A question of confidence
Posted on: 10th September 2022
CMS missionaries Jon and Deb serve in South East Asia with Bible college students and other believers. Here Jon outlines the contribution Australian Christians can make to helping South East Asians read, learn and teach the Bible’s message.
Australia has been called the ‘lucky country’. While luck doesn’t account for God’s sovereignty, it is fair to say that most Australian Christians have many great options: choices about what to study and which university to attend; faithful churches and often numerous small group Bible studies they could join and benefit from. Australia even enjoys good internet, which enables access to online study and nearly limitless online biblical resources.
Most South East Asians do not have such choices. Certainly that is true for the majority of South East Asian Christians who do not live in cities, or in a better resourced area.
As a result, Australian missionaries often discover that they are well placed to use their own well-resourced background for the benefit of local believers. They often find they have opportunities to equip students in Bible colleges and beyond, in better understanding and teaching the Bible.
Beyond rote learning
The default educational method in South East Asia is rote learning, with associated strengths and deficiencies. When rote methods are practiced within a hierarchical culture (meaning that students are reluctant to ask questions of a teacher in authority), it tends to produce ‘correct’ answers with limited depth of understanding.
Australian missionaries dealing with students in this context can glean the strengths of this rote learning—such as important information being readily available and memorised. As well, they can help students approach subjects with a more inductive, analytical and logical framework. For example, if students can begin to see the logical flow of Paul’s argument in Romans, then the connection between the severity of our sin (outlined in Romans 1-3) and the amazing solution in Jesus (explained in Romans 3:21 and onward) can be grasped in a new way. Thus, everyone’s faith is enlivened and strengthened.
Helping students ask questions and teach others
Similarly Australian Christians who trust the Bible have long been taught about the ‘priesthood of all believers’—that all have equal standing and access to God’s salvation in Christ. Not only so, but all Christians can mutually teach one another from God’s word.
However, for South East Asians raised in a hierarchical culture, such a concept can seem difficult and foreign. New students in a Bible college are often hesitant to answer questions, let alone ask them. Missionaries from a less hierarchical culture (such as Australia) are often able to help students to ask questions about what they don’t understand, and even question what is being taught—of course in a respectful manner. This process means that Bible students become less reluctant to answer questions for fear that their answers are wrong, and so make progress in their biblical understanding.
Then, and as students grow in their understanding, they themselves become more confident to teach others (see 2 Timothy 2:2).
Please keep praying for the missionaries who are serving in theological education in South East Asia—that their experience and training can be beneficial for building up and equipping future Christian leaders in the church.
There are millions of people who do not know Jesus in South East Asia. The needs are immense in this neighbouring harvest field. Could God be calling you to be a worker here?
Australian Christians can learn from and teach South East Asian Christians, especially in reading and understanding the Bible better. Could you offer your help? Contact your CMS branch to discover opportunities.