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E-Letters on Missionary Training

by Rex L. Cobb, Director, Baptist Bible Translators
Used with permission of the author.

E-Letter #1
Rex CobbRegardless of whether our personal ministry may be evangelism, exhortation, education, etc., or our title, pastor, teacher, missionary, evangelist, etc., our objective is the same: to insure that every human in our generation, from "Jerusalem" to the "uttermost," has heard the Gospel before he dies.

Since 1973, it has been the goal of BBTI to train and equip missionaries with the linguistic and cultural "tools" that will enable them to learn new languages and effectively preach Christ around

Through these brief "E Letters," I hope to inform you of what BBTI is and does. Without doubt, you will soon meet a missionary on deputation who could greatly benefit from the 9 months of training we offer, or you know someone on the field who should not have gone there without first getting linguistic training. Even sadder, you know some who left the field prematurely because they were discouraged and unable to learn the language and understand the culture of the people. The BBTI training isn't magic; it doesn't mean that everything will be easy, but it might make the difference for someone between success and defeat on the mission field.

...When explaining what BBTI is, I usually begin telling what it is not. It is not a mission board. We do not sponsor or send missionaries. Students come to us for training only and then are sent by their church or mission agency. Nor is BBTI a Bible college. We suggest that a prospective missionary attend and graduate from a good Bible college or institute, or receive sufficient training in his local church before coming to BBTI. There are many good Bible schools but, to our knowledge, there is only one Baptist school that offers intensive, specialized linguistic and cultural training that a Baptist missionary needs, and that is BBTI.

Your servant,
Rex L. Cobb

E-Letter #2
Captain Joab caught the hippie Absalom "hanging" around and "drove home the point," so to speak, that one should not rebel against the king. You might say that Absalom "took it to heart" and stopped his rebellion. Now it was time to send a messenger to King David. Joab chose Cushi, who had witnessed the matter, and he began to run with the news. Then another enthusiastic young man named Ahimaaz begged Joab to let him run as a messenger. You remember the story; Ahimaaz outran Cushi and arrived first, but with little information. Speed, energy, enthusiasm, and zeal all have their place but what Ahimaaz needed was knowledge. Really, how much time and effort would it have taken to properly prepare him before sending him?

Like Ahimaaz, many young people feel an urgency to run to the mission field. Praise God, this is good! However, their spiritual Joab, their captain (pastor), must hold them back until they have the right message and preparation. Then they can run, and when they arrive, they will be effective.

At BBTI, we are missionaries training missionaries. We ask Baptist churches to send Brother Ahimaaz, along with his wife and children, to us for nine months, that we might help them reach their field and successfully deliver the message there. We cannot teach him all he needs to know. For instance, we don't teach the Pentateuch, Bible Doctrine, Prophecy, or Pastoral Theology. He needs to learn these subjects before coming to us. We can, however, teach skills that he will not get at even the best Bible institutes or colleges, such as, Phonetics, Phonemics, Morphology, Syntax, Missionary Anthropology (Culture), Language Learning, Bible Translation Principles, and others.

Brother Joab, would you accept this invitation to learn more about the training program of BBTI? Then when the zealous young Ahimaaz begs you to let him run to the foreign mission field, you will know where to direct him for the practical, specialized preparation he needs.

Your servant,
Rex L. Cobb

E-Letter #3
Have you ever considered the costs in time and money to get a missionary family on a foreign field? It will take at least 2 or 3 years, and maybe even 3 or 4 years, of deputation to raise the unbelievable amount of money they will need to live on a foreign field. During this time, they'll wear out a vehicle or two and a few sets of tires, burn thousands of gallons of gasoline, and spend big bucks in restaurants and motels. There are also the expenses of slide projectors, prayer cards, and a hundred other things. When they have enough support, then there is the passage and shipping to get them and their belongings to the field. It would be easy for a small family to spend $10,000 on this alone. When they arrive, they are going to spend thousands more for language school, if they are fortunate enough to have one to attend.

Now, how long are they going to stay on the field? And perhaps more importantly, how effective are they going to be? They told the churches (at least 200 of them) what they planned to accomplish on their chosen field. Will they do it? I know one couple that spent 4 years raising support and then stayed only 3 months on the mission field! Many missionaries stick it out for one four-year term until they take a furlough, and then never return to the field. I'm not judging; God knows there are many legitimate reasons why a missionary family must terminate their service on the field. It would be great if, after such a large investment of time and money, he could spend a lifetime or at least 30 or 40 years on the field. But this rarely happens.

Concerning effectiveness, many are not very successful. They may fail to learn the language or languages necessary, and they work only with a few who speak English, or else they are bound helplessly to an interpreter.

What if, on the other hand, a missionary family spent a little more time (9 months, for example) and money (a student family attending BBTI pays no tuition, but only $225 per month for housing) and received specialized training in language and culture learning?

Yes, getting a missionary on the field represents a tremendous investment. There are always risks and there are no guarantees. But does it make sense to stop short and not prepare the missionary properly, just to save a little time and money?

Your servant,
Rex L. Cobb

E-Letter #4
BBTI began officially in September 1973 in Ft. Worth, Texas. However, it actually began a few years earlier in the heart of a young missionary in the mountains of the state of Guerrero, Mexico.

Brother George Anderson graduated from a good, fundamental Baptist college, raised his support, and was sent by his church to be a missionary. He and his wife, Sharon, learned Spanish in a language school. This was all very normal and typical. Then the Andersons found themselves in the mountains, trying to reach the Tlapaneco Indians, who spoke little or no Spanish. Brother Anderson soon realized that neither his church nor college had prepared him for this task.

He contacted Baptist colleges in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain, asking this question: "Do you train missionaries to do this type of work?" The answer each time was "no."

To make a long story short, George decided to do something about this situation. He went outside of Baptist ranks and attended the training program of New Tribes Missions and, with their blessings, began a similar type of training for Baptist missionaries. He later attended the Wycliff Summer Institute of Linguistics. Over the years, the BBTI training program has been streamlined and refined. Many graduates are now serving around the world.

Brother Anderson believes that Baptists should reach the difficult places and languages of the world, do Bible translation where needed, and not just leave this important work to the liberal and new evangelical mission groups. What do you think? We Baptists won't do it without specialized training. Where should we go for that training?

Your servant,
Rex L. Cobb

E-Letter #5
A young man saw smoke pouring out of the upstairs window of a nearby house. He yelled, "Fire! Fire!" and took off running toward the house. He arrived quickly and somewhat out of breath. He was quite sure that people were inside the house and he really wanted to save them. He was there, yes, but he was there empty-handed. He had no axe or battering ram to break down the door. He had no ladder, no water hose, not even a bucket! He was just there.

It seems that many missionaries are arriving on their field, somewhat like this young man. They are there, they have a great desire to rescue people from the flames of Hell, and they know what needs to be done. The problem is, they lack the necessary equipment. They are near the people who need their help but they can't quite reach them.

The missionary, if he is to reach people, must do two things: he must learn a new language (and perhaps more than one) and he must present the Gospel in the language and cultural confines of those people. Where is he going to learn how to do this?

BBTI can help him immensely. Here, he receives specialized, personalized, training in tried and proven language-learning methods. When he arrives on the scene, he has a step-by-step procedure to follow and the linguistic tools to get the job done.

You wouldn't send a fireman to a fire without first giving him training and tools. Should you send a missionary with anything less?

Your servant,
Rex L. Cobb

E-Letter #6
The battle for the Bible has been raging for a long, long time: since Genesis 3, in fact. The Devil told Eve, "The version you have is not very reliable. Actually, the 'original' is somewhat different." And so it has gone for thousands of years. The question has always been, "what did God say?"

From its beginning nearly 27 years ago, BBTI has held strong convictions concerning the word of God. We believe that God not only inspired His word, but that He has also preserved it. We believe that our God, who took such great care to verbally inspire the Bible, has also preserved it with the same care and in the same way, verbally.

As our name implies, we put a strong emphasis on Bible translation, although not all the missionaries trained by BBTI will need to do Bible translation. Many work in languages that have good Bibles already. However, if a translation is needed, we encourage that it be done in the best possible way and from the best possible Greek text, which we believe is the Received Text.

As BBTI is not a mission board, we cannot demand that our graduates hold our convictions about the inspiration, preservation, and translation of the Bible, but thank God, most of them do!

Perhaps you know a prospective missionary with our kind of stance on the Bible. We'd be thrilled if we could help prepare this person to take God's perfect Bible to the regions beyond.

Your servant,
Rex L. Cobb

E-Letter #7
Does it matter where Baptist missionaries train and prepare for the ministry they plan to have on a foreign field? There are some new evangelical, ecumenical-type organizations that offer training in linguistics and cross culture communication. From a worldly viewpoint, these schools probably offer the best in methods and academics.

There are probably many differences between BBTI and the type of school mentioned above, but perhaps the most outstanding difference concerns the word of God: which text should be used as the basis of a translation and how it should be translated.

Here is the testimony of a present BBTI student concerning this matter:
"My wife and I have a burden for the people of the remoter areas of the world where there is no copy of the Bible in their language. We attended some classes at a translation school, but were discouraged with their relaxed attitude toward the Scriptures. We were really excited to find the Baptist Bible Translators' Institute, here in Bowie, Texas, where we can learn the mechanics of Bible translation from a fundamentalist viewpoint, with soulwinning and church planting as the ultimate goals. We knew we needed to take the extra time for training, so we were glad to be able to get it done among believers of like faith and practice."
...Mick and Marta Kreischer

So in answer to the question, "does it matter where Baptists train and prepare?" it all depends how important the Scriptures are to you. If you believe that the Critical Text (the basis for the Catholic Bibles and most modern Bibles) is the best one, then you probably would fit in well with the ecumenical-type organizations. If, however, you believe that the Received Text is the correct one, then it seems that BBTI must be your choice when it comes to a linguistic and culture training institute.

Your servant,
Rex L. Cobb

E-Letter #8
See NIV Bible Quiz.

E-Letter #9
Before going to the mission field, we often attend a Bible college or institute where we learn to be leaders such as preachers and teachers. We visit many churches on deputation and tell people that we are going to a certain field to be leaders. Having convinced ourselves and others that we are leaders, we go to a foreign field and soon discover that we are not leaders. Leaders must communicate effectively and we cannot communicate at all!

At BBTI we teach missionaries to be LEARNERS. And we give the student the necessary skills to learn both language and culture. Even when the missionary goes to a remote place where there are no teachers, languages schools, or even books, he, as a learner, knows where to begin. In a shorter time and with more authority, he can then become a leader. Consider the following testimony of BBTI graduate Steve W. Schnell serving in Cambodia:

"Stating briefly what the training we received at BBTI did for me and my family, I would say that it helped us to become a learners. That is an attitude and state of mind we need when entering into another culture and language. It helped us to prepare for the battle at hand and gave us tools to help us fight that battle. How do I learn another language and how would I write it down so I can remember it? The training helped us to be aware of challenges and problems (culture shock and language shock) we would face, and helped us to prepare for these. 'These people don't think like I do!' 'I can't get them to understand anything!' 'Doesn't someone understand English?' I didn't think I would use Bible translation skills but I soon found out that I use them every day as I speak and translate teaching aids and documents. I also had to learn that my family's needs in a foreign country are different from those in the USA and that I needed to spend more time with them. By doing so it has enabled us to not become a 'casualty of war' and continue on in the battle in an effective way."

If someone you know wants to serve on a foreign mission field, may we suggest that he first study to be a leader, and then come to BBTI and learn to be a LEARNER.

Your servant,
Rex L. Cobb

E-Letter #10
About twenty-five years ago, while a student at BBTI, I visited pastors, trying to get meetings and raise our support so that we could go on to the field. One day I sat in a pastor's office in West Texas and tried to explain to him our burden to reach Indian people and give them the word of God. I apparently was not communicating too well with him. He asked, "Brother Cobb, if God wants you on the foreign field, what are you doing here in Texas? Why don't you just get on to the field?"

I tried to explain to him about Phonetics, Culture, Language Learning and the other courses that we were studying at BBTI. However, he told me that he still didn't understand. Then I said, "Pastor, let me ask you a question. How many Baptist missionaries do you know who are translating the Bible?"

He thought a minute and said, "I don't know any who are." "That is exactly the reason we need Baptist Bible Translators' Institute!" I told him.

Let me ask you the same question: How many Bible-believing Baptist missionaries do you know who are translating the Scriptures? Thank God there are a few, but when we realize that nearly half of all the languages of the world have absolutely no Scripture, we must ask ourselves, why are there so few Baptist translators?

Why are we ignoring these languages? Perhaps it is because we are ignorant of the existence of these ethnic groups. Another problem is that we are not preparing missionaries to reach these very difficult places and tackle the job of learning very difficult languages. A missionary is not likely to do something for which he has not been trained.

At BBTI we train the missionary family to go all the way to the Uttermost and do whatever is necessary to reach those who are still waiting to hear about Christ. If the task requires learning an unwritten language, the missionary couple will know how to learn this language, give it an alphabet, and also know how to faithfully translate God's word.

If you are considering going to a foreign mission field, you need specialized linguistic training, training beyond what you get in Bible College. That is the type of training we offer at BBTI. Please contact us for more information.

Your servant,
Rex L. Cobb

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