A Personal Testimony

Central India: Changing Perspectives in Church-Based Theological Education

By Melvin Lazar, Central India Network

My name is Melvin Lazar. I have been in the ministry for many years in the Northern part of India with Good News Centre and Church Bhopal. I have done my Master of Theology and spent a lot of years in the seminary. But the philosophy of BILD has brought tremendous change in my perspective towards the theological studies. Most of the time I saw it as acquiring knowledge, and I was assuming that I will be able to bring those learning into practice, once I complete my study program and entered into the ministry field. But ever since I learned and understood (still learning and understanding) the paradigm BILD has brought, I knew I was not able to effectively apply any of my learning towards the growth of the church and its life. Moreover, it also helped me to continue my learning that was in a way stagnant after my studies in the seminary. In fact, I was not even considering or thinking on the scope of being involved in continuous learning in a systematic way outside of the seminary. Although we speak on learning as a lifelong process, in practicality we were unable o do it in a continuous and orderly manner. But the paradigm of Church-Based Theological Education helped me to continue my learning in an incessant and efficient way.

The curriculum of BILD and its philosophy is not focusing merely on academic exercise, rather it shows how it has to be done within the context of the church, simultaneously helping the church to develop leaders and its holistic growth. Some of the learning, like the household text and its implications in a local church, was marvelous. The roles and responsibilities of each individual in God’s Household is something we often neglect. So the paradigm of Church-Based Theological Education, now I can surely say, is the need of the hour, especially in the North Indian context.

Once I joined in the Doctorate of Ministry program, I have been personally involved in training the believers in our local church as well as a group of leaders and pastors in a particular area called Mandla in Madhya Pradesh. Most of them have not gone through regular training programs, nor had any ongoing training helping them to acquire knowledge. This training program has helped them to continue their learning within the context of the ministry, especially within the context of the church life. It has changed a lot in their perspective towards the ministry. And now they themselves are involved in teaching their leaders in their respective local churches. Most of the time, in the region where these pastors are working, people come to the faith by some point of contact like healing and through getting their needs met by prayer and by a miracle. But now, the teaching of The First Principles helped them to be strongly founded in the first principles of Jesus Christ. As a result, we see a lot of changes in these churches and their leadership.