Sometimes it is difficult for people to imagine “college” as something other than a place you go away to in order to prepare for some future ministry. Or perhaps they think of students, laboring alone, in front of a computer screen in a distance education program. Seminario Bautista Panamericano has a different model.
Seminario Bautista Panamericano is a Bible college that is pastor-led and church-based. Its mission is to prepare Spanish-speaking pastors, missionaries and other Christian workers in ministry.
It is a Bible college
The Bible college movement in the US began well over a hundred years ago as leaders such as Rubin A. Torrey and Dwight L. Moody refused to stand by and wring their hands as Modernism infiltrated the Christian ministry around them. They and others rejected the unbelief of destructive criticism that corrupted most denominational colleges and seminaries and were led of the Lord to found schools that emphasized the Bible and practical instruction in ministry. By the grace of God, they were wildly successful in meeting the crisis. Many thousands of students were taught the fundamentals of the faith in class and caught the wonder of serving God in their Christian work assignments. They went on to pastor churches and serve in missions throughout the world with passion and distinction.
SBP was founded in a time of crisis as well. The Bible-believing Hispanic Christian world enjoys much blessing from the Lord that English-speaking Christians would do well to seek. Nevertheless, attacks are constant and fierce from the cults, Liberalism, Neo-orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, popular culture, theologies of liberation and other enemies of the faith. In many Spanish-speaking countries there are very few sound Bible colleges. Men and women who would serve the Lord train at schools that do not follow our faith and practice, or they forego formal training. Perhaps the neediest Spanish-speaking country in this regard is the fourth largest, the USA.¹ We believe the crisis today can be met. We do not believe in standing by or wringing our hands. God has called us face the challenge with a college that emphasizes instruction in the fundamentals of the faith and the practical experience of Christian service.
It is pastor-led, church-based, and prepares people in the ministry
SBP is a variation of extension education. Our college does not have one campus students come to in order to learn. Through recorded lectures, textbooks and other materials, we extend the college to them. This presents challenges, but it also offers some exciting advantages. One is that many who are called to serve the Lord but find the residence school inaccessible because of age, travel restrictions, economic difficulties, or responsibilities in and out of church have an opportunity to study. Our students typically are mature, and they are the leaders and key workers in their churches. Some are already pastors and church planters. They do not have to leave and weaken their churches in order to study.
Another advantage is the high level of church involvement extension education allows. Many Christian educators have long recognized the difficulties of preparing workers for service in churches if the school effectively removes them from that place of service for several years. The less connected a college is to a church or churches that offer meaningful service opportunities, the more students become strangers to the very place they hope to serve.² Reentry to the “real world” is sometimes a difficult process for the graduate and the church he serves. We only have extension sites or campuses of our college in churches. The students are in constant and short cycles of learning and application. Their preparation is not for the ministry but truly in the ministry because they are thoroughly involved in the victories and heartbreaks of a real church. Students preach, teach and win souls every week rather than as some occasional events or an end of program practicum. They are hungry to learn in class because they deeply sense the present need for help in the ministries God has called them to do.
A third advantage of extension education as SBP does it is that pastors lead in ministry preparation. Pastors direct our study centers. They lead the weekly three-hour seminar that includes prayer, viewing recorded lectures, reporting on assignments, testing and fellowship. The pastors approve and supervise the students’ Christian service assignments. As study center directors, they are a vital part of our college staff. As pastors of the students, they use SBP as a powerful discipleship tool. (See the SBP course of study)
Its mission is to prepare Spanish-speaking pastors, missionaries and other Christian workers.
The harvest is great. After Chinese and English, Spanish is the third most widely spoken language in the world. English-speaking Christian, have you grasped the vast numbers of the unreached Hispanics in the US alone? They are now the largest ethnic minority and in a few short years will be the majority. Do you not sense a need to help your Hispanic brothers reach others. Charlotte, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago and New York do not need a new Spanish-language church this year; they need scores. Small towns in many states need churches as well. Other countries we have the privilege to work in need accessible, sound Bible College training as well. Cuba, for instance, faces a leadership crisis in churches at a time of easing restrictions and growing opportunities. Seminario Bautista Panamericano is training workers there with gratifying results. As the Lord opens doors, we plan to continue partnering with pastors to begin new campuses of the SBP throughout Latin America. The motto of the Seminario Bautista Panamericano is:
A TODA CRIATURA-TO EVERY CREATURE
This reflects our desire to assist the growing missionary movement among Latin American believers as they are called to serve the Lord cross-culturally around the world. Will you consider standing with us as we help prepare Spanish-speaking Christian workers from the three Americas to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature?” Consider supporting the ministry of SBP today, or contact us for more information.
¹ I occasionally hear the USA is the second largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico. I have not been able to confirm that ranking; a comparison of population entries in Operation World shows that the USA is certainly no less than number four.
² Many schools address these concerns and work very hard to achieve a balance of academics and practice. The connection to a vital church is maintained, students have meaningful Christian service experiences and the practicum method is often utilized. These comments are not intended to criticize such residence schools.