I fell in love with God’s word … because of the teachers
Laurie Lind, Entrust staff writer
Matthew came to faith in Christ as a young adult while a foreigner in a country not his own. He was a refugee, having fled his home country, not realizing God had vast spiritual plans for him in his new place of residence, Greece. There he encountered and accepted God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ and began to attend a Christian school.
That school “was the place that I fell in love with theology and the word of God, and the reason for that was actually the teachers,” Matthew says, adding with a smile that this love was not fostered by the brick-and-mortar school, “because it was the most filthy, stinking building that you could ever find.”
Another potential obstacle to this new love affair was language. “I couldn’t understand probably thirty, forty and sometimes even sixty percent of what [the teachers] were saying because it was all in English and English was all Greek to me at the time.” Yet, despite all odds, Matthew says, he fell in love and made some life-changing discoveries.
“Number one was love of the beauty of the word of God and how complicated the word of God is and how simple the word of God is at the same time.”
Another realization was the character of the teachers, people who had been Christians for some time, who were educated and experienced in following Christ. “They were very humble, saying ‘I don’t know a lot and I’m still trying to learn more about the Lord.’ And then I would go to the [church made up of people from my own nationality] and I would realize that [our] teachers really don’t know what they are talking about.
“And so I said, ‘Lord, if you want me to help the church [of my nationality], here I am. I’m saved and I want to do something for this church.’”
Matthew continued his studies in Greece and later in Canada. He worked with his nationality’s church in a large Canadian city, where “again I realized there is a huge problem with [my nationality’s] church. The problem is that they are having a wonderful revival, but the people are not being trained. Everybody is excited about salvation, which is wonderful, but no one is excited about discipleship.”
A vision grew within Matthew to launch a Bible training school for his nationality’s church. Eventually, along with his newfound wife, he moved to Europe and, with the help of friends from Entrust and other ministries, established a nimble, theologically-sound Bible Institute. Nimble because its students are primarily refugees who must move often and quickly, and because the school is forced to relocate often and with short notice. Theologically-sound, thanks to the rich mix of teachers God has provided.
Matthew says the institute’s quality of instruction is “WAY above many educational institutions in North America, in terms of theology and discipleship.” Why? The teachers. “The beauty of having the Entrust family as well as other friends who cooperate with us … professors and pastors … who come as guest teachers.”
The institute’s students are a mix of existing leaders who are shepherding churches in Matthew’s home country and pastors and leaders living in various nations outside that country. Instruction was primarily held in-person until COVID, and now is migrating to an increasingly hybrid model of online and in-person, reaching increasing numbers of eager learners.
Becoming enrolled at this Bible Institute is no simple task. First-year students are accepted by recommendation only and must pass an entrance exam and an interview. After the first year, those who demonstrate sincere desire to continue learning and to serve the Lord are invited to return for a second year. Then, a very select few are asked to return for more advanced courses during a third year of study.
Matthew tells about one man whom we’ll call Timothy. Timothy successfully completed his first two years at the Bible Institute. In 2021, Timothy is one of three people in Matthew’s third-year hermeneutics class. Timothy has been discipled by Matthew and others for four years, taken classes for three and only now, this year, is invited to preach, once a month, at a local church.
This kind of training is antithetical to that of most pastors in this nationality’s church.
“Mostly, the leaders don’t want to get training … because, unfortunately, they very quickly become pastors and leaders and they really think that they know everything,” Matthew ways. The pastors’ tendency, he adds, “is to send only new believers to Bible school.”
For nearly a decade, God has used this Bible Institute to train men and women to lead their local churches with accurate Bible understanding and humility, to learn to take their congregations from evangelism on into discipleship, in their home country and wherever God takes them in the world.
It’s an eternal love affair.