Scholar Mikael* on the Importance of Teaching and Writing in Challenging Contexts
Mikael, previous Langham Scholar and current Langham Preaching Movement Coordinator in a sensitive South Asian country is committed to seeing more people know and love Jesus. As well as being an author and speaker, he is also the director of a local theological college. The college provides biblical training for Christians across South Asia through distance education.
Swapping ‘money’ for ministry
Mikael’s journey to vocational ministry began with a passion for economics. He says, “I was a university student and doing my Masters in Economics. I was very much keen to become an economist. That was my dream, but God has His own plans. He put me in contact with a campus ministry program.”
Where Mikael lives in South Asia, university ministry is quite different to Australia. Christian activity isn’t allowed on university campuses so campus groups invite students off campus to engage in discussions, share the gospel and do Bible study. Mikael says, “They really helped to bring me to Christ. And during that time, I got an opportunity through the campus group to go for a one-month training at a local Training Centre. It completely changed my life and my perspective and my purpose of living. My passion for becoming an economist started fading, and I started thinking about ministry.”
After this Mikael continued with his studies to be an economist, and soon God opened doors for him to try ministry. He took up a part-time role in campus ministry alongside his study and worked with them for around 6 months. Practising ministry in this way led him to his next conviction: he needed training.
Mikael says, “I strongly realised that if God was calling me into ministry, then I needed proper training.” After sharing this feeling with his Dad and other mentors, Mikael went and did an initial theological degree with their encouragement. Once graduated, he moved into pastoral ministry, but only worked in this ministry for a year when he was invited to work at the local theological college.
He shares, “When I look back, all of that was really God’s plan. God was calling me to the teaching ministry rather than to the pastoral ministry. And in that way, God opened the door slowly for me to work for the Seminary.”
Expository preaching creates change
In 2004 Mikael’s college was invited by the principal of a fellow theological seminary, to join the first Langham Preaching seminar in their part South Asia that was being run by Dr Chris Wright. Mikael and two of his colleagues attended the workshop, and it made a lasting impact.
Mikael shares, “It was a real eye-opener for us and for many other participants who came from different locations in our region. We learnt how to do [biblical] exposition. Though we were already in the ministry, it was a very different technique and really helped us.”
The ability to expose the text and remain faithful to it, to unpack the Word of God through biblical preaching, is something Mikael immediately saw as a blessing and something he wanted more people to experience. He says, “It really impacted me a lot personally. And since then I’ve been a very staunch member of the Langham Preaching movement in South Asia.”
Teacher and facilitator to Scholar
After going through all the Langham Preaching training, Mikael eventually became a preaching facilitator. In his work facilitating and teaching seminars, he developed strong friendships with other facilitators from South Asia and internationally. It was through the support and encouragement of these friends and colleagues that he became a Langham Scholar.
Mikael shares, “I was looking for a scholarship for my higher studies. And [my colleagues] were so encouraging, like Dr Paul Windsor. He and Steve Sonneman and other friends really encouraged me to try for the Langham scholarship.”
Having already done his Masters in England, Mikael was keen to return there to do his PhD. “I was very much keen to go back there because they were our friends and we thought if we go back to England, it’d be easy for me to manage things.” However, much like with his career, God had alternate plans.
Mikael reflects, “Paul and Steve, they were saying, ‘no, no, you should explore some other locations as well.’ So then I started exploring the possibilities of my PhD in New Zealand or Australia. Somehow that was God’s plan and I got confirmation from Melbourne School of Theology.”
Over four years, from 2012 to 2015, Mikael pursued his PhD in Melbourne, before returning to South Asia at its completion.
Contextual ministry in the local language
Mikael’s field of study was focused on practical theology, thinking through the application of theology contextually. This is research he uses in his work in theological education and with Langham Partnership.
He was drawn to the topic because of his lived experience. Mikael says, “Our context is very different. It’s very sensitive and sometimes very hard.” This is why it is so important that scholars like Mikael are in churches and seminaries in the Majority World; they have a great, multiplying impact on the Church in their own countries.
The exposure to high-level research has also opened up many opportunities for Mikael, the college and the Christian community of South Asia.
Using skills he developed through studying for his PhD, Mikael and his colleagues started a Master’s level program at his college to develop more well-trained Christian leaders locally. He also started doing more writing, with a particular interest in writing in his own language so as to provide more Christian material in the native language spoken in his region.
Talking about how his writing is going now, Mikael says, “I finished two books as well as writing some English articles as well. But I love to contribute to my local language. So I have started a third book as well.”
He continues, “We have so much in English that we don’t have in our native language. I feel that it’s a responsibility on us [as Scholars]. God helped us to do our studies up to that level, and after that, this should be part of my contribution as a Scholar.”
Teaching contextual ministry skills and theology as well as producing helpful biblical resources are ways in which Mikael contributes to the Church through his work with both the college and Langham. Mikael gets many requests for speaking and training. He is conscious of needing to draw on God’s wisdom and discernment when choosing which opportunities he should spend his limited time and energy on.
Mikael shares, “I’m more protective of what I can contribute for the long term. Like the impact I can make for the generations to come. So that’s sort of my struggle sometimes still, because of so much going on in our country.”
The limited material in local languages, as well as the great need for the gospel throughout the country, is a weight on Mikael in his work. He says, “That’s a basic target for me, [to have more contextual resources], and we are encouraging other scholars to write as well. Those who have trained, we thank God they have come back to contribute.”
Fuelled by God’s plan and purpose
Mikael sees that God is clearly working throughout his country, and He has a purpose for Mikael and others like him. Christians have a very different experience in South Asia than they do in Australia, and this is something Mikael emphasises.
He says, “It’s a very different context. It’s a minority context, and there are challenges, but I am very much convinced that God has placed us with a purpose. Otherwise, I could have [been] born somewhere else.”
Sometimes Mikael does ask the question, ‘Why this place?’ when he is navigating difficult circumstances. However ‘God has placed us’ is always the answer.
Mikael shares, “God has placed me with a purpose. And for His purpose, He also opened doors and provided many opportunities. Since I started in ministry in the early 2000s, God has been using me in different ways. And particularly, He provided me the opportunity to be equipped with a PhD, so that I could be more useful for His purposes.”
*Names and places have been anonymised for security and privacy reasons
This article was written by Ngaire Buckley, Langham Partnership Australia.