Reformed Quarterly Volume 10, Issue 1
Walk across the RTS campus in Jackson, and you will probably hear “Hello” in ten different languages. In recent years RTS has become a literal microcosm of the world, attracting the cream of the crop in evangelical leadership around the world. This year more than sixty international students from some twenty-four countries are studying at RTS.
“The world has grown smaller and more accessible,” says RTS President Luder Whitlock, “making it possible for 65 % of the Third World church leaders to study in the United States. RTS has become a magnet for these leaders; we try to help them develop a world and life view in the midst of the turmoil which afflicts many of their countries, and equip them for more effective ministry there. In turn, their presence in our community helps all of us at RTS develop more effective strategies for ministry in the modern world.”
THE THIRD WORLD CHURCH COMES OF AGE
Why are international leaders seeking out RTS? Part of the answer lies in the phenomenon which is occurring now in global ministry. World vision among what Americans consider mission churches has recently emerged. Before, the Third World church had little missionary vision, a condition largely the fault of Western missionaries.
“When I left the mission field after thirty years,” says Dr. Paul Long, Chairman of the Missions Department, “I was convinced that we had done a good job leading people to Christ, planting churches, and training leaders for those churches. But I knew that we had not given them a vision for the ongoing purpose of the church — a responsibility for world missions. Instead, we taught them only how to take good care of the churches we had started and how to do local evangelism.”
Dr. Sam Rowen, Director of the Doctor of Missiology program, explains the breakdown in passing on the missionary vision. “Largely, the mission focus was to evangelize and plant churches; missionaries failed to realize that, for the church to mature, it must also have a world vision, just like the church that sent them. Personality differences also came into play; frequently, after meeting a cantankerous missionary, a native thought, “Why in the world would I want to study missions? I don’t want to be like that missionary!”
But all that is changing rapidly. Dr. Will Norton, professor of Christian Missions, explains, “The mission field is no longer just a ‘mission field.’ The churches planted there are taking root and cooperating to evangelize the world. In recent years, over 20,000 missionaries have been sent out by churches which we in North America would consider mission fields themselves. But they need quality leaders from their own people. Therefore, they are in the process of developing missionary training centers to teach these leaders. In the providence of God, RTS has become a primary training ground for such mission leaders from all over the world.”
Rowen agrees. “Historically, I think we are at a very, very critical moment, and RTS has made the commitment to seize it. I consider the international students here at RTS to be the finest potential leaders in the emerging Third World missionary movement.” Another reason international students are choosing RTS is that they have met one or more of our professors personally. During the last few years, RTS faculty members have increasingly become regular visitors to foreign seminaries, churches, and universities. Dr. Simon Kistemaker, professor of New Testament, has lectured in Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, London, Indonesia, and Australia. Dr. Will Norton participated in Lausanne II in Manila and has traveled to Cypress, Holland, and Africa in the interest of missions. Dr. Sam Rowen has done extensive mission work in the Orient and held workshops in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. He plans to continue missions projects begun before coming to RTS. Dr. Richard Watson, Academic Dean, has taught in Korea, Australia, and Indonesia; Dr. Ron Nash is lecturing in Russia this spring. Dr. Douglas Kelly has lectured extensively in Korea and spends time every year in Edinburgh, Scotland, doing translation work. Dr. Richard Pratt has lectured in Australia, Poland, and Czechoslovakia while also doing evangelism work in the latter two. Dr. R.C. Sproul was in Vienna last summer teaching leaders from Eastern Bloc countries and Russia. When a faculty member returns home, interested students are usually not far behind. RTS
MISSIONS VISION BROADENS
While RTS has always had a fervent evangelistic spirit and sent many missionaries to the field, the missions program leaped into high gear upon the arrival of Dr. Paul Long in 1981.
“My vision,” says Long, “was to saturate the seminary curriculum with a missions emphasis and graduate people who understand what God wants the church to be in this world. We began with three students — a Naga Indian, a Chinese girl, and a Japanese man — and today we have over sixty outstanding Third World leaders making a significant impact on the campus.”
The strong intercultural nature of the RTS missions program is one of its unique strengths. Having such a plethora of world leaders means that RTS missions classes are more like laboratories than lectures.
“In a classroom,” explains Long, “a professor tells the students what they need to know. In a lab, each person throws out ideas from his own particular knowledge and perspective. We learn by sharing with very experienced people.”
In a class of fifteen or eighteen, ten to twelve nations may be represented with outstanding Christian leaders. Multiple languages, cultures, and backgrounds in the classes make an ideal setting for cross-cultural training.
Another exciting and unique aspect of missions studies at RTS is the cooperation among departments — a spirit of “we’re all in this together.” For example, in an ethno-hermeneutics class, professors from as many as five other disciplines –including theology, Christian Education, and Bible — visit to lecture from their perspectives. In turn, Long, Norton, and Rowen are invited to lecture from a missions perspective.
A Ph.D. program in Intercultural Studies, offered jointly with a major university in Mississippi, is now being considered. Sam Rowen couldn’t be happier.
“A joint degree with a major university would be helpful in gaining government favor and would give not only increased credibility as Christians, but also allow opportunities for witness in government functions. Finally, for students returning to restricted-access countries like China or the Islamic world, a university degree would create far less negative bias than a theological degree.”
Giving international students the tools they need is the job of an eminently qualified and excellent adjunct faculty along with Long, Rowen, and Norton. The adjunct faculty includes such people as:
— Dr. James Engel, Distinguished Professor of Marketing, Research, and Strategy at Eastern College in St. David’s, Pennsylvania, and co-author with Will Norton of What’s Gone Wrong With the Harvest?. Engel, who has been voted one of the top ten outstanding scholars in the field of market research and whose texts are used in most universities, is now exercising his skill to help the church and its ministry.
— Dr. Bong-Rin Ro, founder and executive director of the Asian Theological Association — the accrediting agency for evangelical seminaries in Asia — and executive secretary of the World Evangelical Fellowship.
— Dr. Peter Kuzmic, Chairman of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Fellowship and President of the Evangelical Seminary in Yugoslavia. Kuzmic is one of the leading authorities on evangelism and church extension in Eastern Europe, holding a Ph.D. from the University of Zagreb in Yugoslavia.
— Dr. William Taylor, Chairman of the Missions Commission of the World Evangelical Fellowship, with primary responsibility for establishing missionary training centers in the Two-Thirds World.
Blending cross cultural studies in missions with American know-how in leadership — that’s what RTS wants to give these emerging Third World leaders. It’s a bonus that we learn something from them, too.
EVANGELICAL LEADERS AT RTS
“When God called me to RTS ten years ago,” says Paul Long, “I prayed that He would send foreign students of His choice to study with us. He has answered that prayer and sent from many countries outstanding Christian leaders with significant experience and responsibilities in their local areas.”
“We try to keep them no longer than three years so they don’t lose contact with their people,” continues Long. “Over the years, only one foreign student in our missions program, Asung Lungleng, has not returned to his native land — only because he would have been assassinated had he done so. Thankfully, he should be able to go back soon.”
Bishop Augustus Marwieh, Liberia
Elias Medeiros, Brazil
Policarp Teen, Nigeria
Jun Mo Jeong, Korea