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RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- You've recently finished college -- or maybe you're a mid-career professional -- and you sense an urgent call to follow Christ into long-term mission service.
You have the practical skills to make an impact. You have the motivation. You're ready to respond to the Lord's call in obedience -- right now, as the Apostle Paul responded when he dreamed of the man pleading, "Come over to Macedonia and help us" (Acts 16:9). But you need the theological training required for career missionary appointment.
The Macedonia Project might be the express lane to missions you're looking for. It's a new category of missionary service being developed by the International Mission Board in conjunction with Southern Baptist seminaries.
The three- to four-year mission assignment, to be offered under the International Service Corps umbrella, will allow apprentice missionaries to live and serve overseas while pursuing theological education online with one of the participating seminaries.
At the end of the field term, Macedonia Project missionaries will return to the United States and complete the remainder of their academic curriculum within a year, earning a master of arts degree while continuing to receive a financial stipend. After successfully completing the program, they will be eligible to apply for appointment as full-fledged career missionaries.
"They will be able to press excellent theological training through the grid of practical field experience while at the same time pressing their practical field experience through the grid of their theological training," IMB President Tom Elliff said.
"Those who qualify can complete a graduate degree, apprentice training and language study. The Macedonia Project will add to the ranks of our personnel who are viewed as some of the most passionate and skilled on the globe when it comes to effective missiological practices," Elliff said.
The approach will enable new missionaries to gain real-world experience while building the biblical foundation needed to undergird them for the long term.
They will learn theology and missiology "in the laboratory of the field experience -- essentially without delaying theological education in order to gain field experience, nor delaying field experience in order to get theological education," according to the program's introductory statement.
IMB personnel and several Southern Baptist seminaries are talking together about how to design the program while specific field assignments are developed.
The projected time frame calls for candidates to be recruited through the rest of 2013 and early next year. Qualified applicants will be invited to a special Macedonia Project Expo next summer for screening and job matching, with as many as 40 to be recommended for ISC appointment and orientation by the fall of 2014.
The IMB is seeking two types of candidates for the program:
1. People just out of college with a long-term mission calling who want to jumpstart their training and get to the field as soon as possible.
2. Well-equipped people already in the professional arena who have valuable skills to offer in mission service, but who need seminary training.
The first group comprises "millennials who are moving from college into the professional world and really aren't of the mindset to separate their theological education from their practical experience," said an IMB strategist helping design the program.
"The other group is professionals who feel called to long-term missions. They maybe have professional expertise in teaching or dentistry or medicine or nursing and they want to come with IMB," he said.
"They've got experience. They've got a professional degree. The only thing they lack is theological education. They can come via Macedonia and get the education while at the same time getting oriented to missions."
But the Macedonia Project won't be for everyone.
"It's going to be hard," he said. "We're going to give them field training, language training and theological education at the same time. So the bar is going to be high. We're going to assess you very carefully to see if you have the capacity.
"Second, we're going to match people to the right role, the right job. But what we hope to do is design the degree programs where for the first two years they're focusing on biblical studies, which will underscore their own walk with the Lord, their own personal discipleship."
Participants will work to complete one seminary course per semester, or two per year, while they're on the field. The most academically challenging courses likely will come at the end of the program, when they return to complete degree work on seminary campuses.
Cooperating seminaries will be asked to provide Macedonia Project missionaries a discount in regular tuition for online classes. IMB also will provide study funds to help offset tuition costs.
And the programs won't be identical at each school. One seminary might offer a unique angle on a program that would be attractive to a particular student. Program designers are looking to have a variety of programs a student could choose from to further enrich the type of experience that student receives.
As the program is being developed, potential candidates can seek more information by calling IMB Initial Contacts at (888)422-6461 or emailing email@example.com. Apply for the program through IMB's International Service Corps application process at http://going.imb.org/2to3yr/isc.asp. Indicate specific interest in the Macedonia Project.
Erich Bridges is IMB global correspondent. For information about the Macedonia Project program already in place at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, click here
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