A Partnership to Equip the Fast-Growing Cambodian Church
In hopes of coming alongside Cambodia’s rapidly growing church, Asia Biblical Theological Seminary has partnered with Phnom Penh Bible School (PPBS) to provide graduate-level theological education. Back in October of this year, ABTS conducted Systematic Theology (THL-540) at PPBS as a pilot course to further ascertain student response and theological training needs in the country.
The learnings and observations from the pilot course were many. Some believers in Cambodia were found to be struggling with the rapid growth of Christianity. Though growth is a positive thing, with many missionaries present and many new believers, there are growing pains. Each missionary group is teaching the same Jesus and the same hope of the resurrection but will place a different emphasis on the various parts of the faith as they disciple. As a result, there are diverse teachings floating around about relatively minor issues which, regrettably, can be overwhelming for new believers. Young Christians need to learn how to discern between a major doctrine and a minor difference in the interpretation of certain Scriptures.
An Opportunity for ABTS to Serve
“It is in such a context that ABTS can offer the teaching of theological and biblical concepts that every believer needs to know and to be careful not to major on the minor issues,” said Professor Tim Mikismen, who taught the Systematic Theology course at PPBS.
As ABTS has no denominational loyalties, the seminary can underscore the authority and primacy of God’s Word, helping believers in Cambodia, especially church leaders, to differentiate between a core belief and an organizational preference.
Beyond that, ABTS courses can equip students with the means to think through church issues specific to Cambodia. For example, by teaching Systematic Theology and Hermeneutics, lecturers offer students tools for searching and interpreting Scriptures so that they can deal with issues specific to Asia.
“In fact, all students from the Systematic Theology course are developing projects to serve their people. One student is coming up with Sunday School lessons for children who live in a graveyard—that is where he ministers to them. Another is developing lessons for small group leaders at church,” Professor Miskismen shared.
One of the students, a graphic designer, is working with his digital media team at church to create digital art to express God’s character. Another, a music teacher, writes songs for his worship team at church to communicate about God and Scripture.
Next year, ABTS plans to offer a Spiritual Formation course that focuses on growing in Christ through God’s Word and His people. Such training can help the local church to be careful to avoid quick fixes or the latest gimmicks.
“ABTS’ partnership with PPBS has gone very well,” Mikismen said. “It is a perfect example of the co-operation that needs to grow in this country to serve its rapidly multiplying churches.”