Today marks the 10 year anniversary of TLI. Below is a letter to the elders of Bethlehem Baptist Church, written by Darren Carlson and Tom Steller, the two people who started TLI as a ministry of the church.
Dear Elders of Bethlehem Baptist Church –
Brotherly greetings in Christ!
February 10, 2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of the elders voting to found Training Leaders International as a ministry of Bethlehem. Since that founding, TLI has grown to over 50 staff members serving around the world providing theological education for the nations.
Thank you for taking a risk. Darren was 29 and had never been overseas at the time of the vote. TLI was going to be led by someone who had just recently moved to Minnesota. There were certainly plenty of reasons to say no. On top of that, we wanted to start during an economic recession! But in the Lord’s kindness, we were birthed.
In the last ten years, we have graduated groups of students in our non-formal training program all over the world. Three seminaries have been started. The first one planted in Brazil, was modeled after Bethlehem College and Seminary, and has graduated two cohorts of MDiv students. Our second school plant in Serbia graduates their first class of MDiv students this year. Our staff has become diverse in experience and gifting, bringing maturity and excellence to our work. Just this month they were thinking through how to train a group of pastors who had never had access to the Old Testament in a language they understood!
In the coming year TLI’s curriculum will be translated into 12 new languages. We are also working hard to make our training accessible to oral-preference learners, which opens up many new fields for us to provide training. We will be training over 1,000 pastors in over 20 sites, helping them to see Scripture as their primary source in preaching. Pastors in places around the world are learning for the first time have to craft a sermon from Scripture. We have also begun training 1st generation migrant pastors in US cities, with our first group here in Minneapolis. Staff have also started writing. We recently published the next edition of The Journal of Global Christianity in 5 languages, and multiple staff are working on book projects. Lastly, this summer we will be releasing Jesus in Athens on iTunes and DVD, a documentary on the work of God during the refugee crisis in Greece.
In 2004 Darren wrote in his journal: I found my call in life. I would love to start a new mission organization that focused on training pastors that have no way of getting theological training.
That call was made a reality on Feb 10, 2009 when you voted to create TLI and as a result pastors around the world are being trained and the church is being strengthened. In September we will celebrate with a banquet. You are all welcome to come.
Grace to you-
Darren and Tom