June 2022 Newsletter: Theology In Practice
June 19, 2022
Yousif and Sousanna Ministry Update
June 17, 2022

Theology In Practice: Our Non-Formal Theological Training

Last May, we held a workshop for the Karantina Alliance Church that was titled “Clash of the Worlds.” The training focused on creating space for conversation and providing tools for parents and children to communicate with each other effectively. This event is part of the work we see God prompting us to lead through our Peacemaking and Church Relations department. Since 2019, the department has been working with a collaborative team of Lebanese pastors and church leaders from nine different denominations to identify key areas of need in their churches – including theological, ministerial, and relational needs – and mobilize the expertise at ABTS to help fill the need where possible. The different denominations that make up the Lebanese Church have historically been at tension with each other; through God’s wisdom, this first-of-its-kind endeavor is bringing us together in service of His Kingdom.

In recent interviews, Peacemaking Team Lead and Dean of Faculty Bassem Melki, and Church Relations Coordinator Kamil Aquila Malak, shared with us about the growth we are experiencing in Non-formal Theological Training.

What does non-formal theological training look like at ABTS?

Bassem - Our non-formal theological training workshops focus on a theological and practical approach to ministry that is adapted and tailored for Arab church contexts and that emphasizes collaboration between different members of the Body, including churches and seminaries. They are the organic growth of the peacemaking and reconciliation action-based research project we conducted with a collaborative team of twelve local Lebanese pastors from nine different denominations a couple of years ago.

Kamil - The conversations we are having are allowing both ABTS and the churches to grow so that we can come alongside each other more effectively. Part of that is reflected in the impact of the peacemaking workshops. Our peacemaking workshops began back in March 2021 with a series for the Beirut Nazarene Church. Talking about the workshops, pastor Andrew Salameh shared:
Our ministry teams grew a lot as we responded to the needs emerging in the community in the aftermath of the crises Lebanon faced over the past years, and with that came the inevitable tension that happens among team members. Peacemaking was a Biblical solution to a church issue. After going through the trainings, there was a noticeable improvement in interpersonal relationships among church members.

How has non-formal theological training developed into what it is today?

Bassem - We first started out with six topics that focused on peacemaking. As the discussions progressed, the pastors began highlighting new areas of need that they are noticing in the local church community. With our faculty’s theological expertise in topics like Kingdom Ethics, the Missional Church, Church History, and the Old and New Testaments, and their experience in ministry, we are able to provide a church-friendly contextual repackaging of the courses that we teach our theology students.

Kamil - We held a workshop on Church History last March for the Beirut Church of Christ. Talking about why he felt the training was needed, pastor Moufid shared:
The non-formal training, I think, is very helpful for the new generation of believers who are excited for ministry and are handling multiple commitments. It equips them with knowledge that helps them become effective disciple makers without them needing to commit themselves to long-term study.
We coordinated with our faculty, and Assistant Professor Abed El Kareem Zien El Dien led the workshop. We got a lot of positive feedback afterwards! One person said that she had never imagined studying history could be so engaging!

How have the conversations with the collaborative team grown?

Bassem - At first, we noticed some justifiable hesitance with some of the pastors. Still, they were all excited to come together and discuss issues that they felt were relevant for the Lebanese Church. We did our best to create a safe space where they could share their experiences openly, and they quickly began to talk about issues in the community and how the Church could work together to deal with them. Even during the lockdown when we had to transition to Zoom meetings, they were still all excited. We recently held a meeting for the pastors and their spouses talking about ‘soul care’. Several shared that the trainings and discussions were sorely needed in the Lebanese Church and in their families.

Kamil - A lot of the pastors gave us feedback on the conversations we are having. Talking about why he felt the conversations were important, pastor Moufid shared:
For many years, we’ve lived in isolation from each other, which has led to empty churches and debilitating issues both inside and outside the church. Christ is very clear in Matthew 18 when He calls for confrontation and confession that lead to reconciliation and salvation. What’s happening now is that we are learning from each other humbly and are helping each other to solve essential issues, which is reviving our churches very strongly.
We thank the Lord for His work in creating collaboration between the churches.

What are the hopes and next steps for the non-formal trainings?

Bassem - The hope is that by collaborating together as churches, ministries, NGOs, and seminaries, we realize that we can learn from and benefit each other, which helps us arrive at knowledge humbly and in an interactive manner. This creates collaborative growth, and here is where we learn to allow the Holy Spirit to freely shape us.

Currently, we are connecting with more local entities that are interested in receiving non-formal training. We are also beginning to participate in more discussion platforms, both locally and abroad. Furthermore, we want to be training young church ministers and leaders so that they can take on more effective roles in their churches.

This is all a very humbling and challenging journey. We are excited to be engaged in what the Lord is doing in our region, and in how He is using the gifts and experiences available both at ABTS and among the Arab Church community for His glory and for the growth of the Kingdom.