March 2024 Newsletter: Program Spotlight
March 19, 2024

Program Spotlight

Master of Theology

Despite the difficulties that the Arab world has seen these past years, the Lord has been working to bring hope to the hopeless. In Sudan, for example, our students share how the Lord has been working through the internally displaced to plant church groups in different areas of the country. As the church in the Arab world continues to grow, so does its need for theologically trained and biblically equipped scholar, leaders, and thinkers who can serve their communities in contextual ways. Our Master of Theology (MTh) program is part of our attempt to meet this need. The program is a high-quality second degree in theology with a vision to equip Arab scholars who can help the Arab church think through difficult theological issues that are relevant to the context and challenge it to remain faithful to the Lord’s mission as it navigates a tumultuous period for the region. Now in its second year, and with a new cohort of students, we can better see how our students are growing as thinkers through their studies. Speaking about the program, Assistant Professor and Program Lead Kees van der Knijff shares:
Having two cohorts of students allows us to really see how the students have grown in their skills and have developed as thinkers in their first year. Because of their experience in the program, the first cohort can help the new students and model leadership for them. This is also encouraging our first cohort as they take on a more active role in their education.
The different contexts the students come from really enriched the program. Students come from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, and Egypt. Two of the students also serve in Arab churches in the West. This allows for rich conversations where students can bring in different perspectives on the challenges they face in ministry and how to work through them.
It is a blessing to see how the students are growing, not just in their cognitive understanding as they study historical theology, the theology of mission, and the New and Old testaments, but also as they grow into independent thinkers in their ability to think deeply about the challenges and needs their churches face.
Speaking about how the program is helping her grow, our first-year student Nermin shares:
The lessons have helped me see how the Lord has worked through the Arab Church as it contends with the difficulties that the region is going through to fulfill the Great Commission. The program is helping me grow spiritually and cognitively so that I can better contribute to the work that the Lord is doing through my ministry and my church.
Currently, our students are taking the Theology of Mission module. Through it, students can think about mission in new perspectives, looking beyond the practical to think about mission through a biblical/theological lens, then working through its historical roots, before finally contending with its contextual importance. This is helpful for the students because not many of them have the opportunity to study and analyze missional theology beyond how it relates to their ministries in the practical sense. Assistant Professor Abed El Kareem Zien El Dien explains:
All the students – women and men – are in ministry and lead ministries in their churches. So, they need the space to reflect on their ministries. The module helps them do that and move between text and context so that what they are learning speaks to what they are living out in their churches. They are also able to interact with each other and learn from their different ministries.
The students’ analytical skills are improving. A lot of the theological resources we study come from the West. As they progress through the program, they become more capable of contextualizing what they learn to the Arab world, which is helping them create an Arab theology of mission that is crucial for their ministries in the region.
 
 
Speaking about how the module has helped her think of her own ministerial context, Hanane, a second year MTh student who serves through pastoral care in Morocco shares:
The lessons we have taken have helped change my perspective about mission. I used to think that missions did not work in Morocco, but I’ve come to realize just how rich our context is with opportunities for us to reach out and invest in our community. One key point for me during this journey has been tying the theoretical with the practical, and with this module, I have had ample opportunity to take the ideas and lessons I am learning and share them with my church community so that together, we could better reflect on our ministry in Morocco.
Ashraf, who is also a second year MTh student and pastors a church in Egypt shares:
In the context of my ministry in Egypt, the Theology of Mission module has been invaluable. It has helped me to navigate the complexities of working in a predominantly non-Christian context and to approach ministry with cultural sensitivity and respect. By grounding my work in a solid theological framework, I am better equipped to address the unique challenges and opportunities that come with sharing the Gospel in a diverse and sometimes hostile environment.
Furthermore, the module has also helped me to develop a more holistic approach to ministry, recognizing that mission work is not just about evangelism but also about social justice, community development, holistic transformation, peacemaking, and building the bridges that help us share the love of God.
Alongside their modules, our students have an ongoing biblical languages component that enables them to directly engage with the original texts of the Bible, which in turn equips them with the ability to interpret and analyze the text more accurately. Their proficiency in biblical languages leads to a deeper and more accurate comprehension of theological concepts.

Speaking about the language component, Academic Dean Walid Zailaa shares:
Our observations have shown that students who have a more profound appreciation for the richness of the biblical text and have demonstrated a greater capacity for applying theological principles to complex real-world ministry contexts have experienced significant improvements in critical thinking skills, exegetical abilities, and theological insights.
Over the past two years, our MTh program has experienced growth in enrollment numbers, fostering a vibrant academic community that encourages intellectual curiosity and theological exploration.
 
 
 
 
Talking about the Greek language component, Ashraf shares:
Being able to read and interpret the Greek text has enabled me to uncover hidden gems and insights that may not be readily apparent in Arabic translations. This has enriched my preaching and teaching, allowing me to communicate the word of God with greater clarity and accuracy.
“The long-term dream is that this MTh is an investment in the future” shares Kees. “It is investing a large amount of time in training a group of theological leaders who will help guide the church and help it think through complicated questions in the future.” As we look forward to the coming years for the MTh and what the Lord will do through the program, we ask you to pray with us for guidance for our faculty and wisdom for our students, that all that we do contributes to glorifying His name.