Tuesday, December 23, 2008

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Dumas trains eager pastors in Italy; Karr moved by need for Gospel witness
December 1, 2008
By Garrett E. Wishall

Of the 4 million people that populate Rome, only 2 percent call themselves evangelical, said Southern Seminary student Reid Karr. Karr and Southern administrator Dan Dumas both spoke to the need for an evangelical presence throughout Italy. Photo by Dan Dumas

Hunger for truth among pastors and the lack of an evangelical presence and resources drove Dan Dumas and Reid Karr to take the Gospel to Italy for a week of theological education and missionary preparation Nov. 7-16.

Dumas, senior vice president for institutional administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the need for theological education in Italy is tremendous.

"Romans 1:8 states that the Gospel went out from Rome, so Rome was the hub of the Gospel," he said. "Today, the Catholic church basically has eclipsed the Gospel. The result is that there are little to no evangelical resources in Italian for pastors and other ministry leaders.

"Because Catholicism is king, Italy is a hard ministry field. Our goal was to train pastors, spiritual leaders and elders how to faithfully handle Scripture."

Dumas partnered with Aurora Ministries to provide the theological education at Italian Theological Academy in Catania, Sicily. The academy's purpose is to instruct men in expository preaching, showing them how to interpret Scripture and giving them the study tools necessary to preach the Word with power, purity and integrity, according to the ministry's website.

Dumas spent a week teaching on hermeneutics, with an emphasis on exegetical principles.

"We developed a high view of God, Scripture and precision," Dumas said. "We taught them how to handle the Scriptures, focusing on rightly interpreting Scripture and not abusing it. The meaning of the Scriptures is the Scriptures, so they have to get that to faithfully handle the text."

This was Dumas' sixth time to teach at the academy a relationship that began in 2004 and he now makes the trip each fall and spring. Karr made the trip for the first time, in preparation for missionary work he plans to do in Rome. Karr, student missions coordinator and a master of divinity student at Southern, and his wife plan to work with the International Mission Board beginning in October, joining an existing IMB team.

"The biggest problem with IMB missionaries leaving the field and things not working out is problems of division within an IMB team," Karr noted. "This was a perfect opportunity for me to meet with the missionaries I will be working with in Rome."

Karr said the trip enabled him to develop a relationship with the IMB missionaries and also to experience firsthand the lack of a theological presence in Italy.

"I asked the missionaries a lot of questions," he said. "The thing that was most beneficial to me (on the trip) was I got to see the lack of evangelical presence in Italy. The evangelicals who are there have no training and have no resources."

Dumas said the training at the academy ran from 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Friday. Each day Dumas said they began with a sermon, followed by sermon critique by the pastors in attendance, before launching into the teaching material.

"We spent Monday and Tuesday on bibliology. Basically, we worked to create a high view of Scripture," Dumas said. "Your view of Scripture affects how you will treat Scripture. If you have a high, robust view of Scripture then you will have a high view of how you handle it and interpret it. So we started there with a strong bibliology.

"We taught on how we get the Scriptures, from revelation to inspiration to inerrancy to infallibility: the whole picture. The goal is to give them a love for the Scriptures and a strong view of the Scriptures."

Dumas said on Wednesday they turned to hermeneutical principles, beginning with general principles that are true of every passage of Scripture. From there, he said they provided a number of specific principles and tools so that pastors could derive the meaning from every text.

"Single meaning, many applications, authorial intent: these are the things we emphasized," Dumas said. "People [there] aren't used to hearing one interpretation, many applications. They are used to racing ahead to application. We were telling them to slow down, get the meaning and the meaning will produce the applications."

Dumas said one night one of the pastors came to him clearly frustrated. The pastor explained to Dumas that he wished they could continue the training into the evening. "That represents the hunger in the country among the evangelicals for learning how to do it right," Dumas said.

Karr noted that recent statistics have shown that only 2 percent of Italy is evangelical and of the 4 million people in Rome, one of the largest evangelical churches has only
100 people.

"The need there is overwhelming," he said. "I feel the Lord has called me there. It is humbling because I realize that I have nothing to offer. I need the Lord's blessing
and help."

Dumas said he keeps an item on his desk that reminds him of the importance of faithful ministry and of Italy's desperate need for the Gospel.

"At the end of training one year, there was a guy who stood up and asked to share something with the class," he said. "He said he felt like all of his ministry to that date had abused the Scriptures. Basically, he said that he would come up with what he wanted to say and imposed his meaning on the passage. He said that after this week of classes he would no longer do that and he ripped all of his sermon notes in half in front of everybody. I grabbed a piece of his notes that fell on the floor and to this day I keep that piece on my desk to remind me that I always need to get the text right. That is the kind of thing that keeps me going back year after year."

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