Bible Journey as Mission: An Interview with Pastor Conda
We’re excited to be able to share with you an interview with Pastor Conda, Pastor of Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church and Chair of the Board of Directors for Bible Coalition. Bible Coalition is a non-profit organization that strives to promote Bible engagement worldwide by identifying resources, products and tools that promote biblical engagement and literacy and awarding scholarships or grants to applicants who are inspired to dive into God’s Word on a deeper level.
Hear directly from Pastor Conda about his experience studying and teaching with Bible Journey, and how Bible Journey can be used on missions around the world to bring theological teaching and biblical literacy to the ends of the earth.
How did you first learn about Bible Journey?
Dr. Laniak led an educational trip to Israel and Jordan that my wife and I took as part of my seminary training through Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. We traveled with him again a couple of years later to follow Paul’s missionary journeys through Turkey, Greece, and Italy.
During both trips, Dr. Laniak and his wife, Maureen, recorded lectures at various Holy Land sites for use in the Bible Journey course.
Tell us a bit about your story with Bible Journey. In what contexts have you used it/led groups through it?
At Spirit of Joy, I sensed the Holy Spirit inspiring many members of our congregation to develop a deeper understanding of God’s Word. So, after getting permission from the Bible Journey team, I incorporated several video clips from the course into my 2019 Palm Sunday sermon. That gave the congregation an idea of the depth of the Bible Journey content. I then offered to host a Bible Journey study each week and 119 members signed up.
We continue to meet in our sanctuary and/or via Zoom each Wednesday for one hour and work our way through the material at a pace that works for the students. I offer two sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening, and cover the same content at both sessions. While most people simply choose the session that works best for them, I have several students who attend both sessions and others who attend whichever session happens to fit their schedule that week.
Personally, I find Bible Journey to be a convenient resource when preparing sermons and for enhancing my own understanding of Scripture. I spend a few hours each Tuesday preparing so I can stay at least one step ahead of my students and I thoroughly enjoy the material. I learn something new each time I prepare for the next class.
How do you see the Bible Journey courses as missionally-focused?
There are so many parts of the world where access to sound Biblical training is not readily available. For those who are called by God to preach and teach Scripture, a Bible Journey scholarship from Bible Coalition may be their biggest asset in learning the Bible well. For those who are not in a position to travel to the ends of the earth, a donation to Bible Coalition allows them to join in Christ’s call to fulfill the Great Commission.
Where have you used Bible Journey on missions?
We have used Bible Journey on missions in India, as the growth of the Christian church in India is outpacing their ability to train new pastors to lead. Bible Coalition recently awarded 98 scholarships to the Evangelical Church of India to help them train pastors who do not have access to Bible schools and Seminaries. In South Africa, COVID-19 has taken the lives of a number of pastors and has left a need to train up replacements. In the US, we recently awarded Bible Journey scholarships to a ministry that helps women who have been incarcerated transition back into society armed with a Biblical worldview.
What are some of the differences you found between teaching Bible Journey at home or on the mission field?
In India, I recently taught 160 pastors who only have high school educations. They are hungry for any material to include in their preaching and teaching. Unfortunately, without high-quality material like Bible Journey, there is a big risk of them learning and teaching false doctrine. In addition, women are not treated as equals and the opportunity for girls to get training after the age of 15 is rather small. Many are led astray by mixed religions and tribal beliefs. Bible Journey is a great curriculum for both theological and Scriptural training for pastors and laypeople alike. Likewise, I recently taught pastors in Liberia who didn’t have anywhere else to get a sound Scriptural foundation. Courses like Bible Journey are an incredible resource for Christians around the world to learn a deep foundation of God’s truth.
How do Bible Journey courses provide support for missionaries teaching in other regions of the world?
Many seminaries, such as Gordon-Conwell, have excellent courses for missionaries. Unfortunately, for those serving in remote villages in different time zones with limited communication capabilities, participating in those courses can sometimes be quite difficult. Bible Journey allows them to study at their own pace and on their own schedule. Likewise, scholarships from Bible Coalition help them overcome some of the challenges of limited financial resources.
What inspired you to take Bible Journey on mission in India?
Jesus commands us, in Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission, to go and make disciples of all nations. Some of us are able to do that in person. Others are able to do it by providing monetary support to missionaries or organizations like Bible Coalition so that scholarships to Bible Journey can be distributed to the ends of the earth.
Why did Bible Coalition decide to support scholarships with Bible Journey as one of your Bible Engagement endeavors?
We have found the material to be well-suited for anyone wanting to study the Bible at a deeper level, regardless of their current level of Bible knowledge. We believe that the courses can be used by church members who just want to learn more about God’s Word as well as by seminary students who need to develop a deep theological understanding of Scripture.
The “In the Text” sections allow students to delve as deeply as they desire into what Scripture actually says. The “Behind the Text” sections provide an understanding of the culture, geography, and climate of the Holy Land that brings the Bible to life. And, the “In Front of the Text” sections help students apply God’s truths to their lives in a practical way.
How do Bible Journey scholarships through Bible Coalition make an impact?
We don’t want money to be a barrier for anyone who is interested in learning God’s Word. A church member may want to participate in a Bible study but might not be able to afford the course. A pastor who has little or no seminary training may find a scholarship to Bible Journey to be a real gift. We even envision offering scholarships to the spouses of seminary students to allow the couple to walk together into a sound ministry partnership.
How can others who want to be involved with “paying it forward” through Bible Journey do so?
Many of my students who received scholarships through Bible Coalition soon saw the value of Bible Journey and made charitable contributions to Bible Coalition as a way to “pay it forward” and make Bible Journey scholarships available to others. Anyone wishing to do the same thing can visit Bible Coalition online to make a donation to the Bible Journey scholarship fund.