Not all the pastors of the Berea Evangelical Lutheran Church (BELC) are ordained. Most have not studied beyond Martin Luther Bible School or attended a formal seminary. Many had their first extended study in God’s Word through another pastor whom they may have helped in their home church. Regardless of how the men come to the BELC, all are asked to continue studying at a monthly class led by their district chairman, or by one of the CLC men sent from the United States. These local pastors and their members are the real missionaries in this land where missionaries are essentially forbidden.
This method of ongoing theological study away from a school is referred to as TEE—Theological Education by Extension. The original TEE program was not Lutheran. However, when Missionary Koenig adapted a similar program, he developed fourteen doctrinal pamphlets to fit confessional Lutheran teaching. Since the BELC does not have its own official statement of faith, the “Fourteen Pamphlets” have also been used to serve that purpose.
The background of many of the BELC pastors is Pentecostal. BELC teaching leads the men away from a former emphasis on Law and moralism, and toward a biblical, Christ–centered ministry focusing on all of God’s Word in Law and Gospel. Helping people look to what God has done for us rather than what we may do for Him is now providing BELC members with blessed Gospel assurance, rather than leaving them in the uncertainty of the Law.
Where church names have failed to describe a Lutheran confession, Pastor D. Paul and the other chairmen have been patiently guiding the pastors and their congregations to make changes. When it comes to preaching, it remains tempting for the men to choose a topic, rather than a biblical text. In this Pastor D. Paul is especially helpful. He encourages them with the example he has learned from Missionary Matthew Ude of following a pericope, a schedule of preaching texts. With this help, BELC members are now getting a better chance to hear all of God’s Word, rather than their pastor simply choosing his favorite topics week after week.
The Berea Evangelical Lutheran Church faces many challenges. Confessing doctrinal agreement is one thing, but to remain faithful to that confession in practice is quite another. Maintaining a faithful confession is only possible as the Holy Spirit works through the means of His saving Word and Sacraments.
Persecution and resulting temptations are very real for Christ-believers in India. Most of the vast Indian population is made up of unbelievers following man-made gods. And sadly, of the three percent who do confess Christ, many are confused Christians influenced by false teaching.
India’s widespread material poverty and the everyday needs of so many seem to overshadow the eternal (spiritual) poverty that abounds. While souls are being lost for eternity, formerly faithful Christian missions are no longer building upon a foundation of Christ for salvation. Many are, instead, being tempted to forgo what is needed most for eternity and replace it with care for the short-term, material needs of today.
Though their earthly resources seem few, we continue to pray for, encourage, and support Pastor D. Paul and all
of the BELC pastors, along with their members. May they always continue to be built upon the saving Gospel of sins forgiven at the cross of Calvary. And may the same
Spirit who has given them eternal riches through faith in Christ, keep them steadfast in their witness to the only Savior, Jesus.
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 3:11).
Edward Starkey has served as a foreign missionary in India. He is currently the pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.