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Thirst for Learning

Extension programs expand to supplement AG Bible schools around the world.

Throughout its history, a key factor in the Assemblies of God's worldwide growth has been its biblical and ministerial training of pastors and laity. With more than 67 million people now affiliated with the Fellowship around the world, that training is more important than ever. The Assemblies of God now offers an array of college and graduate programs through more than 1,100 Bible schools.

More than 78,566 students are enrolled in on-campus programs; a new generation of pastors, church leaders, and trained laypeople is poised to step into a variety of ministry positions at the Fellowship's 372,923 churches worldwide. But this is only part of the picture. Some 388 new Bible school extension programs have taken the extension program total to 1,276 in the past year. Through these outlying programs, an additional 56,511 students access the biblical training they need.

Missionary Miguel Morales helps put the global numbers into local perspective. Miguel and Maria Morales direct a new Bible school in Panama scheduled to officially open in March 2016. Currently, the Moraleses have started a Bible foundations series of courses through three extensions that began training about 45 students, mostly pastors, this summer. Once open, the school is expected to serve more than 100 pastors and leaders.

"Strong discipleship and ministerial training are an extremely important aspect of an emergent national church in Latin America Caribbean," Miguel Morales says of the region, home to the largest number of students in any AG geographic region -- more than 75,000 in total among 738 Bible schools and 828 extension programs.

Miguel and Maria will be developing the Bible school as a tool to address a specific need in Panama.

The Ngöbe-Buglé (pronounced noh-bay boog-lay) tribe is one of the indigenous peoples in the country, Morales explains. They live in the mountains of Panama and Costa Rica and are the largest tribal group south of Mexico, with a total population of around 300,000. They work in the lowest paying jobs in the country, and are seen as a lower class of people.

Decades ago there was a huge push in the missions community to reach the Ngöbe-Buglé, Morales says.

"However, once they had heard the gospel and were classified as a reached people, many organizations pulled out," Morales says. "The result was a vast area of tribal villages with Christians and pastors who had very little understanding of Scripture or discipleship."

Morales and his wife are serving as directors of the new AG Bible school in the Ngöbe-Buglé community.

Morales believes Latin America's Bible school students will make a worldwide contribution to the Great Commission. He echoes the conviction of AG Bible school administrators in every region.

"The wave of missionaries being sent from our Assemblies of God fellowships are just the firstfruits of the workers the Holy Spirit is calling to serve during such a time as this," he says.


Scott Harrup

Scott Harrup is senior editor at Convoy of Hope. He previously served as managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.