The Table Podcast

Ministry in Restricted Contexts

In this episode, Dr. Darrell L. Bock, David Semmelbeck, Lawrence Nees, and John and Natalie McLaughlin discuss the ministry of BEE World, focusing on work in restricted areas and closed countries.

Timecodes
01:00
Mission statement and history of BEE World
07:05
Goals and ministry of BEE World
15:51
Field work in restricted contexts
20:17
Challenges facing BEE World's ministry
25:58
Risks of being caught by local governments
28:59
Challenges facing those to whom BEE World ministers
38:10
Key issues for churches
44:57
How to find out more about BEE World
Transcript
Darrell Bock
Welcome to the table where we discuss issues of God and culture. Our topic today is ministry, global ministry, and we’re talking to representatives of BEE, and this is David Semmelbeck, Larry Nees, John and Natalie McLaughlin who are with us today. And I guess the first question, when I hear BEE I think, buzz and hives. So, tell me, first of all, what does BEE stand for? And then we’ll talk a little bit about your own personal background in ministry, and then we’ll get into what it is BEE does. So David, I’ll let you lead off. What in the world does BEE stand for?
Dave Semmelbeck
BEE stands for Biblical Education by Extension. Every once in awhile we get phone calls to help people with bee problems, but we’re trying to specifically come alongside and help equip pastors and leaders for the church around the world. We have a focus on regions of the world with restricted or limited access to biblical training. And so we bring biblical education, leadership development, so it’s not just head information, and a model of multiplication to serve the leadership needs of the church.
Darrell Bock
And Larry, talk … well, first of all, David, why don’t you tell them what your role in BEE is, before I turn it over to Larry.
Dave Semmelbeck
It depends on who you ask. I’m called El Presidente by many. [Laughter] So I’m just a figurehead. I’m here for the looks.
Darrell Bock
There you go. I can … that’s so transparent, I can hardly stand it. Larry, what’s your role in BEE? And then tell us a little bit about the history of BEE.
Lawrence R. Nees
Yeah. My name is Larry, and my role is the Vice President of Field Ministries, so I oversee all of our international fields. I began to work with BEE back in 1985, behind the Iron Curtain, going into Romania, and have traveled with them and served in different capacities. And so BEE began back in early 1970s, where there was an effort to pull together these partnering … actually they weren’t partnering at the time … but different agencies going into Eastern Europe to try to meet the desperate needs for the church, to encourage them and to train them. And they came together and said, in Austria, and said, “We need to stop duplicating this. Let’s put it all together.” So actually, BEE International was our original name. And we were born in a partnership entity with about 12, 15 different partners that were coming together to provide this training.
Darrell Bock
And just to be clear, for people who’s knowledge of history may be limited, or who suffer from forms of dementia, this is before the wall came down, and Eastern Europe was all Communist Bloc oriented, so you were ministering in a very restricted context.
Lawrence R. Nees
Yeah. So it was very restricted, and a number of countries that we engaged during that time, and some of those countries are still using BEE. They have their own organization, like BEE Romania is going strong, and so the whole idea of serving the church and in a way that the field itself, those nationals in these different countries would now take on ownership of the vision and carry it on has succeeded in several of the countries that we were involved in in Eastern Europe.
Darrell Bock
That’s great to hear. I have my own history with Romania. I was literally in the country six weeks after Ceaușescu was ousted, and taking relief into the orphanages. Happened to be a sabbatical year when I was in Germany. And we took a truck in, and I have a lot of experience in Romania. In fact, I was on a call yesterday to Romania, talking to students at some universities who are not believers, but had questions about Jesus. So I’m very interested in that part of the world and the kind of work that you all obviously spent decades building, in doing your work.

Now, John McLaughlin and his wife Natalie, we haven’t introduced you yet. I know John from a completely different context. So … And I couldn’t find out online exactly what you’re doing with BEE. You’re this mystery person. So I’m looking for the mystery to be unveiled. What’s your role in BEE? And then you and Natalie can talk about your involvement.

John McLaughlin
Sure. Well, just to mention real quick, the other context that we had was, and part of my background in ministry has been with Athletes in Action, so sports ministry, but a heart for discipleship and training internationals. So, after a number of years, close to 20 years, Lord did some prompting and said, “Hey, where can we serve in a way that really we believe we’re investing well in the nationals over a long term plan?” So my relationship with Dave Semmelbeck is what surfaced that connection. And so my role now is what’s called a facilitator. So those are our staff that are on the field that are out, walking these pastors and church leaders through a systematic training that takes place over multiple years. And so I am, in simple terms, a facilitator, but serve in a few different capacities within the organization, too.
Natalie McLaughlin
Yes. And so I’ve been, obviously was on staff with AIA as well, and been a part of the women’s ministry team, coming alongside women leaders in the church, or the wives of some of the leaders in the churches oversees, and will eventually be coming alongside John in the country that he is focusing in on. So, that’s what I’ve been doing, and still doing some training. I’m also at DTS getting training, as well, presently. So, yeah, that’s been my role thus far.
Darrell Bock
Well, you’re one of our students that we’re trying to stay in contact with between semesters, finding out if you’re gonna come back next semester, in light of COVID. So, you’re smiling, so I’m hoping we’ll see you, either in class or online, as the case may be.
John McLaughlin
She’s currently enrolled, ecclesiology.
Natalie McLaughlin
Yeah. I’m taking a summer class.
John McLaughlin
She’s got Svigel right now.
Darrell Bock
Oh, very good. Alright. Well, if you’ve got Svigel, you’re in great shape. So, he teaches a thing called retro theology. Some people think all theology’s retro. So it works great. Anyway.

Okay. Well, that’s the introductions. Let’s talk a little bit about the nature and the ministry, David. Talk a little bit about what the goals of BEE are, and what you attempt to do, and the kind of ministers you’re working with.

Dave Semmelbeck
Probably should let Larry do this, ’cause he’s so focused on it. I can pass, he could take it real quick.
Darrell Bock
Oh, if you want to do that, that’s fine.
Dave Semmelbeck
Or he’s gonna have to correct me, whichever one you want to have.
Darrell Bock
Well, it’s always important for an El Presidente to be humbled. So, [Laughter] But anyway, let’s just talk about how many countries are you all involved with. Do you know the answer to that question off the top of your head?
Dave Semmelbeck
Yeah. Over 20.
Darrell Bock
Over 20. Okay.
Dave Semmelbeck
Middle East, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Darrell Bock
Okay. And so obviously you’ve moved now form your attention to Eastern Europe beyond. Now, are you still connected to Eastern Europe, as well? Or are these other fields that have developed since? Or what’s happened in that regard?
Dave Semmelbeck
We have, after the wall came down, communist wall came down in Eastern Europe, BEE World, or at least an aspect of it moved over to Asia and operated in some closed countries in that region. And then really in the last 10 years … well 15 years … we moved into Middle East, and then 10 years ago into Sub-Saharan Africa. And that’s all through partnerships.
Darrell Bock
So is there a strategy … I’ll talk about the nature of the ministry with Larry. So is there a strategy to work in difficultly accessed areas? Is that a core commitment that you all have as a ministry?
Dave Semmelbeck
Well definitely. And really, we’d always been committed to closed or restricted access. And then through different partnerships, we really got introduced into some countries we would call limited access, to training and education. So, country’s open. It’s legal to go in and do things. The pastors just have no access at all to any kind of equipping that they need.
Darrell Bock
Okay. So you’re making some distinctions here. I’ll let Larry sort these out, ’cause he can then plug it into the other questions that I have. And that is … so you’ve got closed access countries, which present one kind of a challenge, and then restricted access countries. And then you have some that operate on the fringe. I know that … or might be in transition. I might say it that way from being open to tightening up, if you will. So let’s talk about the range of the kind of countries that you’re dealing with, Larry. What’s the sweep here?
Lawrence R. Nees
Yeah. We really were born in an environment of going clandestinely. And it was like the dark side of the moon in the old days, ’cause you had no communication, and you’d be in the country for three weeks or so. And so it was a pretty ominous setting. But things have changed somewhat, and we still have countries like that where it is high security, very difficult sometimes to get into, oftentimes in, or in a few places we bring the students out of their country to meet in a neutral environment, and are always very careful about the security issues that are there.

In other countries, the security actually has changed through the years. And in some of them it went from high security and very low profile to a relaxed environment where it became more and more open for practicing and doing what we do. And then it is now closing in again and shutting down. Some of these countries … and we can’t really mention them because in some places it’s no problem. In other places it can be a big problem for the work that we do. But many of the countries in Africa, or maybe on the other end of the spectrum, and that is more of a limited access. They’re not necessarily on lock down, they’re not necessarily threatening. But getting into those countries is not easy. And there, obtaining and having access to biblical education is extremely limited.

And so we are committed to multiplying servant leaders, and enabling that to happen for the global church, going wherever whenever we possibly can to make that happen.

Darrell Bock
So are you training pastors only? And if you are training pastors, I take it that many of then don’t have means of any kind of formal education in the way we might normally think about it. So you’re plugging that kind of a hole? Is that the kind of ministry that you have, or is it a mix.
Lawrence R. Nees
Well, it is a mix, and it depends on the fields that we go to. Some of them are church leaders, who have a leadership role in the church but not necessarily the pastor of the church. But we are equipping the church itself, and multiplying their biblical knowledge and education, as well as the ministry skills that go into that. So when we go into an environment, some of them are very rural settings, some of them are more sophisticated city environments. And so there is a wide variation as to the type of student that we have.

Surprisingly, many of these students that we have have been to some kind of biblical training or education. But it has been so limited and so light and so shallow with regards to Scripture that when they begin to study Galatians or Romans or these other courses that we have with us, it’s like this whole new world is opening up to them. And so our commitment is to really infuse a solid, theological, biblical understanding and respect for the word of God so that from them comes their preaching and their lifestyle and their marriages and so forth. So, the whole methodology that we have in approaching the theological education is very much a non-formal approach. It’s not the classroom. It’s really a mixture between discipling/mentoring and educating through interactive learning.

Darrell Bock
So I have one more question for you, and then I’ll turn to John. So what kinds of areas do you cover? I take it there are some basic theological instruction. On the other hand there’s spiritual formation issues and discipleship kinds of things. What’s the range of the types of things that you cover when you’re interacting with your crew?
Lawrence R. Nees
Well simultaneously, a lot of agencies, as I understand, have a similar approach where we’re looking at information, Bible knowledge, we’re looking at character development, and we’re looking at ministry skill development. And so every seminar, every course that we go through will involve all three of those. Some of them are more weighted, like if you have Old Testament introduction, New Testament introduction, theology, Galatians, Romans, they’re more weighted to maybe the informational piece.

But at the same time, they are learning skills of facilitation. And in the interactive learning, and the approach that we have to instruction, they are deeply being challenged as to their own personal lives, their character development. It’s gonna be very hard for the students to come through our process and not be challenged with the impact and the import of what the Scripture is actually saying to them personally. And this addresses what we feel is a huge deficit in many of the educational programs that some of these students have had before is it doesn’t even touch their character, or perhaps even their ministry skills.

Darrell Bock
Okay. So, John and Natalie, I’m gonna use you as the people who go into the field and who actually interact with people directly. Talk a little bit about what that’s like. When you go, how long do you go for? Where kinds of places are you meeting? How long do you meet? Kind of the details of what a mission into a particular site might look like.
John McLaughlin
Sure. And one of the things to remember, we’re partnering with some other organizations, denominations, and we’re really trying to have a wide range of even regions that we’re pulling from, so that there is an innate structure in place for multiplication. And so some of these pastors are traveling two, three days, just to get to a somewhat of a central location. And so they’re obviously … have responsibilities with the organization that we’re partnering with, let alone their church responsibilities and familial and whatever else that they might be involved in in their respective cultures.
And so what we’ve found to have a healthy approach that keeps things consistent and moves forward is that we’ll meet four times a year for about four to five days, depending of the structure. Some, a little bit of variation on that, but we would arrive on a Sunday evening. Everybody comes together and then we’ll hit the ground running from about 8
00, 8

So we’re really trying to slow down, allow for that transformation, and interacting with the material. And then we’re gonna really navigate that time with some modeling on ourselves, but allowing them to step in and learn how to … we’d use the term, ride the bike with our specific facilitation, teaching methods that allow them to use their cultural context for application. And so just a beautiful time of sharing meals together, and we’ll, some locations, you could all be staying in the same place. Some other locations we’ll … it maybe just depends a little bit on how we’re trying to navigate the location accessibility. So.

Darrell Bock
Urban or rural? Or is it a case of meeting in urban locations, and you’re pulling in rural leaders from around the area?
John McLaughlin
It’s probably the better way to say it, it might be real rural. Just again, it depends a little bit on the country, the location, cost, as we’re trying to factor that in. Some of our models of how we’re building a sustainable ministry factors in them having some sort of active role in the financial component. And so how does that weigh in to where we meet. But these are rural pastors that fit better with the model that we have in place, the urban setting. And I’m speaking a little bit more in Africa. I understand some other countries and regions, it might vary. But it’s not a model that necessarily is extremely effective in an urban setting where there’s a high volume of resources. It’s those that are limited access to those resources.
Darrell Bock
So Natalie, do you always go with John when he goes in? And when you do, what are you doing when you’re on location?
Natalie McLaughlin
Yeah, that’s a great question. I have not traveled with John yet. That is the goal. But the one that seems a little bit unique in that many of the women that are on staff aren’t really full time. For the men they often go in four times, so they’ll travel four times a year. We have a team of women that split that up. So we’ll partner up, and then you’ll go two times a year. And then another group will go another time. And so that’s kinda how it works. But it’s similar. The goal is to live life alongside them. We’re not trying to come in and stay at nice hotels and then come in and … We want to live life while we’re there alongside them. Yeah. So it’s similar in that sense.
Darrell Bock
Talk a little bit about the challenges that are involved in this kind of ministry. What are the things that BEE has to come with, one, to function as a ministry, and two, in the areas in which they have to function?
John McLaughlin
Yeah. We could do that. Did you direct that to someone? I think it might have been muted just for a second.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, it was David. It was to David. Thanks, John.
John McLaughlin
Okay. Good. Yeah, I didn’t want to jump in …
Dave Semmelbeck
I think the challenges are somewhat varied. But for us, one of the things that we want to do is come in and have a place that we can come alongside the church, so it’s developing partnerships, really trying to discern what the needs are, what the needs of pastors, and then it’s trying to identify with that denomination or with that organization who are the people that are really not just in a spot of … elevated spot to train others, but have the capability and the capacity and the time to do it. And so identifying those students … and once we can get across what the needs are, how we can best serve, then that establishes a really successful relationship.

‘Cause the idea isn’t just to go in and train a group, or educate a group, it’s really to equip a group to turn and train others, and do so on a multiplying basis. So almost like a pyramid of different generations that can be impacted.

So we have a group that’s in one area that’s … we’ve had 20 students started 10 years ago, and they’ve got over 7500 students. And so it’s able to spread and meet the need, but also to keep a quality going that serves the need for the pastors and the leaders.

Darrell Bock
So how big a staff does BEE have?
Dave Semmelbeck
We have about 50, I think. Probably about 40 facilitators and then we have admin staff and … in place in different locations.
Darrell Bock
And is that ministry support raised. Are they raising their own support? How do you sustain yourself?
Dave Semmelbeck
By the grace of God. [Laughter] What’s really fun is, we’re all on support. And I was a pastor at a church for about 20 years, and I never forget being interviewed by BEE and being accepted by BEE, and given the thumbs up. And it’s like, “Okay. Now go raise your money [Laughter], and then you can be paid.”

But it’s really an adventure. To me it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve done, because you really pull in people to participate. And some of them have served in the church in an incredible way. And they you’re in the middle of this adventure, watching how God’s using it on both sides, and providing in all kinds of ways.

Darrell Bock
And Larry, as I asked you what you, as you put these people in the field see as your biggest challenges, let’s talk about the difference between the more open locations that people work in, vs. the more restricted locations that people work in. And we can keep it on that spectrum and get a sense of the range of the kind of ministry that you have.
Lawrence R. Nees
Yeah. It’s interesting. Even the open places can be difficult to go into, because the living conditions and so forth may be pretty primitive. The health risks can be great, and you gotta pump yourself up with all the stuff to prevent that. You have your mosquito stuff and everything else. So. But the restricted countries can be … Our staff, through the years, have accumulated some pretty harrowing tales of encounters or escapes or whatever might be happening there. But there is always the concern, for the most part, if something were to happen to us in those high risk areas, we are mostly in environments where we would simply be deported. And the major risk is the nationals, and the students that we are meeting with, what might happen to them, to their families, to their ministry. So we are on high alert in working with them to make those judgment calls, discernment.

It’s interesting, because oftentimes the nationals have less of a sense of on alert than we do, because that’s where they live. And so their guard is down. “Ah, no problem. We can do this.” And we, in our training, are probably a little more skittish about some of the decisions that are being made. But finding a place to meet that is clandestine in some of those tight places. We have leased out a condominium, an apartment in one of the … lost in the labyrinth of high rise apartments. And we go there under cover of darkness, and we are locked in for the week. 15, 20 of us with one bathroom, and just sharing life together as we go through the training. That’s just one example of some of the places that we go to. Other ones are much more open. They may even meet at some kind of a hotel and a nice structure environment where they have an open meeting to … room to meet in. And so, there’s much less of a tension of looking at the door and wondering what’s going to happen. So there’s a variety of experiences as we send our staff out.

Darrell Bock
Have there been situations where you’ve been … for lack of a better description … caught?
Lawrence R. Nees
I can let Dave answer that question.
Dave Semmelbeck
My very first trip with BEE was in a location, and we were staying in an apartment we didn’t come out of for a couple weeks. But I got to come out a week early. After the first week, we had a great week of training. And then the second week, we had visits from the police, and got to experience all that before we were deported. So, I think I got the luxury trip. [Laughter]
Lawrence R. Nees
And Darrell, I might add here that we laugh about some of this, and some of the stories, the real stories that we had shared amongst our staff, especially back in the ancient day, more ancient days. But the whole ethics behind it is no minor thing. We have … I’ve done a study on, many of us have done a study on that to really understand civil disobedience, to understand where the limits are, where our comfort level is, to take some of these risks, and to go places where it may not be totally legal. But we don’t talk politics, we don’t get involved in any of those things. We respect the governments, the authorities in every other way. But we are just committed to teaching the Bible, and seeing lives changed. And through those lives that are changed in positions of leadership in the churches, you have families changed, community changed, and we see this as a major positive contribution to any of these fields, all of the fields that we are involved in.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. It’s an important point, Larry. I’ve traveled in Eastern Europe, actually when the wall was still somewhat up, and particularly in East Germany, et cetera, and traveled into Eastern Europe, as I mentioned. And one of the things that I smile about, as I tell the story, are the lovely border stops that you had to go through in order to move from one country to another, just in your travel. And I said, “I always found myself very courteous to the guards, because behind me was a building that didn’t have any windows, and I decided I didn’t want to develop a long term friendship with this person, for reasons that I might not care to disclose.” So it is a challenge. And to operate in certain contexts where that is a constant reality, is something that’s foreign, certainly to most people in the West. And yet it’s something that people have to live with.

So let me turn my attention back to John and Natalie for a second and talk about, when you go in, what do you find are the things that you teach that maybe are the most challenging for people that you’re ministering to? Are there a particular set of challenges, or does it vary depending on the location that you’re in?

John McLaughlin
Yeah. I think it’s gonna vary a little bit, but there’s some core elements that we have in place, just because it’s something that we see as common between all the regions that we travel to. But our structure for multiplication is entitled Multiplying Servant Leaders. And so there’s a sense of servant leadership, and what does that look like. So every culture’s gonna have a certain dynamic where that’s played out in their context. Ultimately, it’s not necessarily gonna be the model that Jesus is portraying. That’s where we really try to put a continued emphasis on that.

So we’re working against some historical missions’ efforts, some of the paternalism that’s just in place that wasn’t necessarily intentional on the front side. But what we’re learning about missions and what that communicates to also colonialism, that’s a little bit more of a tough subject. But really being sensitive to that. And then coming in with just a real clear message and understand what the gospel is. So our first two courses are gonna be Galatians and then predominantly we’re gonna put and emphasis on Romans, also. So we’re really trying to help establish a good foundation before we move into some other courses.

And so, the preaching context and what does it really mean to have some inductive study methods, preparing, even planning a sermon with a small outline. So we start with just small lesson planning, and then how does that later translate into maybe an outline for a sermon as it relates to, obviously, just an understanding transformation and application. So we’re really trying to structure around, “Know, be, do,” through consistently through each of our curriculum pieces.

Natalie McLaughlin
And I’d say with the women, it’s unique in the sense that most cultures, the women are not as educated. Across the board, you have to have a certain level of education to take these courses, but you wrestle through that more so I think with the women. On top of one of the things that I’ve observed in just my short experience with BEE is many cultures are taught not to question, not to be curious. Or you don’t question the teacher. And so what I’ve even observed is that trying to teach how to ask good questions of the text, and just develop a curiosity is just foreign. We teach our little kids here in the US at a young age how to be curious, how to ask questions.

But when you’re … it’s just fascinating to me when you’re trying to teach a bunch of women. Read the text. What does it say? What does that mean? That stuff’s second nature to us, but … So that’s one of the challenges I have observed in trying to help the women learn to be curious and ask questions, how to read it rightly. And then how do you challenge others in your culture to question. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s one of the things, the challenges that I’ve observed with the women overseas.

Darrell Bock
That is an interesting question. And so the sequence that you all are teaching of, “Know, be, do,” you said those three things so fast it was almost one word. Is this movement in which you’re actually trying to inculcate, not just knowledge but virtue and character, and the fruit of the spirit in such a way that people live out their Christianity in a way that hopefully is distinctive from what they’re seeing in the culture, et cetera.

Larry, I have a question for you that Natalie’s remarks triggered for me. And that is, how much … what’s the education level of the various countries that you are interacting with, with the leaders? Sometimes I think we expect, maybe perhaps there’s a difference in education based on gender, by the nature of things. But I also understand that in many contexts, the people who are leading churches also have, to some degree, a limited educational background in comparison to the West. What do you generally find is going on there?

Lawrence R. Nees
Yeah. Well that … there’s a wide spectrum on the answer to that because some of them, we have to check and make sure they are literate, ’cause they may show up for the first course and start to go through, and all of a sudden you begin to realize they just can’t read or write. And so … I remember one fellow who was really a great student, and just had a heart for anything. But he just felt so intimidated by everyone else who was in the class, his peers, that he just felt, “I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be here.” And I came to him, met with him privately, and I said, “Jacob, you are the reason that I come here,” because I could see in his heart, though he felt he didn’t have the educational background, he certainly had the intelligence, and he had the capability of being able to engage. And above that, he had the heartbeat to be able to engage.

We also have those who are pretty highly educated, and who are engaging this material maybe at a different level, and focusing on things that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise. In fact, it’s interesting. Picking up on the question, what are some of the greatest challenges, I think that overcoming a law, rule based view of the faith is one of the biggest and the first things that we try to address, not by confronting it, but by studying the Book of Galatians, by studying the Book of Romans. And as students begin to understand the implications of grace, and what that means, and they stop thinking of themselves as simply gutting it out and being better and trying harder and cracking the whip as a church leader to get other people to try harder, and they start to discover grace, there is a fragrance and a motivation that comes that just changes the dynamic of the training.

And the training, remember, is interactive. And this is another challenge we have. In some countries, they just want the right answer. Give us the right answer. We can write it down in our notes. Give us the test and we’ll give you the right answer back to you. And our whole approach is for them to wrestle with the questions and the issues. And then we guide them towards right answers. We don’t just leave it in the opinion mode, but we move them towards conclusions that they can maybe own at a deeper level in their own hearts.

Darrell Bock
So you’re helping them think out loud about the faith, as well as teaching them content.
Lawrence R. Nees
Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. And I think what Natalie mentioned with regards to the women applies to many of the men, if not all of them as well. They’re not taught to question. They just don’t think in those terms. But to liberate them to think that way, and to be affirmed … If I can give an example. We had one fellow in one of our classes, and we discovered he was a part of a church network. And the people in his congregation had appealed to the higher ups to say, “We need a new pastor. This guy … we don’t understand what he’s talking about when he’s preaching. It doesn’t make any sense.” And so this fellow started to go through our training. And over a period of time, the people in that congregation got back in touch with the higher ups and said, “Remember that request that we made of you? Well, never mind. We have a new pastor.” And it’s the same guy. But he learned to get excited about what he was learning in the scriptures. Observation, interpretation, application. And then he would come on Sundays, and from the heart, and from the word he began to communicate the truths of God. And it was a life changer.
Darrell Bock
I’m gonna try and do a question kind of in the round. So I want you each to answer it, and each contribute something to this question. And it’s a little bit of a challenging question, I think. So. And that is, if you could communicate one thing to churches about the kind of ministry that you have, that would engender a deeper or better understanding or appreciation for the nature of your ministry, what would that be? And I’m stalling to give you a little bit of time to think about that. And I’m gonna begin at the top with El Presidente, and then those of you who work on the front lines can come in and really shore up the answer. But anyway, David, go for it.
Dave Semmelbeck
They can correct gently. The thing that I’ll often say in a church is that if you’ve been in a Bible teaching church for a year, you have more training than most any pastor in the world. And yet, nobody in a church in America, hardly anybody would feel competent to stand before and say, “Lord, I’m gonna feed your sheep, and I’m going to lead like the shepherd you want me to be.” Nobody would feel competent to do that. And yet, this is what most of these individuals are doing. They’ve turned from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, whatever. They’ve done so at great personal price. And they really own their responsibility to feed the sheep. But they feel like they haven’t been given what they need.
Darrell Bock
The trough is thin.
Dave Semmelbeck
Pardon?
Darrell Bock
The trough is thin.
Dave Semmelbeck
Extremely. And so they do… the most natural thing is the law. They’ve come from religion. It’s the way we relate to God. What do I have to do to make Him happy? And then on the leadership side, most leadership is authoritarian. And so they’re leading the sheep in that same kind of way. And so to me it’s both preparing the people in the pew, and then … or in the pulpit, but also giving the people that are sitting under that teaching, the access to a genuine relationship with Christ, based on grace and truth.
Darrell Bock
Larry?
Lawrence R. Nees
Yeah. Well, I have nothing to correct on what Dave said, El Presidente. But I would add to that, we’re talking deeply, biblically focused. We’re talking transformational, so that it impacts the heart. And over … we may have three, seven years with a group, as we walk them through the material that we have and the levels that we have. And over that period of time, it can be a transformational mentoring that takes place.

And the third thing I would add is the multiplication. It’s not, when we’re done with the group, “Okay. Send us more people.” No. It’s now you are equipped to train others. And so that is a major part. We haven’t talked about it much here, yet. Because a major part of what we do is to establish a movement in that field that is ongoing, so the multiplication continues on, the training continues on, but with the nationals, not with us.

Darrell Bock
So … and this is a follow up that needs a short response … but so you’re not … if you think of what you do as a ministry like you think of a school, you haven’t thought nearly deeply and widely enough about what it is you’re actually trying to achieve when you’re meeting with the people in these various locations.
Lawrence R. Nees
Right. Right, exactly. In fact, one of the things that we are placing … we’ve always had this emphasis, and we’re sharpening this focus, and that is that what our ultimate goal is not simply the training of these students, or even equipping them to train others. The ultimate goal is to leave behind a national entity that is carrying on the training. And that could be within a church network, or denominational system itself. Or that could be a new entity that is trans-denominational and able to serve the country.
Darrell Bock
Hey John and Natalie, it’s your turn. If you could say something to the church about what you all are doing, what would it be?
John McLaughlin
I think … and Larry alluded to this … but we really do slow down the process. But there is a systematic, holistic approach to what we’re doing, which is pretty integrated. And a lot of times there’s a tendency that I’ve seen in my experience with cross cultural missions where we might go for a seminar for a week, maybe once a year, we have training, and it’s, I think, profitable in some regards. But if we look at the long term goal, how does that really build into something that is sustainable within that country, and something that’s able to be reproduced and obviously from a long term standpoint. And so what we do is we really look at that, slow it down, and allow for those other components that we had dialogued about earlier about understanding the right truth, allowing that to really be transformative, and then applied, both personally for these pastors, their families, we really encourage that, and then with their congregation and beyond. And so I think it’s our education philosophy that’s a unique component to what we’re doing.
Darrell Bock
So it’s that unique one word thing, “Know-be-do.”
John McLaughlin
[Laughs] That’s right.
Darrell Bock
[Laughs] Go ahead.
Natalie McLaughlin
Yes what Dave said, yes what Larry said, yes what John said. And to put that all together, I just think of … and this might be my sports background … but we’re coaching. We are … we’re not just teaching them the skills. But then they’re going and do it and we’re watching, right? At points in our seminar, they’re the ones teaching the class, and they’re the ones asking the questions, and we get to observe and critique and encourage, and then do it again, and then talk about this. Good coaches usually were coached by good coaches, who were … And so the idea is is that we’re creating a legacy of men and women who are passing that on, just like everybody has said thus far. But we’re doing it through coaching, not just teaching and saying. But we’re being and they’re doing and we’re observing, and it’s all this package of a holistic education. And it’s not just knowledge. It’s so much deeper and richer.
Darrell Bock
Well, I want to thank you for giving us an overview of what you do. David, I’m gonna give you the last shot here. Tell people how they can find out about BEE, and the ministry that you have.
Dave Semmelbeck
One thing I would add to what we’ve all said is that we have some really strong partnerships with churches in the United States to come alongside and participate together to do this. So it’s not just trying to pull people into BEE, and we’re the end all, be all. It’s really … partnerships are the strongest part of what we do, both overseas and in the US.

So to get hold of us, BEE World, of course.

B-E-E-W-O-R-L-D dot org is an easy way. I’d give you my phone number, but … [Laughter]

Darrell Bock
El Presidente can only handle so much.
Dave Semmelbeck
Yeah. I’m thinking of giving you John’s.
John McLaughlin
Yeah, there you go. [Laughter]
Darrell Bock
Well, great. So BEEWORLD.org is the best way to find out about what’s going on. And it’s been great to visit with you all. I’m sure we’ll be back to talk more about the kind of ministry that you have, perhaps get into a little more detail. But I thank you, this overview. This is a kind of ministry that in one hand is a little bit unique, and on the other is really a real need, because there’s so many people who are ministering as pastors, as you say, who have a heart for wanting to do the right thing. But actually being able to be equipped to do so is a challenge. And you’re facilitating of that helps to make that happen in ways that are healthy, and that are biblically rooted on the one hand, that are rooted in servant leadership on the other, that are committed to multiplication, the third. I think I got that sequence right.

And in the midst of doing that, grow internally with a mutual kind of support, I suspect that one of the things that happens is is that internal networks get built within these countries and among these people, where they can encourage one another in the midst of this pursuit between the times that you’re with them. And that also encourages them in growth and ministry.

So I thank you for giving us your time, and wish you all all the best as you continue to minister globally with the truth of what the Gospel is.

Dave Semmelbeck
Thank you, Dr. Bock. Really appreciate the time.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. You all are very welcome. We thank you for being a part of the table. We hope you’ll join us again soon. And if you have a desire to suggest a topic to us, do feel free to reach us at Dallas Seminary in the Hendricks Center, and we’re always looking for new topics that might interest you, so please let us know. And we hope you’ll join us again soon on the table.
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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
David Semmelbeck
Dave Semmelbeck is the president of BEE World, an organization that exists to provide biblical training to those in counties where access to biblical training is limited. Dave left his role as a pastor in the United States to join BBE World, where he has served for over a decade.
John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin serves on the staff of BEE World. Before joining BEE World, John worked with Athletes in Action, where he was responsible for AIA baseball internationally. John earned his Masters in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2010.
Lawrence Nees
Lawrence Nees serves as a facilitator for BEE World. Lawrence has earned multiple degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary, completing his Masters in Theology in 1976 and his Doctor of Ministry in 1998.
Natalie McLaughlin
Natalie McLaughlin has been involved with women’s ministry in a number of different roles. She was previously on staff with Athletes in Action and now serves with BEE World. She is currently a student at Dallas Theological Seminary.
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