Time for a history lesson! Let’s look at how TEE developed over the last decades, and why we believe it is still relevant today. Not only relevant, but also growing in exciting ways!
A First Wave of TEE: From the 1960s
TEE was born in 1964. A seminary in Guatemala had discovered that very few of their graduates returned to the rural pastoral ministries for which they had been trained. Meanwhile the local leaders of rural congregations had received no training. An ‘extension’ branch of the seminary started, with the teachers travelling out to equip rural pastors in their own contexts. ‘Theological Education by Extension’ (TEE) was born.
The concept of TEE spread rapidly to other continents in the early 1970s. And where many programmes and courses failed, some programmes flourished: the more interesting, understandable and applicable courses spread widely because TEE students enjoyed them. In some parts of Asia, courses from the first wave of TEE are still enjoyed today and have been revised along the way. In Africa, a successful curriculum is called TEXT Africa. The courses were specifically written for African contexts and have ongoing value. In Latin America, the curriculum written by SEAN became globally influential. At present SEAN materials are used in more than 100 countries and in over 80 languages. Read about SEAN here.
A Second Wave of TEE: From the 1980s
While the first wave of TEE had mostly aimed to equip pastors, by the 1980s a second wave was beginning that eventually outgrew the first. SEAN’s growth contributed much to this, and some of TEXT Africa’s courses also spread. This new wave sought to equip all Christians, not just leaders.
In the 1990s, the second wave accelerated further wherever multitudes were turning to Christ from other religions: in countries like China, Mongolia and Nepal, new churches were springing up like mushrooms after rain. How could the new believers be discipled well? How could local leaders be equipped for the new churches? And how could all this be done in an affordable way in local contexts? In response to these issues, dozens of new national TEE movements were formed to meet the urgent needs on the ground. This second wave of TEE continues to this day.
A Third Wave of TEE: The 21st Century
Today, at least in Asia, a third wave is gathering momentum. It is opening up new horizons.
This third wave is marked by innovation as national Christians lead TEE movements and take it in new directions. Creative new courses are being written for local contexts. New connections are being made between TEE organizations, leading to new collaborative initiatives. There is potential for partnerships with seminaries, and joined-up learning pathways. In some places TEE for teenagers is being developed, or TEE for oral preference learners, or digital courses. TEE is reaching the diaspora in growing numbers. New energy is in the air.
These new horizons are too wide for individual TEE organisations to explore on their own. This is where the work of the Increase Association is crucial, as it links church-based training programmes throughout Asia and the Middle East. As they collaborate, these national programmes can achieve so much more!
this post is based on Chapter 5 of TEE in Asia: Empowering churches, Equipping Disciples
by David Ball
What if the people of the world were on the move as never before?
They are. In 2015, official UN statistics say that 244 Million people, that's 3.3% of the world's population, live outside their country of origin. Have a look at this map for a visual representation of migration across the globe: http://www.iom.int/world-migration
What if this diaspora were part of God’s plan to reach and disciple the nations?
We believe it is. Just as on the day of Pentecost, people throughout the world, away from their country of origin, are turning to Christ in significant numbers. Diaspora churches are being planted across the world, serving the particular needs of believers outside their country of origin. Diaspora believers are sharing their faith with those from their home countries. Diaspora believers are returning to their home countries to share their faith with friends, family and others.
In October 2018 Increase published the book TEE in Asia: Empowering Churches, Equipping Disciples. The book is a collaboration of writers, editors and publishers within the Increase community. In three parts it tells the story of TEE in Asia.
In the first part of the book the authors explore the educational methodology behind TEE. It looks at discipleship and how disciples and leaders are equipped through TEE. It also shows how TEE course design benefits all learners, not just those with a previous theological education, and how courses are relevant in each learner’s context. This part also takes you briefly through the worldwide history of TEE.
In the second part of the book, readers get a glimpse of how TEE works in practice in Asia today. In this part we see both how individuals benefit from TEE and how TEE has an impact on the churches. There are many testimonials. We’ll take a few examples:
A police officer from Pakistan shares:
When I began to take this course, I realized that actually I am a corrupt man... After taking this course I committed myself to the Lord. Now I will be faithful in my work and also in what I earn. I will not take bribes anymore.
TEE equips churches, partly because churchgoers are transformed, partly because it equips Christian leaders better. Reverend Somjai from Thailand says:
I clearly see that those who never dared to speak are now bold enough to speak and express themselves. Those who never thought they could help teach are now able to stand up and teach the Bible. Those who never thought they would stand before the congregation are now able to help me preach. Our church never had a ministry team, but now we have several teams serving side by side with me.
In the third part we take a closer look at Increase and see how Increase is contributing to developments of TEE. This part opens the discussion to questions like:
How can TEE group leaders receive excellent training and support for their key role?
How can new transformative TEE courses be developed for 21st century Asia?
How can the TEE movement harness the potential of digital technology?
How can training organizations work together for integrated learning pathways?
How can church based training and residential training build good partnership?
How can the reach of diaspora TEE be extended worldwide?
An important contribution is the extended bibliography that is included. It lists works on TEE that have been published from 2000 onwards that shows TEE is alive and well in the 21st century.
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How can TEE programmes provide Tools to Equip and Empower more effectively?
A recent Increase conference in Kuala Lumpur came up with seven areas for growth.