“If the Bible truly is the word of God, then we need to seek to understand and interpret it rightly.”
This was the premise that guided our week of training in Panama early in August. About 45 students, split between a morning class in the small town of Capira, and an evening class just a short walk from the Panama Canal, gathered to learn solid principles for interpreting the Bible.
The makeup of these classes varies from pastors serving or desiring to serve in remote places, to faithful women seeking to share Christ in their neighborhoods, to young professionals who want to learn how to study the Bible faithfully. One man, who attended the morning class in Capira, has only been a believer for two months. Yet, here he was, learning to interpret Scripture faithfully and apply it rightly. I was struck by the consideration that if every new believer learned these principles, how healthy our churches would be!
We began each day by teaching biblical interpretive principles and why they are important. However, from the beginning, we reminded the participants that we were there for more than just teaching head knowledge. We wanted them to practice what they were learning and by applying it we prayed their hearts would be drawn closer to God. Each day we assigned the class a text from the Bible and asked them to apply the principles we were teaching. This was truly encouraging to witness! Here were Christians from various backgrounds and education levels studying the Scriptures deeply and seeking to understand them rightly. There were times when this was a struggle. But, as their understanding grew, you could sense a renewed passion to study and apply the Scriptures.
In addition to biblical interpretation, one of our teaching team members, Andres, taught on the spiritual discipline of evangelism, specifically the biblical motivation for evangelism and some practical things to consider. Here again our goal was not just to give head knowledge about evangelism but to see that knowledge lead to action. On the final day students were able to share stories of opportunities they’d had to share the gospel recently. Praise God for their faithfulness!
Panama is a country made up of various indigenous tribes. Some of these tribes extend into other countries where those groups remain unreached with the gospel. At least two of these tribes were represented in the training sessions. Our hope is that not only will they take what they are learning back to their own communities, but also that God will use them to take his truth into neighboring countries and into unreached tribes.
We are reminded then, of the vision of Reaching and Teaching Ministries that comes from 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul writes this to Timothy, “ . . . What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” We pray that God will allow the principles taught this week to be repeated and taught over and over again and that the church in Panama, and beyond, will be strengthened.