Approximately 110 U.S. and international Master of Arts degree candidates have converged on The Master's College for three weeks of intense study this month.
The college’s Summer Intensive Program (SIP), which offers Master of Arts programs in Biblical Counseling (MABC), Biblical Studies (MABS) and Education (MAE), allows students to earn their graduate degrees in as little as two years even though most do not live in the school’s zip code – or even its time zone.
In addition to hosting a large group of students from the U.S., this year’s program is drawing students from Russia, South Africa, Germany, Brazil and China, to name a few.
The idea behind the SIP program is this: Serve the Body of Christ. Leaders within TMC’s Biblical Studies Department recognized years ago the need within the church to equip pastors and lay leaders to counsel men and women from the Word of God – a realization founded on the school’s historical commitment to the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture.
By pioneering a program that allows students to pursue such training in spite of geographic distance, the college has paved roads through which it is making an impact in churches around the world.
TMC professor, Dr. Ernie Baker, who has been teaching in the program for eight years, has seen the SIP’s impact firsthand. His first graduate thesis advisee was a SIP student named Timur, who attended the program while living in Russia.
Timur graduated eight years ago and is now leading a similar biblical counseling training program in Samara, Russia. Last month, Baker traveled to Samara with his wife, Rose, to teach a weeklong course. He said that Timur is on the cutting edge of bringing biblical counseling to the church in Russia – and beyond. Some students traveled from as far away as the Russian-Chinese border and Kazakhstan to attend.
“I had no idea when we were training Timur eight years ago that we were training the future of biblical counseling in Russia,” Baker said. “This is why we left pastoral ministry eight years ago [to teach at TMC]. We thought, ‘Do we want to stay at one church impact 250 people or go to Master’s and invest in students who are themselves going to go invest in others?’”
And now, with the school’s latest crop of SIP students hunkering down in classrooms across campus this month, that investment is being made again. Pastors, teachers, elders and lay leaders from across the country and across the ocean are being prepared to serve the church in an area of great need.
It’s a portrait of TMC’s mission … a portrait that’s painted not only in the fall and spring, but also in the summer.
- By Bob Dickson