Monthly Archives: October 2014

Training Biblical Leaders and Preachers in Their Own Country

It is wonderful to train biblical leaders and preachers in our own country, but it is also fantastic to be able to do so in other more needy parts of the world. That was my privilege this past August, as I traveled to Cali, Colombia to work with the LanIMG_2361gham Partnership as keynote speaker for a conference on the preaching of the prophetic books of Scripture.

Langham is an organization that was begun by John Stott and funded through his book royalties. It continues today as an organization that works to develop biblical preachers in developing countries around the world. This past year they offered more than 100 such seminars and training opportunities globally.

In my case, I was able to work with about 100 pastors and preachers for several days. Their hunger to learn more about the craft of preaching and to better appreciate the interpretation and proclamation of the prophetic texts was a beautiful thing to experience. I was then given the further opportunity to travel farther inland to the city of Armenia where I engaged a large lay leader training event and preached at Shalom Church, where a couple of thousand had gathered to worship.

As a seminary president I have plenty of opportunity to travel, but not often for this kind of purpose. I remember from my earliest days hearing stories about Colombia from furloughing missIMG_2373ionaries. For several decades, our churches in British Colombia have been sending missionaries to Colombia. These missionaries have done a tremendous job and today the El Redil network of churches is one of the most vibrant movements for the Gospel that I know.

Colombia is a great example of the kind of place a seminary like Northwest needs to be engaged. The time for the career foreign missionary is over in a place like this. The national church is strong and their witness is vibrant. Now the time is ripe for seminaries like Northwest to come alongside and work on the development of a great cadre of national pastors and leaders. As long as those opportunities exist, I will be thrilled to participate.

Board of Governors Award – Evan Scales

award-01The Board of Governors Award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to the mission of Northwest Baptist Seminary. In recognition of such commitment, the Board of Governors is pleased to present this award to Evan Scales.

Evan served on the Board of Governors for 18 consecutive years, from 1990 through 2007. These were some of the seminary’s most challenging years, during which Northwest concluded its decades-long college level ministry, transitioning to its current form as a primarily graduate level institution. Those who served on the board during this time were required to show a courageous level of focus on the primary mission that the school had served going back to its inception in 1934 – the development of high quality, ministry leaders for the church. While this discussion was painful for Evan, he understood the necessity of this decision. That the seminary currently prospers in this mission is due in large measure to those like Evan who offered steady governance-level leadership at that time.

Evan and Mary ScalesEvan’s unique contribution to the board was in the writing of a new set of by-laws to govern the seminary, with a particular concern to enshrine the relationship of the seminary to its churches. This was a significant task during these days of transition. This kind of work may not have been glamorous or even interesting, yet Evan knew the importance of a firm documentary foundation. The current stability of the seminary bears testament to the durability of Evan’s work.

Along with his service to the board, Evan and his wife Mary, sent several of their own children to study at Northwest. They also were faithful and significant financial contributors. May many follow after their example!

Evan spent his career working for the Pacific Great Eastern Railway, which later became known as BC Rail, and later for the CNR. But it would seem that he put in almost as much effort toward the health of the churches he helped plant and encourage, most notably Dallas-Barnhartvale Baptist Church. It was in his study and teaching of theology that Evan’s passion for the church came together with his passion for the mission of the seminary.

Evan is also known for his work as President of the Fellowship Baptist Interior Association and for his years of service to Sunnybrae Bible Camp where he served as Director for a time.

The work of the church depends upon people who will give graciously and sacrificially of their time, talent, and treasure. Those who can see how graduate-level leadership development is of strategic importance to God’s Kingdom are to be particularly cherished. Evan and Mary Scales are a tremendous example of such. By this award, we express our gratitude to God and to the Scales for their commitment to the Lord, expressed through their service to all of us.

Kalimantan, Indonesia Trip

I was born and raised deep in the jungles of the island of Borneo (now Kalimantan, Indonesia) where I witnessed first-hand the entry of the Gospel and the birth of the Church among a people group called the Dayaks. Years later, after graduation from Prairie Bible Instute and Winnipeg Bible College I returned there with my wife, Becky, and we served alongside that same Dayak church for 16 years.

This past June Northwest granted me a three week window to travel back to Indonesia to revisit the Dayak church. The purpose of the trip was to meet with and encourage the pastors and leaders of the local churches among whom Becky and I had worked back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I have returned with great rejoicing having been immensely blessed and encouraged. Jesus’ church among the Dayaks is alive and growing. I was greatly encouraged to witness their love for the Lord, their faithfulness, their determination to follow Him wholly, their affection for us, and the common bond we have with them in the Lord.

I was joined on the trip by Darrel Davis of Three Hills, Alberta, and my sister and brother-in-law, Henry and Jan Armstrong, of Singapore. All of us had served there together in the past and now were returning to see what God was doing. Everywhere we went we heard stories of God’s amazing work in the lives of many of our brothers and sisters among the Dayaks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This group of Dayak churches celebrated their 60th anniversary this year and the leaders expressed to us several times their thankfulness for the missionaries (my parents among others) who had brought the Gospel to them all those years ago. It was especially encouraging to hear of their understanding of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ had done in them individually and for them as a racial group. It was delightful to hear their expressions of gratitude, first to God and also to the missionaries through whom God had sent them the news of salvation. For me personally this made everything we had experienced worth it.

There are still many challenges that they face and I ask that you increase your prayers for the Dayak church of Kalimantan. They face significant pressures to accommodate to societal and cultural issues that tend toward syncretism – that is the mixing of the Christian faith with their old animistic religious beliefs. Also, their economic conditions have improved so dramatically and suddenly that they face the temptation to confuse the transformative effects of the Gospel with a so called gospel of wealth.

Despite these challenges, it was clearly evident to our little team that God was at work and we were witnessing the ongoing ministry of the Spirit in Christ’s church among the Dayaks.

Right at the beginning of our visit we were also given the opportunity to meet with the provincial governor at his home. When we told him that our reason for requesting an audience with him was so that we could pray for him his entire demenour changed from cautious suspicion to delighted friendliness.

I was very grateful to the Lord that I was able to remember the language and was able to converse, preach, and teach fluently. After 20 years of very little use – my language facility was not a given. Then there was the food! We had to sample all of the local fruit and local dishes that we had missed over the years. That was very enjoyable for us !

OMeeting with the national church leadership and hearing their passion for a vibrant, missionally minded church, and then spending some time with them praying together was one of my top highlights of the trip. They, in turn, mentioned several times how encouraging our visit had been to them. Despite our lengthy absence they still saw us as partners in the Gospel. What an incredible privilege. Thank you, Jesus!

 

Immerse is Accredited

We are very excited to announce that Northwest Baptist Seminary is now fully accredited by The Association of Theological Schools. Of particular importance is that ATS also accredited our innovative Immerse program.

This is no small thing, given the uniqueness of Immerse. The fully church-based nature of the program means that Immerse exceeds the standards for residency normally expected of seminaries. Granting approval for this kind of learning marks a dramatic step forward in the world of theological education with Northwest at the forefront of this exciting change.

For many years, Northwest has held its accredited status on the basis of two elements: its charter to offer theological degrees granted by provincial legislation back in 1959, and through its partnership in ACTS Seminaries. Now that Northwest is offering programming outside of the ACTS umbrella, it was important to submit Immerse for the examination of ATS.

IMG_2188Immerse offered several challenges to the accreditors. The program is built on a number of principles that are unique. For example, Immerse has no courses, no semesters, and no fixed timetable. Instead it challenges students, working under the direction of a team of mentors, to pursue mastery of a comprehensive set of outcomes. The mentors are free to customize student expectations in order to provide whatever will be the most helpful to the student. Recognizing that schedules and timetables can arbitrarily limit student learning, Immerse allows students to continue working on a subject until they get to a level of appropriate mastery. When they’ve got it they can move on.

Key to the value of Immerse is its rootedness in context. We believe that the best place to learn to lead the church is the church itself. Immerse students go beyond theory to prove their competency through ministry to real people on the ground. The problem was that seminaries have traditionally understood themselves as campus-based, valuing greatly the learning and personal formation that happens best in community strattera and weight loss. Our answer was that we agreed in the importance of community, but that we see the church as the primary community and the best environment for student development. This church-centric approach is more consistent with our long-standing commitment to the church as God’s primary instrument for the spread of his Kingdom.

In the end, the examiners were able to appreciate our position, and indicated their desire to approve the program as an official “experiment” of ATS. This experimental status is actually to our benefit. It does not imply any uncertainty or that their decision is provisional. It does acknowledge that what we are doing is unique and that it does exceed the standards as they are currently written. By framing this as an official experiment, ATS has put this program on a much higher profile. The program will be noticed and observed. As we make progress, others will learn the things that we are learning. As we prove results a few years down the road, ATS will be required to build some of what has been learned into the standards that govern every theological school.

In other words, we are literally changing the face of theological education.

The decision of ATS was not guaranteed. In fact there were a number of other schools whose applications for experiments were not granted. When I thanked ATS Executive Director, Dan Aleshire, he said to me, “Well, you didn’t really give us a choice. You were so well prepared and had covered every angle. We had to say yes to you.” While his response was gratifying for its affirmation, it is also encouraging to realize the kind of impact that we are having.

Immerse is jointly owned and was collaboratively developed with David Horita and the team at Fellowship Pacific. The Northwest mission has always been first and foremost about the mission of our churches and so it was important to build this in concert with those churches. Now, however, the effect of what we built is starting to spread.

Currently we have versions of Immerse available to Fellowship Pacific, Fellowship Prairies, Fellowship International, and Baptist Housing. This latter version takes things beyond the world of pastor and church to the world of chaplaincy. We are also now in serious conversation with several other potential partners, schools, and networks all across Canada and into the United States as well. We will share more information when we are able.

On another front, we would encourage you to pray for our developing relationship with SEMBEQ, our Fellowship Baptist related seminary in the province of Quebec. SEMBEQ has been operating successfully for more than 40 years, training great pastoral leaders through their own church-based system, resulting in a strong network of healthy churches and leaders in this very needy place. SEMBEQ, however, does not have a charter, nor do they have accreditation for their programs. Upon their request, we have been working with SEMBEQ to offer their degrees under our charter on their behalf.

In fact, we have made a formal request to the Ministry of Education seeking their permission. We would encourage you to join us in prayer for this matter – particularly for favor with the Quebec government. Recently, Northwest was the subject of an article in the Montreal newspaper La Presse in which the author seemed to have some distress over this supposed incursion of evangelicals into their province. Of course, the Bible is full of instances where God moved the heart of kings and governors who did not acknowledge his sovereignty. We are praying that he will do it yet again.

As we have sought to be faithful with what God has given us, we have begun to see God enlarge our influence. We are grateful for the opportunity. We are deeply aware that this is all for his glory and for his honour.

Thank you for sharing with us in this important task.

Celebration and Thanksgiving to God

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you – 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18.
Birthdays in our home are a great excuse to eat, laugh and share about our year. Taking time to celebrate how God has blessed us helps us to refocus on God’s goodness and to be thankful for all He has accomplished. In Psalm 97:12, we are commanded: “Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise His holy name.”

One of our family birthday traditions is to share a highlight for the year. This year, our daughter was so excited to report her highlight. She was literally bursting to share her good news with us!
Here is my highlight from Northwest’s year and my reason for celebration and for giving thanks to God.

O— Immerse, our church based Ministry Leadership Development program is now fully accredited by ATS and currently  has 35 students involved in churches throughout the Pacific region.  We are blessed and excited to partner with our local churches as we actively extend the love of Jesus to others and impact our communities.

Here is just a small sample of what our churches are saying about our Immerse students:

We started with one Immerse student and within a year, brought on a second. The excitement and passion they bring is expanding and strengthening our ministry here at Central Baptist Church. The Immerse program has exceeded our expectations in its effectiveness… As we train and mentor these men, we expect God to do great things as we partner in building His kingdom.
Steve Edelman, Associate Pastor,
Central Baptist Church, Victoria BC.

As an Immerse intern Wesley has brought more effectiveness to our community outreach, strength to our preaching ministry, assistance in the tasks of my role, wisdom to our pastoral team, and another team member to work alongside of.  I cannot express how much help it is to have him on board.
Barton Priebe, Senior Pastor,
Dunbar Heights Baptist Church Vancouver, BC.

We have the privilege of currently having two Immerse students as part of our staff team.  As a church I know we have benefited greatly from the ministry leaders. While our students are mainly involved in youth and kids ministries, I would guess that you could ask just about anyone at Emmanuel, and they would tell you that the blessing to our church extends far beyond a particular program…our whole church has been blessed by our participation in Immerse.
Don Reeve, Lead Pastor,
Emmanuel  Baptist Church, Vernon, BC.

We are grateful for the role Northwest Baptist Seminary has in extending God’s Kingdom and impacting others at home and abroad.

If you wish to know more about how you can support us with your financial gifts please call me: 1-250-240-3737 or email me directly: ron@nbseminary.ca.

We thank you for all your support and depend on the generosity of our friends like you who wish to see God’s Kingdom grow and prosper. Here is how you can give to Northwest to help sponsor a student. You can give directly online: www.nbseminary.ca/give. Thanks for your investment in the Kingdom of God and for making a difference!