Few evangelical organizations I hear about in my role with this magazine surprise me since most fit into ready-made categories—prison ministry, humanitarian relief, crusade evangelism, and so on.
So when I learned about Overseas Council last year, a 25-year-old ministry whose mission and scope was unlike any I had encountered before, I wondered how I had missed it all these years. Under the leadership of John C. Bennett, president of its American division (based in Indianapolis), this organization has set out to help local churches establish "flagship" graduate-level theological schools or training programs in 17 strategic regions in the Two Thirds World. These indigenous programs provide the caliber of theological and pastoral training for local churches that historically has been available to non-Western Christians only by traveling at great expense to Western institutions.
A big part of the council's role is raising funds by establishing partnerships with individuals and organizations in Western countries. The funds they generate (the goal is $46 million by decade's end) not only help local churches with the capital they need for buildings and faculty, but also allow needy students to meet tuition expenses. This year alone the council will provide over $1 million in student scholarships.
Two of the contributors in this issue of CT—Antonio Barro in Brazil and David Kasali in Kenya—are the direct recipients of the council's good work. The schools they serve as presidents, the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology and the South American Theological Seminary, are able to run in part because of the partnership program.
Overseas Council's current newsletter gives updates from schools in over two dozen countries. The very names and locations of some of these institutions seem miraculous—Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary; Russian-American Christian University (Russia); Myanmar Evangelical Graduate School of Theology; Nusantara Bible Seminary (Indonesia); Evangelical Theological Seminary (Croatia); New Pines Seminary (Cuba).
The existence of these schools reinforces what church historian Mark Hutchinson notes in this issue (p. 46): evangelicalism's centers of influence are no longer confined to Western institutions; and our evangelical movement needs exactly the kind of partnerships Overseas Council is creating if we are to thrive into the next millennium.
In the spirit of the council's mission, we present this special issue devoted to letting evangelical leaders report—in their own words—on the state of the movement in their corners of the world. We think you will be impressed with the truth that God's plan for his church is both global and local—and fascinating and diverse and surprising.
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