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Grounding Pastors in the Word

Longtime missionary and church planter Reginald Stone trains Hispanic ministers along the Eastern seaboard.

Reginald A. Stone won’t take the credit for the strategy to launch extension Bible institutes that train Spanish-speaking pastors who lack theological education along the East Coast. So far, the model has led his students to plant around 100 churches in North Carolina, New Jersey, and the Potomac area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Stone, 87, is a U.S. Missions Intercultural Ministries missionary and head of the Reginald Stone Hispanic Mission Ministry, based in Dunn, North Carolina. Stone says the strategy he employs is part of the legacy of renowned Assemblies of God missiologist Melvin Hodges. Hodges advocated the theory still followed by AG world missionaries that an indigenous church-plant model should be self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-governing. In other words, the nation’s people, not the missionaries, are the primary proclaimers.

Early in ministry, Stone and his wife, Rose, 86, served as AG world missionaries to Uruguay for 10 years. They found that while pastors could access Global University Berean correspondence courses, those who most would benefit from the material didn’t utilize it. When he asked pastors why, over and over Stone heard the same response: I need someone to teach me.

While the AG’s resident Bible institute in Montevideo has produced many good leaders, at the time only single students could attend because no housing for married couples existed. He pinpointed that as the main reason why Uruguay hadn’t ordained a pastor for a decade.

Thus, Stone started extension schools in Uruguay.

“People needed to be taught,” Stone says. “All I did was try to find books and everything that would help us teach these Berean courses.”

He began teaching the Berean course himself in person over two weeks of classes, first in Uruguay and then in Peru. In short order, participation and church-planting shot up in both countries. By the time Stone left Peru, he had launched 10 Bible institutes with 400 students with the help of leaders he had trained.

When Stone visited Peru in 2016, the president of the extension schools told him the efforts had grown to 44 such schools with 1,400 students. Rolando Boulangger, Peru’s national AG superintendent at the time, told him those students have planted 500 churches.

The Stones, who wed 65 years ago, have centered their ministry on the teachings of Hodges, using 2 Timothy 2:2 as the foundational Scripture: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”

They ministered in Peru until violence by Shining Path guerrillas, who killed multiple AG pastors and congregants, forced them in 1992 to relocate to Rose’s native North Carolina. She noticed that 250,000 Hispanics lived in the Tar Heel State at the time.

“I said to my husband, ‘Could it be God picked us up from Peru to minister to them?’” Rose remembers. Charles O. Kelly, then North Carolina District superintendent, asked the Stones to form a Hispanic ministry, which they did.

Today, around 21 percent of New Jersey’s 8.9 million people are Hispanic; Virginia has 850,000, and Maryland 660,000. Many speak no English. These Spanish-speakers need churches, but in Stone’s experience in Latin America, for that to happen, students needed in-person training in their own language.

The Stones had a heart for educating pastors. In response to the superintendent’s request, Stone modified the extension Bible institutes he had launched in Uruguay and Peru, where students attend a two-week in-person training.

“Economically, that would not work in the U.S.” Stone says. “People couldn’t get off their jobs.” Instead, classes went to one night weekly for 15 weeks: in Charlotte Mondays; Morganton, Tuesdays; and Raleigh Wednesdays.

All told, he’s started eight AG Spanish-language Bible institutes along the East Coast: in the Potomac Ministry Network, New Jersey, and North Carolina.

Aided by technology, Stone continues teaching. Thursdays he teaches a class at the Assemblies of God Lima seminary by Zoom. He also teaches by Zoom at a North Carolina Bible institute.

Native Nicaraguan Carlos Cortez, 68, had studied through Global University to receive his ministerial credentialing before becoming one of the Stones’ first U.S.-based students in the 1990s.

“You cannot compare the instruction you get face to face and compare it to correspondence,” Cortez says. “You can never substitute the actual teacher sharing his experience.”

Like many other students of the Spanish-language Bible Institute, Cortez, a retired U.S. Army veteran, speaks fluent English. But he appreciated the passion, intensity, and culture conveyed in the teaching.

“It’s definitely a plus to have a Bible institute in a language we can understand, and also in the culture we can relate to,” Cortez says. Today he pastors Primera Asamblea de Dios of Raleigh.

Mexico native Mario Pulido, 48, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Silo, a Hispanic Assemblies of God congregation in Pink Hill, North Carolina, met Stone in 2000. Pulido had come to faith in Christ two years before and sensed a calling to the pastorate. However, he lacked theological training.

The Bible institute met this need, enabling him to continue ministering while becoming equipped foundationally in the faith.

“As an educator and as a person, he is an excellent person — really loyal to the Lord in his ministry, firm in his character,” Pulido says of Stone. “He’s been a great blessing to me, not just teaching but also visiting our church. He’s always aware of us, encouraging us, concerned about the formation of my spiritual character.”

The Stones have been raising up leaders their entire ministry.

“That’s why we invested our lives in Bible schools,” Rose Stone says. “We call it multiplying ourselves through leaders that we teach.”

Deann Alford

Deann Alford is a journalist and author. She attends Glad Tidings of Austin, an Assemblies of God congregation in the Texas capital.