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.
What vision do we have for the church? This is a crucial question for all of us, and especially for church-based training programmes like TEE, whose goal is to see churches growing as God’s agents for transformation. The letter to the Ephesians provides us with a vision of Christ-filled, Christ-gifted, Christ-directed, Christ-oriented churches, that are inclusive of outsiders, multi-ethnic, relational, founded on God’s grace and peace, and full of His new life.
So when the Increase Association brought together fifty leaders involved with church- based training in Asia – the majority with TEE – for a conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in April this year, we began the conference with passages from Scripture, including Ephesians, to remind us of God’s vision for His church.
Seven potential growth areas emerged as we then explored how TEE could help churches equip, empower and disciple all Christ- followers for ministry and mission within their local contexts.
1) Training for transformation
How can TEE programmes really live up to their description, ‘Tools to Equip and Empower’?
The conference clarified our overall training goals as obedience to Christ and growth in Christlikeness. So TEE courses must lead not only to growth in Biblical or historical or theological knowledge, but also to growth in obedient application of that knowledge. And as TEE programmes evaluate those taking their courses, they need to ask not only, “What new knowledge have they gained?”, but also, “What have they done with this new knowledge?” and “How have they grown in Christ-like character?”
2) Producing new courses
We asked ourselves, “What are the major social issues that believers in our contexts experience every day?” and “Which of these issues are already adequately dealt with by existing TEE courses?”
After some brainstorming we concluded that, although some issues were dealt with adequately and there was helpful material giving a Biblical basis to address most of them, there were many other issues that were not covered adequately.
The conference participants highlighted issues of corruption and social injustice; marriage and family life; suffering and persecution; addiction; political strife; fundamentalism; migrant workers; Islamisation; health; pornography; globalisation; gender issues; the environment; and children at risk.
The TEE movement urgently needs to harness the wealth of good materials that already exist on these issues, and re-work them into a format in which they can be used by national TEE programmes around Asia.
3) Producing new kinds of courses
We were reminded that people do not fall into just two separate categories, ‘non- readers’ and ‘readers’. There is a continuous spectrum ranging from completely illiterate to highly literate, with hundreds of millions of people in-between. Greater attention to layout, pictures, stories, and diagrams could make our TEE courses far more attractive and accessible.
We could also help motivate students to engage effectively with new knowledge by building a wider range of learning and training experiences into TEE courses.
4) Opportunities to serve diaspora groups
Diaspora Chinese, Nepalis, Koreans, Filipinos and many others are found worldwide, and there are already TEE courses available to be used in many of their languages. We dream of setting up a one-stop TEE website for diaspora ministry. You would select your country and your desired language, then the website would display the relevant information: who produces those particular TEE materials, how much they cost, how to order them, and the contact details for your closest local TEE programme. The most difficult part of this challenge would be figuring out how to provide the basic training for using TEE materials fruitfully and effectively in a variety of languages!
5) Agreeing on key principles for group leader training
Each TEE programme has been shaped by the particular needs and character of the churches being served and their wider social context, so many different ways of training group leaders have developed as a result. So if there is to be effective partnership between programmes supplying courses (who may have one group leader training system) and programmes training diaspora leaders in their own context (whose group leader training may differ), we need to agree on some basic principles and requirements.
6) Developing the use of digital technology
For new kinds of TEE courses, we see web-based resources supporting text- based personal study preparation for group meetings. Mobile-phone-based or web-based course materials could replace the printed course books group members use to prepare for the regular face-to-face group meetings. In some settings there are very good security reasons for not using physical course books!
For diaspora ministry, we see the internet connecting producer and user groups that are widely separated.
We also see many ways to supplement and resource Group Leader trainers with online materials, and many ways to connect, encourage and resource group leaders who are spread over large areas.
And these six growth areas lead us to:
7) Building the needed teams
We see the need to build teams to handle these growth areas. We have the beginnings of task groups to work on some of them and we are praying that God will call a whole range of people to work on them – people in business, IT, communications, management, systems operations and more. We are looking to build dispersed teams of people giving part of their time.
Our best estimate of the number of people around Asia being equipped and empowered for mission right where they are through the TEE providers represented at the Malaysian conference was around 100,000.
If, together, we find the Lord’s answers to these growth areas, how many churches, how many individuals, might become more Christ-filled, Christ- gifted, Christ-directed, Christ-oriented?
This is the great vision that drives us! Can you help?