The greatest need of the church in Latin America is the gospel: pure, undiluted, undefiled and unadulterated. The second greatest need is theological training.
We recently began a conscious and focused endeavor to provide theological training for men in Latin America. Pictured above is our first group of in-house students. Our Academia de Estudios Bíblicos y Teológicos is a local church-based academy and is a ministry of our church plant in Guadalajara. Yet we’ve also made use of all the media at our disposal to make all classes available through distance education via online videos, audios, reading assignments, homework and exams. This allows us to offer all of the substance of the classes to Spanish-speaking students all over the world.
The Christianity which exists in Latin America exists largely because American missionaries have taken it there. This means that the Christianity of Latin America is largely an export of American Christianity. In many cases, this is the equivalent of saying that it’s not really Christianity at all but a superficial and cheap imitation that bears more resemblance to man-made religious ideas than to the faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints. The crying need of the hour is sound, systematic, careful and thorough instruction from God’s Word so as to train men to rightly handle Scripture so that they may rise up and preach the unsearchable riches of Christ faithfully and impact this and the next generation with the biblical gospel, win souls, disciple believers, plant churches, and unleash fire on the earth. This is the only thing that is able to change the deplorable spiritual condition which is so evident in this land --if God would be blessed to prosper such training and infuse life, light and power from above by the gracious operation of His Spirit. This is our hope and our earnest prayer.
The Academy was launched in May with its first course. It initiated with over 200 students; about 36 in-house and 200 online/distance learners. Students come from many different countries, including Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Nicaragua, Chile, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Spain, Sweden, and the USA. About 2/3 of these are from Mexico. Some are pastors, others are leaders of groups that are springing up as new church plants, others are members of local churches, and others are isolated due to difficulty in finding a local church with which to identify.
Each student is required to complete each lesson systematically as they progress through the course work. This includes watching or listening to the classroom lecture, taking notes, completing assignments, and doing exams. This is our way of tracking their progress and ensuring that each one is learning the material.
The curriculum is designed to span the course of 5 years. It consists of 4-5 core courses in each of the branches of the traditional encyclopedia of theology (Exegetical Theology, Systematic Theology, Historic Theology and Practical Theology). Each course consists of about 20 lessons (that is, about 20 hours of classroom lectures, plus other assignments such as reading articles and textbooks).
We have initiated the Academy with Exegetical Theology. We began with Old Testament Survey (OT Introduction and Theology) with a special focus on Biblical Theology (think names like Geerhardus Vos, Graeme Goldsworthy, G.K. Beale, T. Desmond Alexander, etc.). After four courses in the OT, we’re planning on doing New Testament Survey, then Hermeneutics. The programmed schedule for these courses is 2 years. After this, we plan on moving on to Systematics.
We’ve already given a brief introduction to topics such as Biblical Theology (in the technical sense of the word), the nature of progressive revelation, the promise-fulfillment dynamic of prophetic revelation in Scripture, typology, the problem of continuity vs. discontinuity, biblical-theological systems such as Dispensationalism, New Covenant Theology and Covenant Theology, and are now in the midst of a concise survey of the major divine-human covenants in Scripture in order to understand the contours of special revelation, its structure, and the relationship of parts of the Bible to the whole. After this, we’ll progress to a study of the OT proper, beginning with Genesis and working our way through the books of the Bible in canonical order, focusing on the major themes of each book and their contribution to the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan in Christ.
I’ve been teaching all the classes, which is obviously demanding a large portion of my time. It is our hope to invite guest lecturers in the future who will teach modules on topics in which they have considerable knowledge.
This Academy will be made available in the future to students in any place and at any time. Since all classroom lectures are recorded in high quality video and audio format, it will serve as a perpetual training program which can continue to teach and equip long after the actual live classes are over. We also hope to initiate other projects in the future that will enable us to take these materials into poverty-stricken or hard to reach places through live modules and on USB’s, hard drives, laptop computers, through printed literature and other means in order to help equip under-privileged pastors and leaders in Latin America who would otherwise have no access to theological education.
There are relatively few programs such as this offered to the Hispanic world. Those seminaries and Bible institutes which are consistent with historic Reformed theology are scarce. Those which are readily accessible are even scarcer. We did not commence this Academy because we think we're the best qualified to do so. Rather, compelled by utter necessity, we’ve initiated it due to the urgent need to see men trained to rightly handle the Word of truth so that a new generation of Bible expositors can rise up and bring about much-needed reformation in the church of Mexico and beyond through the sound teaching and Spirit-filled proclamation of God’s Word.
We ask for prayer that our sovereign Lord would be pleased to use these feeble efforts to raise up a sorely needed band of soldiers of the cross to storm the gates of Hell and build Christ's church in Latin America.
“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” -Charles H. Spurgeon