SEBTS trains Farsi-speaking Christians for diaspora missions

By Chad Burchett/SEBTS

Over the summer, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary facilitated six seminars in Turkey and Germany for Farsi-speaking students in its Persian Leadership Development (PLD) program.

Although Europe and Central Asia face a refugee crisis owing to a confluence of wars, religious oppression, and political instability, the suffering of millions of refugees has not stymied God’s plan of redemption or the Gospel testimony of the Church. 

A vibrant witness to God’s providence in suffering, many Farsi-speaking Christians have assumed the role of international missionaries as they have fled or been displaced from their homes. Facing daily persecution in the Middle East or suffering hardships as refugees throughout Europe, many Farsi-speaking Christians are breathing new life into European churches and mobilizing Muslim-background believers for Great Commission ministry.  

As one of the fastest growing Christian populations in the world, Farsi-speaking Christians are uniquely positioned to lead a burgeoning missionary movement in Europe and the Middle East. Indeed, many Farsi-speaking Christians are already involved in revitalizing efforts across Europe. 

Gathering PLD cohorts in Turkey and Germany, Southeastern administrators and professors had the opportunity to encourage and equip more than 100 Farsi-speaking students over the summer during six intensive seminars. These seminars provided students with a unique opportunity for in-person biblical and theological training – an opportunity that would be otherwise unavailable in their home countries. 

“We had a wonderful opportunity to see our students face to face, encourage them, and be blessed by them,” said Kambiz Saghaey, SEBTS director for Persian Leadership Development. “We may be teaching them biblically and theologically, but we are also learning from them – how they are living in persecution and suffering as refugees under various pressures. They are always eager to hear and study the word of God and are fresh and zealous to learn and serve wherever they are.” 

Modeling a passion for evangelism and missions, the students demonstrated their heart to serve God wherever He placed them – even during the busyness of their seminars. Gathering in local hotels for the seminars, PLD students intentionally shared the Gospel with hotel staff and were able to practice their training in the context of everyday evangelism encounters. 

Several of the summer seminars covered select books of the Bible and highlighted theological themes uniquely relevant to the students’ lives, ministry, and experiences of suffering. Studying the book of Job and God’s presence in suffering, many of the students were able to process questions about suffering arising from their lived experience and were encouraged to endure by faith in God’s promises throughout Scripture. 

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SWBTS, TBC students proclaim Jesus on mission trip to Southeast Asia

By Elizabeth Bennett/SWBTS

Nine students and one faculty member from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Texas Baptist College proclaimed Jesus on a mission trip to Southeast Asia, Oct. 1-11. The trip was a fruitful time which resulted in more than 50 professions of faith and many words of encouragement, participants said. 

Despite “congested roads filled with trucks, motorcycles, pigs, goats, water buffalo and monkeys,” Ian Buntain, team leader of the group, said, “we are so grateful for God’s protection, both for us and for the many pastors that came” to the ministry opportunities that were offered. Buntain serves as director of the World Missions Center and associate professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The team conducted a variety of outreach efforts, including training national church planters, facilitating an animal clinic, three Gospel crusades, children and youth ministry, evangelism, and Muslim outreach. “The team did a fabulous work here in Southeast Asia and led many people to Jesus,” said Sastry Meesala, a 2019 Doctor of Philosophy graduate of Southwestern Seminary, who leads a ministry in the region. 

“We would enter the homes and share testimonies, Bible stories, and the Gospel message. We would do the same thing in the evenings but in the center of villages so people would be drawn by loud music and microphones. So many people showed up each time,” remembered Katherine Smith*, a Master of Divinity in evangelism and missions student from North Carolina. They mainly ministered to children in orphanages, to pastors’ wives and families in the villages. The team helped with Vacation Bible School for children, led worship for the evangelistic crusades, and traveled to different villages sharing their testimonies and Bible lessons. 

Kris Sánchez, a Bachelor of Arts in Christian studies student at TBC from Poolville, Texas, enjoyed experiencing and learning about a different culture. “This was my first mission trip and seeing the same God work in Fort Worth, Texas, also work in these different villages in India was so amazing and mind blowing,” she said. Sánchez, who suffers from pancreatitis, said she was “very sick for a day and it was extremely hard.” During this time, “I could feel the prayers and I could feel God’s grace. It is part of my testimony and being reminded that even through sickness God’s will for our trip was bigger than my condition. I turned out OK in perfect time to play sand volleyball with the kids and had such a fun time with VBS,” Sánchez said. 

Smith said she “saw the Lord move through the number of those being saved.”

She never expected so many people to get saved, she said. “At one point I thought to myself, ‘There’s no way these people truly mean this after an hour-long sermon; they need more time before professing,’ and as soon as that thought left my mind, a Hindu woman in the crowd raised her hand and said [in her own language], ‘I am ready to leave all idols behind. I can only worship the one and only God from now on.’ Jesus saved people this week, not with flashlights or big performances but by His simple Gospel.” 

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Barber addresses regenerate church membership at MBTS

By Brett Fredenberg/MBTS

Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber visited Midwestern Seminary’s campus Oct. 26 for a chapel service, luncheon and discussion with President Jason Allen.

Barber addressed the Baptist distinctive of regenerate church membership in his sermon, explaining how this distinctive reserves church membership only for those who profess faith in Christ and show evidence of salvation.

“It was a great joy to host Dr. Bart Barber on our campus,” Allen said. “To know Dr. Barber is to know a man who loves the Lord, who loves the local church, and who loves the Southern Baptist Convention. I am grateful for his ministry in the local church and in the SBC, and I know our students benefited from his time on campus.”

Chapel service

Preaching from Acts 2:41-47, Barber drew out four marks of a regenerate church.

First, a regenerate church loves one another.

He said, “If your first ministry assignment is one of church hurt, please don’t quit there. It’s true – there isn’t any kind of hurt like church hurt. It leaves scars. But there isn’t any kind of love like church love. It heals scars.”

Second, a regenerate church is hungry for biblical truth.

He explained his own ministry practice of preaching through books of the Bible, saying, “When you preach the Word of God, it will connect with something inside of us because God put the something inside of us to respond well to the proclamation of God’s Word. His sheep know His voice.”

Third, a regenerate church believes in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“I believe in the work and power of the Holy Spirit, especially in a congregation of believers,” Barber said. “A regenerate church has a hope that the Holy Spirit will be at work among them in ways that are hard to understand.”

Fourth, a regenerate church has radical generosity.

“The Holy Spirit moves people to meet needs through radical generosity, so much that they are said to have everything in common. I’ve seen radical generosity happen in the hearts of people who love Jesus.”

After explaining these four marks of regenerate church membership, Barber spoke to the importance of this topic amongst Southern Baptists.

He said, “Anything you can’t preach, you can’t propagate.” He then encouraged future pastors to preach on this same topic in their future ministries on the basis of the biblical priority of regenerate churches.

Concluding his sermon, Barber explained how a conviction regarding regenerate church membership should lead to a passion for gospel proclamation.

“As a regenerate church, we should always be calling people to faith in Christ,” he said. “Cultivate a fervency in your church to share the gospel with children and students in your church with the belief of regenerate church membership.”

Luncheon and Q&A

Following the chapel service, the President’s Office hosted a luncheon and Q&A with Barber and President Allen.

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