Thursday, June 19, 2008

Theologians Without Borders: Overview in English

Theologians Without Borders (TWB) is a ministry of the Baptist World Alliance that brings together seminaries that need short-term teachers and conventions that need preachers with people who are equipped and available to serve.

While it has commenced among Baptists it is not exclusively a Baptist venture. Already expressions of interest and requests for help have come from people and seminaries representing different branches of the church.

Vision Emerging
The vision emerged out of my experience when I commenced in early 2006 as a volunteer seminary teacher and conference speaker. When my availability became known I not only received more requests than I could handle but many opportunities were in areas that were not my primary expertise. As we talked, we envisaged a flexible coordination group that could act as a clearing house for requests, various ways we could sound the Macedonian call, ‘Come over and Help Us!’, a matchmaking service that could bring together people with the right skill and theological shade and a resource centre that prepares both teachers and the institutions that will receive them.

Who is Needed?
The word ‘theologians’ is used broadly to refer not only to those who teach theology in a seminary but to capable pastors and lay people who have training and expertise in teaching about God, the Bible and a broad range of Christian ministries. Many of the requests are coming from places where they are desperate for the training so a basic degree is often fine not necessarily second or third theology degrees.

Mutual Encouragement
Theologians Without Borders is based on the biblical concept of partnership by which we experience mutual encouragement. Teachers who teach at a seminary for a week or a month or preachers who speak at a Pastor’s Conference generally come at their own expense or are supported by their seminary, convention or local church. The onus is on the receiving partner to meet the costs of food and accommodation.

Small Beginnings
Theologians Without Borders has commenced in a small way so as not to raise expectations unnecessarily. Requests for assistance have come from many countries including Nepal, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Bolivia and Sierra Leone. Many of the requests come from regions that are not sympathetic to the Christian faith so the publishing of full details on the web site is unwise.

Range of Requests & Gifts Needed
The requests are often broad e.g. ‘We could do with a teacher’ or ‘We want someone with financial skills to help us sort out our accounts’ or ‘Can someone sit with us and help us to come up with an appropriate strategy for training church leaders in our state or country?’ It is often easier to respond to needs that are specific e.g. ‘We would like a preacher or teacher to give some Old Testament studies at our annual Pastor’s Conference’ or ‘Please give a series of Regional Church Seminars (at these dates) on the subject of Conflict Resolution in the Church.’

Express an Interest
Gradually the news about TWB is getting out but so far expressions of interest to help have come from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and England. These ‘theologians without borders’ have included seminary teachers, retired teachers and pastors, capable graduate students, pastors of churches, lay people and husband and wife combinations. Use the ‘expression of interest’ template (without making a definite commitment) to let us know of your thoughts, gifts and expertise.

It is heartening to see some seminaries actively encouraging their teachers to build a regular international teaching and preaching stint into their job description over a two to five year period. There is great scope for teachers to visit with students (and pastors with their church members) thus making it a valuable team teaching experience. This offers rich opportunities (hopefully with seminary credit) for theological reflection and intercultural mission exposure.

Creative Giving
Some teachers and preachers have the skill and the time to serve but not the money, so other people and churches can sponsor others by paying an airfare or gifting some Air Miles.

Some Baptist members are asking, before they go touring in a certain country, “Is there any way we might volunteer our time and services?” Why not combine Christian ministry with tourism?

Subscribe to the Postings
A Theologians Without Borders web site has been established listing testimonies of people who have served, some current requests and a form through which people can make an ‘expression of interest.’ Use the ‘subscribe in a reader’ button to get free, regular postings from this site sent to your computer.

Spread the Word
Please help us spread the word about TWB by promoting the ministry in seminaries, conventions and churches, or linking to the TWB website.

Dr Geoff Pound
Chair, Coordinating Committee
Theologians Without Borders
geoffpound@yahoo.com.au

Image: TWB web site