Filipino missionaries to Thailand in 1982 recognized the need to establish a Bible school to train pastors for local churches, but how could they teach on an undergraduate level, without master's degrees? ABTS founder Dr. John Lillis, working with Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, brought the accredited In-Ministry Master of Religious Education degree to them in 1983. Both Thais and missionaries welcomed the Extension Program: "All we were asking for was a Piper Cub—you brought us a 747."
From the beginning ABTS has been a mission enterprise fielding quality master's level education at subsidized prices. The administrators and professors in Asia are missionaries supported by churches and friends and serve with mission agencies such as ABWE International. Professors from Grand Rapids and adjunct faculty volunteer their time to teach and mentor.
With no physical buildings or residential campus, the Regional Office first located in Thailand, then operated from the Philippines and in 1992 from Singapore. As of July 2008, the ABTS Regional Office has returned "home" to Thailand, this time to Chiang Mai.
Students first ordered taped extension courses in 1983. The first seminars were taught in Thailand in 1984 and in Manila 1986. Seminar sites were opened in Yangon, Burma'87, Iloilo, Philippines '88, and Hong Kong '89. Singapore '95 was our first site that required government application and approval.
Then Davao '99 and Baguio '03 were added in the Philippines where nearly half of our student body ministers. ABWE missionaries and Christian leaders in Papua New Guinea welcomed their first ABTS seminar in 2005. Trial seminars have been held in Australia and in December of 2006 Korea held their first ABTS class. In 2012, India became the most recent site to be opened. Exploration of opportunities into China are next on the agenda.
We welcome your participation in this unique master's program. Contact us and see how you can help.
Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, in partnership with ABWE International and Cornerstone University, makes available graduate level theological education to eligible national church leaders and foreign missionaries ministering in Asia. Since 1983, this program has provided the opportunity to earn master's degrees from Cornerstone University while remaining in Asia.
ABTS aims to accomplish its mission through an integrated program of biblical, theological, and professional studies delivered through a combination of distance education courses and residence seminars offered in selected cities in Asia. Educational activities endeavor to provide training within the context of the student's life, work and ministry. Tuition levels for all ABTS courses have been adjusted to fit the varied economies of Asian countries.
Our Educational Values
- Centrality of the text
- Importance of theology
- Critical thinking
- Cultural sensitivity
Our Student Learning Objectives
Students studying in Asia Biblical Theological Seminary will:
- Appreciate the centrality of the Biblical text; demonstrate competence in exegeting, interpreting and applying Scripture in personal and ministry situations.
- Develop theological convictions and philosophies of ministry; integrate these principles into personal life, cultural milieu, and ministry settings.
- Synthesize new insights from seminars, reading and analysis into ministry contexts; trace the end results of ministry innovations, either verification of methods applied or analysis of failure and lessons learned.
- Apply critical thinking in reading, writing and discussion; evaluate relevant data and make decisions consistent with the truth of Scripture.
- Evaluate concepts of leadership utilizing effective organizational and group communication skills; network with colleagues who can support one another in the ministry.
- Analyze culture from a distinctly Christian worldview; develop methodologies for and deepen commitments to building Christ’s church worldwide.
ABTS Program Sponsors
ABTS operations in Singapore and Thailand are supported by local sponsors who represent the organization before the government. These individuals provide counsel, promote the program in the community, and facilitate the continued presence of the school in the respective country.