Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.
In a Star article last August, I wrote of the connection between Bethlehem’s desire to fulfill its mission of “spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ” and the role of Bethlehem College and Seminary as a strategic initiative for accomplishing that mission. … Now, I want to share with you a specific recent example of how that strategic desire to spread has gone global.
The Relationship Between Bethlehem and the Kachin
As you may know, Bethlehem has an amazing historic connection with the Kachin people of northern Myanmar (aka Burma). Pastor Tom Steller has written a brief account of how this relationship began over 100 years ago when Bethlehem sent a missionary couple, Ola & Minnie Hanson, to work among the Kachin to translate the Bible into their native language.
Now, all these years later, a strong majority of the Kachin people are Christians, and the spread of the Church there continues.
The connection between the Kachin and Bethlehem faded over the decades until a small delegation from the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) showed up at a Sunday service at Bethlehem about 15 years ago.
The relationship between us has now been rekindled and we are forging a new era of partnership and encouragement as fellow heirs of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. As part of this partnership in the gospel, we were asked by the leadership of the KBC to help them as they work to strengthen their churches theologically.
The Kachin Theological College is their primary means of training and educating the future pastors and leaders for their churches, but over the years the KTC has fallen prey to the same challenges of doctrinal/theological drift and loss of mission as have many of the Christian colleges and seminaries in the West.
Strengthening the College
Partly because they view Bethlehem as their “spiritual parent” and therefore trust our theology, they have asked us to come alongside them in order to help restore biblical faithfulness and orthodoxy to their college.
While there is only so much we can do from across the world, with much fear and trembling we accepted their call. We see it as a great privilege to come alongside our brothers and sisters in the KBC.
In an effort to heed this call, we formed a team from Bethlehem College and Seminary and traveled to Myanmar to the Kachin province in order to teach theology at their college, conduct music and worship seminars for their church leaders, and build the relationship between us as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Worship, Theology, and Relationships
Pastor Chuck Steddom and Wally Brath (from All Nations Christian Fellowship, one of our Treasuring Christ Together church plants) conducted seminars and workshops for Kachin church leaders on deepening the worship experience.
Two of our BCS professors came and taught an upper division course in systematic theology to the students at the college.
My wife, Anita, and I had the privilege of going along to work on relationship-building and to plot the course for moving forward as we forge a partnership that we pray will have a long-term, Kingdom-building impact on the Kachin people for their encouragement and for the glory of the Lord.
Restoring Sound Doctrine
Even though it will be a significant challenge to help the Kachin leadership, we were encouraged by their desire and resolve to restore sound doctrine both in the classroom and in the pulpits of their churches. We will do whatever we can to help them, because we take very seriously the exhortations of the Apostle Paul to …
- “Guard the deposit entrusted to you”
O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.—1 Timothy 6:20–21
- “Preach the word”
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.—2 Timothy 4:1–2
We’ve been commanded to do these things, and we’ll joyfully do them. We give praise and honor and thanks to the Lord that he allows us to be involved in such undertakings.
Thank you for your faithful support and encouragement of the members of the Myanmar team. We could not do such things were it not for the involvement of the members of the body of Christ. Please pray for the Kachin. They face persecution from the government in addition to the challenges already noted.
What an amazing thing that the Lord has done among us! It is not of ourselves, but only because of him. We are but a local church, but he has given us the joy and privilege of having a global impact and, along with it, a great responsibility.
Let us continue to fulfill it with joy in all hope that the Lord will, indeed, accomplish his purposes throughout the world.
President, Bethlehem College and Seminary