What sets The Master’s Academy International apart? There are six things that make TMAI’s ministry model unique, and we’ve asked Craig Bowen, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Missouri to give us his perspective on the first one. We think you’ll be encouraged by his thoughts on faithful stewardship and global missions.
Craig Bowen came to faith in Jesus Christ through the influence of high school ministry. After graduating from college with a degree in computer science, he went to work for a major oil company. He and his wife, Joanie, married in 1982, and for the next twenty years Craig worked a secular job as they raised their five children and served their local church. All the while, Craig’s enthusiasm for missions and ministry—and his desire for formal training—kept growing. In 2001, the Bowen family moved to Los Angeles so that Craig could prepare for full-time pastoral ministry at The Master’s Seminary. He graduated with his Master of Divinity in 2005 and was called to pastor Bethany Baptist Church that same year. Under Pastor Craig’s leadership, Bethany Baptist Church has been a faithful supporter of The Master’s Academy International—specifically the TMAI training center in Samara, Russia—since 2013.
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Q: Craig, how did you first hear about TMAI?
A: I heard about TMAI many years ago. I was impressed by the goal of providing training for indigenous pastors with curricula and programs that matched their educational and cultural contexts. I was very interested in participating in TMAI as I went through seminary, but by the time I graduated, we had been contending with several health problems in our extended family and felt that long-term absence from the States would be unwise. Later, as I served our church family here at Bethany, I felt I could still participate in TMAI by leading the congregation to become a support partner with one of the programs.
Q: Why did you decide to support this ministry?
It costs $50,000 or more to bring just one pastor from overseas to study in the US for a year. However, for the same cost, TMAI can provide one year of training for as many as thirty students in their home countries. By the Lord’s grace, this model of ministry is yielding an unprecedented return on investment for the sake of the kingdom.
A: I try to remind our congregation of the kingdom–multiplication potential of training pastors, each of whom equips congregations. Visualize, for example, 400 pastors with biblical philosophies of ministry leading and equipping 400 churches of 100 members each. Add to that the likelihood that these churches were in locations with poor opportunities for such leadership training, and possibly facing persecution for their faith. As one of our church leaders remarks, Ephesians 4:7–16 teaches us that a church with poorly trained leaders is an army with untrained officers.
Q: How has the Lord worked in your life (and in your congregation) through your participation with TMAI?
A: TMAI has sent men to our church on two occasions to educate and update us on the ministry. First in 2012 as we began to consider our partnership, and then this summer to provide additional updates and encouragement. These visits were very helpful.
I am always encouraged to read the testimonies of men whose ministries and lives are changed by the opportunity for biblical training.
More specifically, our support of the Samara Center for Biblical Training has forced a more intense concentration on the needs of the church in Russia and other Slavic countries.
Q: Why do you believe TMAI’s model of ministry is good stewardship of the Lord’s resources?
A: TMAI provides a 2 Timothy 2:2 model for training faithful men in an international setting, with the goal of turning the helm over to indigenous leaders. TMAI’s close ties to The Master’s Seminary assures us that this training is biblical and consistent across the training centers. We don’t need to worry about what these men are being taught!
Q: The best thing about being part of what TMAI is doing is _________?
A: The confidence we have that men and churches in settings that may be very different than ours are being trained and equipped in the same way from the same inspired, inerrant, clear and authoritative Word of God that we are. Seemingly miles and cultures apart, yet… not so much!
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TMAI takes seriously our responsibility to steward the resources the Lord provides. As much as it depends on us, we want to wisely invest those resources for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s why we’re committed to training indigenous pastors in their home countries.
Let’s illustrate the relevant mathematics with a simple example: It costs $50,000 or more to bring just one pastor from overseas to study in the US for a year. However, for the same cost, TMAI can provide one year of training for up to thirty students in their home countries. By the Lord’s grace, this model of ministry is yielding an unprecedented return on investment for the sake of the kingdom. As a result, TMAI was able to train nearly 2,000 students last year for a fraction of the cost of training in the US.
Please pray for TMAI’s students, professors, graduates, and supporters—that they would be excellent stewards of the manifold grace of God as they invest in the next generation of pastoral leadership around the world.