Obedience-Oriented Education, Part 1


Obedience-oriented education, as developed in Honduras, grew out of a “TEEE” program, which grew out of a TEE program, which grew out of a TE program. Let us explain these E’s. TE program means Theological Education, usually in a resident seminary or Bible institute. TEE provides Theological Education by Extension. TEEE means Theological Education and Evangelism by Extension.

Any of these three types of Theological Education may be obedience-oriented. Obedience-oriented education builds the entire curriculum on the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). Doctrine, Bible, Church History, and other “subjects” do not form the basis for the course of study. Primary education objectives are Christ’s order for His church. This priority will quietly revolutionize a seminary or Bible Institute.

TEE takes pastoral studies to the student, where he is. It reaches men who cannot leave their homes or jobs. It relates their studies to their local church work in the community, and not in the seclusion of a resident seminary. Self-teaching textbooks permit less time spent in the classroom, but require more private study. TEE aims primarily to educate – not to evangelize nor start new churches. TEEE integrates evangelism with TEE. It aims primarily to edify the churches. We define evangelism not as “soul-winning” but as the birth and growth of churches; edification in the broad, Biblical sense of the Body of Christ. Education and evangelism, combined in one program, powerfully reinforce each other. Pioneer missionaries usually use some kind of TEE, where church planting must be accompanied by a pastoral training program.

How did the Honduras Extension Bible Institute come to apply TEE? Our TEE program proved to be an efficient tool for planting new churches and evangelizing the lost. Broadening its scope did not weaken its education capacity, as some predicted, but strengthened it. This happy marriage between education and evangelism blossomed only as we oriented the education toward obedience. Workers and churches multiplied in a way unknown to our former TE program (a traditional resident Bible Institute).

The Lord Jesus Christ does not honor only one certain education philosophy. God does not bless methods. He blesses loving, faithful obedience. But certain Biblical teaching principles enable us to make more obedient disciples.

For several years American churches have emphasized the “body”, in which all members of a church work together in one Spirit. TEE applies the same concept on the inter-church level. Sound relations between churches create an extension chain to reproduce daughter churches. The close “Paul-Timony” relationship between extension workers and students edifies the Body locally and between churches (II Tim. 2:1,2). It enables normal growth of the Body.

George Patterson


The Honduras Extension Bible Institute has prepared this explanation of the obedience-oriented pastoral course. The principles may be helpful in training pastors and starting churches in other areas. The obedience orientation is not just a method. It is a way of thinking and acting in obedience to Christ. It applies to the resident seminary, the extension institute, or the local church whose pastor trains a “Timothy” in order to multiply his own ministry. If we start with absolute obedience to Christ and follow through without regard for tradition, we arrive at the following requirements for theological education.


A biblical principle of Christian education demands: “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). The apostle would denounce any education process which results in passive learning. Many traditional pastoral courses do just that. The student, conditioned by three or four years of passively learning the Word, graduates with an institutional mentality. He treats his church as if it were a small Bible Institute; the people sit and learn passively. The church, instead of being the sensitive, creative body which God intended, becomes pastor-centered and passive.

In Latin America the need to train many pastors for the multiplying churches forced a change. Many institution now require practical work to supplement the subjects taught. They reinforce doctrine and theory with field assignments in churches. This requires more obedience, but is still a doctrine-oriented course. The doctrinal base comes first; the practical assignments are added to it. Let us go a step farther. Why not start with the practical work, then add the necessary doctrine to enable one to do it?

Note the reversal. The course is now activity-oriented, but still not necessarily obedience-oriented. The curriculum is “functionally-ordered” (geared to the needs of in-service-training). It serves for a crash program to mobilize large numbers of workers in a rapidly expanding field. But we must define it further, to assure that the activities are done in obedience to Christ in a permanent pastoral education program.

All practical work assignments must be done in direct obedience to Christ, not to the professor. This usually solves any problem of lack of motivation. We do not simply hand out Christian service assignments over the weekend, nor assign each student to a church. The practical work is an integral part of the pastor course. We develop it by starting with the commands of Christ for His churches. We determine the necessary steps to carry out His Great Commission in our area of responsibility. His orders form the backbone of our curriculum. The congregational activities necessary to carry them out make up the skeleton for the course.

The flesh appears on our pastoral training course as we state these activities in terms of specific places, people and responsibilities. Our general objective may be to train men to start new churches; our immediate objective is to train Jim Brown to start a new church on Seventh Street this year. Our general objective may be to prepare men to witness; our immediate objective is for student-worker Carl Smith to mobilize laymen Sanchez, Johnson and Woods to witness this weekend. The obedience-oriented curriculum requires immediate objectives with names, places and dates.

The heart of the course is our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Obedience for any other motive is legalism. He said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This love needs to be cultivated: we must exhort, encourage and recognize the work of our students continually. The student-workers responds voluntarily in obedient love for Christ and His work. We must not demand obedience to the commands of the Lord with a legalistic spirit. The student does not work for the professor, nor grades nor diploma, but because of his love for edifying the Body of Christ.

We must know Christ’s orders for a church in order to obey them. Confusion abounds: one preaches demands that we baptize immediately, another says to wait several months; some insist on total abstinence from alcoholic beverages, others say such a demand is unbiblical tyranny; churches divide on issues of dress, food, entertainment and methods of evangelism. Obviously, human opinions have confused evangelicals. We must distinguish between; (1) God’s commandments for the Church, (2) apostolic practices, and (3) human traditions. These three levels of authority for the churches provides a basis for determining whether we should require or prohibit any given practice

(See Figure 2).

For example: to celebrate the Lord’s Supper is an obvious, universal commandment (require); to celebrate it frequently in homes was an apostolic practice (not required, nor to be prohibited if similar circumstances warrant); to celebrate it at 10:45 a.m. in a certain chapel is a human tradition (to be practiced when agreed upon by a specific congregation).

In a new church, the student may win the first converts and work with them to bring them to maturity; he learns and grows along with his new congregation. In an established church the student can also win converts and bring them to maturity as a group with the larger congregation. In either case the student should begin with witnessing, winning to Christ the group with whom he will work. No one should remain in the pastoral course if he cannot witness effectively. We have an obedience-initiated pastoral course when our immediate education objectives fulfill the commands of Christ. But to guarantee a permanent orientation to obedience we must secure the active cooperation of the churches.

Figures are in the original booklet which can be ordered from the author.

For help with materials or further information write:

9521-A Business Center Drive
Cucamonga, California 91730-8002