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Trips

Romania Nov 2017

Sighet, Romania November 3-13, 2017

Teaching: Hermeneutics

Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.

Field Notes   Romania Nov 2017

Nov  10th,  2017Freedom

“The freedom to worship did not bring holiness to the church. –Andrew

 From the end of World War II until 1989, Romania was under the rule of the Communist Party. Here in the northern city of Sighet, the town’s prison housed political prisoners, many of whom were executed in the courtyard of the prison and buried a few kilometers outside of town. Today, the prison has been transformed into the Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance, a remarkable and eye-opening experience for those who may be unfamiliar with the devastating toll the decades of communism took on this country. One out of every eight Romanians was imprisoned. –Andrew

While the Romanian Orthodox enjoyed a careful and measured amount of freedom, the Catholic and Protestant churches were heavily persecuted. Evangelical believers met in secret while pastors and church leaders were often imprisoned for their faith.

After the bloody revolution of 1989 resulted in the death of Nicolae Ceausescu, things began to change in Romania. But as one of our trainees, who also doubles as an interpreter, said, "The freedome to worship did not bring holiness to the church." Romanian evangelical churches are somewhat notorious for legalistic proof-texting. Many of the countries TLI teaches in have very limited biblical knowledge. That's not the case here. The trainees know their Bible and are often quicker than the instructors to look up a reference. But so often the Biible is used as a support for a preconceived notion rather than a litght for the gospel of Jesus.

After reviewing the hermeneutical process this evening, I had a trainee approach me during our break. He pastors a small village church and has rarely spoke in our classes, listening quietly with his arms folded and what appears to be a scowl on his face. For four days he had listened to us argue for an interpretive process that prioritizes things like authorial intent and contextual controls before jumping to conclusory applications. “My people just want the conclusions. How do I help them see the text as its meant to be read and understood?”

The only “easy” answer to this question with a long tradition behind is it that his church – like all churches – needed a steady diet of faithful, expository preaching. Show them from the pulpit the process of seeing the text in its original context before bringing it into our world for application. Show them the centrality of the gospel of Christ throughout Scripture.

Most of these pastors speak of a slow and rather painful transition occurring in Romanian churches. The moralistic legalism is giving way to a rediscovery of the gospel. As these men faithfully proclaim God’s Word, be praying that the light of the gospel continues to rise in Romanian churches.

 

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Nov  7th,  2017Arrival & Beginnings

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Travel doesn’t always work out like it is originally scheduled.

Jon arrived in Cluj-Napoca after flying from Nebraska to Chicago to Frankfort. Jonathan and I were to meet him a few hours later after flying from Minneapolis to London to Bucharest. When we arrived at what we thought was our destination, we grabbed the first in the line of taxis and told him the name of our hotel. He’d never heard of that hotel. His broken English and our utter lack of Romanian meant we needed to head back into the airport to figure out what to do. Lo and behold, we were not at the right airport! Our plane was unable to land in Cluj-Napoca due to heavy fog in the area. We had diverted to Sibiu. “No problem,” the lady at the Information Desk informed us. “We have a bus coming soon to take you to Cluj.”

After three hours of driving through the dark, foggy Transylvanian countryside , we arrived in Cluj and were able to take a taxi to our hotel where Jon had slept comfortably. After a few hours sleep, we drove further north to our final destination of Sighet, situated on the border with Ukraine.

On Sunday evening, Jon and Jonathan went with our host to preach at his church’s evening service. Josh went with another pastor, Timothy, to preach in his church. Finally, on Sunday night, we were able to get a full night’s sleep.

As I write this on Monday evening, fifteen church leaders are sitting in a lovely Romanian Baptist church listening to Pastor Jon from Nebraska introduce our topic for the week, Hermeneutics. How do we rightly interpret a text of Scripture?

Many of these men work with multiple small churches in the villages surrounding Sighet. Romanian churches meet three to four times per week, allowing for ample preaching opportunities for these men. There’s a clear understanding of the authority of Scripture in the typical Romanian church, but many use the text to prove personal points or desires. Our goal here this week is to drive these men into the text to ensure that their sermons are coming from the message of the text, not just their personal preferences and agendas.

That all starts with hermeneutical issues like authorial intent, genre understanding, literary and historical context.

Josh Montague

Trip Leader

 

 

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