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The baton is being passed in Russia

■ As Russia’s government steps up the pressure on non-Russian pastors and teachers, SCBT’s graduates begin to assume greater roles of responsibility.

batonThe fall list of courses at the Samara Center for Biblical Training (SCBT) features some familiar names, just not in familiar places. As the center rolls out its semester course, the men who will be teaching them are the very men who at one time attended those courses as students.

This year, the effort of SCBT’s founders to train a core group of indigenous church leaders to one day take the reins is coming to fruition. After years of training and planning, and with an unwelcome (but not untimely) push from an increasingly uncooperative Russian government, SCBT’s next crop of students will sit almost exclusively under the instruction of teachers who were themselves trained under the same roof.

Students taking Greek and Hebrew will learn from Misha and Valera. Students taking the seminar on Galatians 1–2 will sit under Oleg. Timur is teaching “Introduction to Biblical Counseling” and “Preaching Practicum” is being taught by Ilia and Dmitry.

In what can only be viewed as a “mission accomplished” moment, the fall 2013 semester at SCBT demonstrates God’s blessing on a plan for the American teachers and trainers to essentially work themselves out of a job.

Raising up national instructors has always been a focus of our ministry, but has come to the fore this year.

“It is wonderful to see all of these seminars being led by Russian brothers that have completed our L2 program. Raising up national instructors has always been a focus of our ministry, but has come to the fore this year,” wrote SCBT professor Jonathan in a recent update. “With the absence of Brad, Jon and Bryan, this is the first year that we have begun a semester with Russian nationals taking the lead in significant administrative roles. It has been a special treat for me to be on the ground to witness this transition that is the fruit of the labors of many godly men and women throughout the years.”

The aforementioned American founders will continue to lend leadership and counsel, but will do so from the United States. The Russian government has revoked visas on many visiting pastors and teachers over the past 24 months, which forced some US staff to leave the country. Jonathan, who remains in Samara, has come under recent pressure and is trusting the Lord with his family’s future in Samara.

In truth, the fight belongs to the Lord, and neither Jonathan nor the rest of the SCBT family would deny God’s sovereignty in sustaining the ministry in Samara. The indigenous faculty is equipped and able, and the flow of guest teachers remains strong.

“In addition to our seven men starting the third year of our full-time program (Level 2), we welcomed an incoming group of eleven men,” Jonathan wrote. “It is a privilege for me to be involved with these men this semester as I lead seminars on ‘Apologetics and Evangelism’ (3rd year men) and ‘Theology 1’ (1st year men).”

This month, pastor John Marc Wiemann of Cornerstone Community Church in Atascadero, California will lead a session in SCBT’s biblical counseling program on “Problems and Procedures 2.”

Also, Dr. Paul Benware will lead an eschatology conference from Nov. 24–27. His book, Understanding End Times Prophecy has recently been published in Russian, and the school’s faculty and students are looking forward to hearing a biblical approach concerning issues such as Israel and the church, the millennium and the rapture. [See post]

Finally, Paul Washer will lead the annual youth conference in Samara, which will focus on the theme of ‘Resolved: To Proclaim the Gospel.’ SCBT is expecting about 600 young people to attend.

SCBT stands on solid ground – it is a model for what TMAI aims to achieve around the world.

More than that, it is a testament to God’s grace toward this ministry, an encouraging reminder that God is faithful when He promises to build His church. ◄

Originally published in the October 2013 TMAI Worldview.