A New Era at SEMBEQ
During the 70s and 80s, an unprecedented revival, driven by the Spirit of God, occurred among Quebec Francophones. This created an obvious need for more workers. According to Jacques Alexanian, the men sent by God to lead His church in Quebec adopted a Biblical training model:
“Brothers agreed that it took the whole life of the church to train a worker, therefore responsible members were called to participate in the workers’ training.”
A large number of workers and pastors in our churches are the result of this training within the local church. Men were identified who could take up and pursue God’s work. Several of those chosen were already working and had young families. The men in charge of the local church took them under their wings with the view to bringing them to maturity in Christ as is required of a pastor so that they, with the proper knowledge of the Bible would be able to teach, reprove, correct, train in righteousness: “… so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As well, these men would gain all the needed abilities for their ministry.
By 2015, more than 50% of the pastors or elders of the AÉBÉQ region had been active SEMBEQ students. More than 80% of SEMBEQ’s graduates are serving as elders or pastors at a local church up to 10 years after graduation. All the glory be to God who inspired pastors to train future leaders according to 2 Timothy 2.2. We must acknowledge the many shepherds, already serving the Lord in a local church, who gave their time to teach a SEMBEQ course, and also the donors who supported SEMBEQ.
Workers’ training within the local church
Church leaders and members must discern who God is calling to the task of shepherd. It should not be taken for granted that these persons are already qualified for the work God has prepared for them. Proper steps must be taken to become fully qualified for ministry.
While the whole congregation is needed for a leader’s training, usually one of the church leaders will be responsible, before the church and before God, for the worker and his training.
In 2004, AÉBÉQ’s vision was to train 100 new workers over a ten-year period. In order to meet this challenge, SEMBEQ introduced a new training program, the Cohort, and appointed a training coordinator. All students in this program must be supported by a coach. Tools are introduced to help the student to grow in character and to acquire the necessary abilities for the ministry. From 2004 to 2014, 93 members of the cohort completed the program and 55 of those are pastors in Quebec.
Partnership with Northwest Baptist Seminary (NBS)
In 2014, God laid a new challenge upon AÉBÉQ’s leaders’ hearts: to train 200 pastors, 200 elders and 200 influential women by the year 2024. This new challenge, and the desire that SEMBEQ’s diploma be recognized by other theological seminaries and universities, caused SEMBEQ leadership to explore different options. Discussions between SEMBEQ and Northwest Baptist Seminary confirmed their respective commitment to train workers in the local church using experienced leaders. SEMBEQ agreed to form a partnership with NBS and to adopt the IMMERSE curriculum. IMMERSE goes beyond worker’s training within the local church in several ways:
- A true partnership between three parties
The coaching is split between three mentors: a pastoral mentor from a local church, an academic mentor from the seminary and a mentor from the region. This strengthens the links between these three groups, since the three mentors are working closely together.
- The local church’s role
The trainee’s progress is assessed as he demonstrates his leadership’s skills (knowledge, competencies and spiritual growth) in the local church.
- The sharing of expenses
The student, the local church, and SEMBEQ share the student’s living expenses over the training period.
- A four-year period
This program enables a worker to be trained over a four-year period, instead of over 10 years.
From the start, the collaboration between NBS and SEMBEQ has been excellent. SEMBEQ has been allowed to take the program’s structure, the philosophy and values of the IMMERSE curriculum as a whole, and adapt it according to the distinctiveness of Quebec. SEMBEQ has been able to preserve its values and to take advantage of the NBS’s advanced program.
At the beginning of 2015, SEMBEQ was able to offer to Quebec’s churches the program IMMERSION (instead of IMMERSE). In August 2015, three students from three churches entered the IMMERSION program.
—Gilles Farley is Coaching Coordinator for SEMBEQ.