COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – It all began in 1979 when a few men had a vision for supporting the church behind the Iron Curtain. Knowing the church was struggling, they connected 12 Christian mission organizations to consider how to support the church at risk. In a great collaboration, they developed a comprehensive biblical training program for those beleaguered pastors. That partnership became known as Biblical Education by Extension (BEE) and allowed them to leverage limited resources to meet this great need. The new curriculum was purposefully written to be effective across denominational and cultural boundaries.
That’s how the BEE World website describes its beginning. Over the ensuing years, BEE World has become a worldwide missions organization that provides “biblical training that results in the multiplication of leading servants, with priority given to countries with limited access to training.”
BEE works with pastors and church leaders in 34 countries across North and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Each of these is an area where there is a crisis in Christian leadership. The crisis is that, in these regions, there are more than five million pastors who have little or no biblical training. Often, these men pastor five or more congregations. Resident Bible schools are currently able to fill less than half the need for trained pastors.
70% of newly planted churches are no longer in existence after one year.
The Lord did not send us to make converts. He sent us to make disciples. It is reasonable to infer from Paul’s letters to Timothy that making disciples requires teaching Scripture and what it means so that those who are taught are equipped with a message and a method of teaching others also.
Bee facilitators visit their pastor-students three to four times a year and instruct them within the context of their own ministries. Experience indicates evidence that contextual ministry is much more effective than training pastors in a traditional classroom environment and certifying that they have been trained.
Rather than convene for lectures, BEE facilitators teach inductive Bible study. Simply described, inductive Bible study includes three distinct and intensive components: Observation, Interpretation, and Application. What does it say? What does it mean? How do I apply what Scripture says and means in my life?
One pastor who had never before been aware of inductive Bible study exclaimed,
“We cannot go back. We will never study the Word the same way again or prepare our sermons the same way. Our churches are going to be strengthened. We will be strengthened.”
Discipleship is achieved by multiplying the impact of a few people to many. The primary objective is not merely to get a biblical education but to disseminate it. If one teaches five, then those five teach another five each, within two “generations,” there are 30 disciples. If those 30 each teach another five, there will be 180 by the end of the third iteration of discipleship generations.
Multiplication should not be an idea tacked on as a conclusion to biblical studies. BEE facilitators included the need for multiplication from the very first study and all throughout. They make it a continuous core curriculum so that it becomes ingrained into everyday life.
Bible Education by Extension considers the work unfinished until they have established a solid group of sound disciples who have become self-propagating, self-supporting, and self-governing.
Not only is that discipleship at is best, but it also frees facilitators to follow the Lord as He opens other opportunities to reproduce disciples where they are most needed.