entire church networks and church planting movements. For instance, we are working with the three seminaries of the Evangelical Church of India (in Madras, Allahabad, and Calcutta) to help them become “seminary resource centers” for church-based theological education. These resource centers provide valuable support for the ETTC 30000 vision of Bishop Ezra Sargunam of the Evangelical Church of India. The Every Tongue and Tribe Commission’s goal is to see 30,000 church planters trained through church-based theological education using BILD resources and Antioch School degree programs.