Training Leaders: A Functioning Model for Missionaries

by Joe Wright

An example of how Church Based Training is being used in Austria, Germany and Switzerland to train local leaders.

As a missionary, you have made the sacrifices. You have left “home,” gone to another culture, learned a new language and are involved in a valuable ministry for Christ’s Church and kingdom. You are committed to multiplication principles such as those in Ephesians 4:11-13 and 2 Timothy 2:2. You know you must train leaders in order for your ministry to be viable in the future. How will you train those leaders?

Seminaries and Bible schools may be the first thoughts that come to mind. Your ministry, however, hardly has an abundance of people that you can lose to a training institution for several years. Your ministry may have some key issues that demand specific and focused training rather than a “cookie-cutter” approach. You also want to train people in character development and ministry skills and not just in knowledge (and an emphasis primarily on knowledge is sometimes a weakness of “institutional” learning).

Certain passages in the New Testament convince you that the Church has a key role to play in training leaders. Is it possible to bring together: (1) your need to train leaders, (2) the specific needs of your ministry, (3) the vital multiplication principles such as those found in Ephesians 4 and 2 Timothy 2 and elsewhere in the New Testament and (4) the key role of the church to help you train leaders? The answer is a resounding YES! CBT (Church Based Training) is helping missionaries and church leaders to bring together the various needs mentioned above.

One example is the BAO (Biblische Ausbildung am Ort in German or “Bible Training on Location” in English) program currently serving churches in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. For the remainder of this article BAO will refer to the specific church-based training program in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. CBT will refer to church-based training in general or a specific program in other countries. Before describing how CBT functions and giving some highlights of the BAO program, it is important to note that this is a functioning program actually impacting people’s lives and not a theoretical program found only on paper. In the last ten years BAO has averaged 565 course participants per year in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

How does BAO work? The following “house” graphic shows four critical components of BAO.

Course participants study and interact with course materials at home and in the overall setting of their church. Participants also fulfill practical assignments in their home environment, in small groups or in the church (e.g., sharing Christ with a non-believer, working with spouse to strengthen the marriage, preparing a sermon). Participants then come together for a two to three-hour seminar to discuss what they have learned for that lesson, share about difficulties, encourage one another, refine their thinking and develop an action plan—all under the careful guidance of the course leader. Four special emphases make BAO an effective and practical training opportunity.

1. It is church-based. BAO takes place in the local church and under the authority of local church leadership. The particular needs of the local church can drive the program.

2. It includes the head, the heart and the hand. BAO seeks to emphasize not only knowledge (head) but also character development (heart) and ministry skills (hand). Some courses slant more heavily to skills; others to heart, etc. But BAO seeks to emphasize all three areas in all of its courses and programs.

3. It includes training for course leaders. The ministry of the course leader is critical to the progress and success of the course. Course leaders also need training! BAO has a special focus on training course leaders and accomplishes this in part through training weekends (Friday evening through Sunday noon), course orientation seminars, a 100-page practical course leader manual, handbooks for every course, training DVDs and contact between the course leader and the BAO person responsible for the course.

4. It follows a six-step lesson method. In seeking to offer knowledge and develop wisdom, many of the CBT and BAO courses use the following six-step method for each lesson (Forman, Jones and Miller 2004, 74-82, 193-199). Because this process is so important, a specific example is added to explain each step. In this case, the example will be about fasting, taken from the BAO course on the spiritual disciplines.

a. Grasp the issue. Questions, provocative thoughts and sound bytes help course participants to identify and focus on the main issue and theme of the lesson. Example: Our Western society (Europe and North America) emphasizes self-indulgence and immediate gratification. Given this societal emphasis, why would anyone want to abstain from eating, even for a short period of time?

b. Study the scripture. Participants then read and interact with key Bible passages dealing with the main issue of the lesson. Example: What do key passages in the Old and New Testaments tell us about fasting? What do we learn from Jesus regarding fasting?

c. Consult other sources. Other biblically-oriented literature is also offered to help the student understand and deal with the main issue. Example: What have other Christians experienced regarding fasting? Is fasting dangerous from a medical point of view?

d. Form your response. Participants then form their initial response to the main issue as they interact with the Bible texts, literature, questions and assignments dealing with head, heart and hand. Example: Based on what I have learned up to now, I believe “x” about fasting and plan to implement “y” in my life.

e. Discuss the issue. Participants then meet as a group and under the direction of the course leader to discuss their initial responses as well as other aspects of a biblical response to the issue. One goal of this discussion time is to challenge the participants to articulate and share their initial responses with the other course members in order to promote personal “ownership” of the response and to make any necessary revisions and/or additions. Example: John shares that he feels fasting is not relevant for today. Another participant lovingly challenges him to consider Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6 and asks him why he sees giving and prayer as relevant for today but not fasting.

f. Take steps to obey. At the end of each lesson the participants draw up their own action plan as to how they will obey God and implement what they have learned. Example: Each participant fills out the statement: “With God’s help, I will do the following in regard to fasting…”

BAO provides a variety of options in training leaders and workers in the context of the local church under the motto based on Ephesians 4:11-13: “All to maturity, many as workers and some to leadership.” On one level, BAO offers its “light” courses designed to help “all to maturity.” Six courses at this level, grouped into the two main categories of “Growth in Faith” and “Relationships” include the following subjects:

• Saved by grace
• Growing in faith
• Overcoming obstacles
• Discovering intimacy with God
• Living with one another
• Accepting responsibility

Each course has five lessons and can be completed within three months when the participants meet every other week. The “classic” courses, with the goal of “many as workers and some to leadership,” include at the foundational level introductions to the Old and New Testaments as well as theology. Some other key subjects are:

• Evangelism and discipleship
• Inductive Bible study
• Church dynamics
• The Christian life
• The Christian marriage

Upper level “classic” courses include:
• Preaching
• Marriage counseling in the church
• Church leadership
• Church mission
• Knowing God more deeply (spiritual disciplines)

Should the participants meet every other week, these courses last three to six months. A more complete listing of BAO courses is offered online at (This site has information in English as well as German.) Training must consist of more than just offering courses. BAO also provides special weekend or day seminars on subjects such as counseling and preaching. There is also the opportunity for concentrated studies with a special focus (e.g., how to lead small groups).

One BAO option for young people is Young Leaders Training. This program emphasizes mentoring and church service while looking at biblical leaders such as Peter (the potential leader), David (a high potential in leadership), Nehemiah (a leader in action), Timothy (the influential leader) and Jesus (the transforming leader and the ultimate leader). Ideally, training becomes an integral part of a local church’s life and ministry (2004, 55). However, when all is said and done, one dare not forget that “programs don’t train leaders; people do” (2004, 105).

For those seeking a more intense training experience in the direction of vocational training, BAO has other options. One is the Evangelical Academy ( where courses are offered on a faster track. The training in the Evangelical Academy remains church oriented; however, BAO has also worked in partnership with Columbia International University’s (CIU) extension at the Academy for World Mission in Korntal, Germany. Under this partnership agreement some BAO courses could be applied to a master of arts degree through CIU.

Some obvious advantages of training in the local church include:
• Not quitting a job and moving away to attend Bible school or seminary.
• Not losing key church workers and their families for three or four years as those workers seek training away from the church.
• Smaller churches can band together and offer training in a city or region.
• CBT becomes part of the solution to the all-important issue of lifelong learning.
• There is the opportunity for an apprenticeship or on-the-job approach to learning and training in ministry.
• Character development and ministry skills play a central role in training in community.
• The local church can order and structure learning and training based on the needs of the church.

Marco’s testimony demonstrates the value of BAO in helping to train in the local church. Until recently, there were no complete and formally recognized evangelical Bible training options available in Austria.

I am twenty-five years old and live in Southern Austria. Jesus Christ led me out of a world of alcohol and drugs and into a local church where I participated in a one-year discipleship training center near my home. This Bible school offered several BAO courses and I was so excited learning through BAO that I wanted to keep on studying even after finishing. I got involved in youth work in my home church and BAO allowed me to stay in the church and work and not have to go to a foreign country for further studies. I am now working on a masters degree in cooperation with BAO and can remain active as one of the youth group leaders in my home church.

Tanja writes the following about participation in the “light” series designed to help “all to maturity”:

I really look forward to taking BAO-light courses, because each time I take one I am drawn very close to God. When I study about God through the Bible passages and articles [provided as part of the BAO-light courses], my emotional tank is filled with the love of God. As I make the applications [step six of each lesson], I am reminded and encouraged to stay on the way with him. My relationship with our Lord is deepened, and I am allowed to grow in my faith.

BAO strongly believes in working together with other organizations. In addition to being part of the Austrian Fellowship of Evangelical Churches, BAO partners with the Center for Church Based Training (CCBT) in the United States and with Church Based Training in New Zealand. BAO is also a member of Die Konferenz Bibeltreuer Ausbildungsstätte (Conference of Biblically Faithful Training Centers) in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. A more complete list of possibilities and options with BAO or information about BAO partners can be found at;; and

Given all of the above, one should not think that BAO is perfect and without problems. One constant issue is that of finances. Staff, offices, equipment and course production all require funding so that BAO can continue to minister to churches. Student fees from courses and seminars cover only a part of BAO costs. Contributions, either of money or labor, cover the remaining expenses. BAO aims to offer quality training courses and seminars with ongoing impact in local churches. There is currently a wide range of materials of varying cost and quality available to evangelicals. BAO walks a tightrope in trying to keep quality courses affordable and to cover program operating expenses.

EMQ readers might normally expect to find the biblical basis of a topic at the beginning and not the end of an article. While certainly not wanting to downplay some key biblical thoughts on the subject, it seemed important to first demonstrate the proven practicality of CBT and how it actually works before proceeding to the biblical basis. Again, CBT is not a theory, but a movement actually helping people and churches.

Christians dare not overlook the centrality of the Church after Pentecost. The book of Acts emphasizes the birth and development of the Church. Starting churches became the key missionary strategy in spreading the good news about Jesus Christ (Acts 14:21-23) and churches were the “sending agency” (14:26-27). Paul wrote nine of his New Testament letters to individual churches or churches in a region. The word ecclesia is found in sixteen of the twenty-three books after the Gospels and it is not difficult to find a link to the Church in the other seven books (2 Timothy, Titus, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude and 1 and 2 John).

With the centrality of the Church in mind, let us turn to 2 Timothy 2:2. Many people, if asked to quote this verse, easily come up with three of the four key parts: (1) what was heard from Paul is given to Timothy, (2) to “entrust to reliable men” and (3) “who will also be qualified to teach others.” Many Christians seem to overlook the fourth part of the verse: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (emphasis added).

Who were the many witnesses? Timothy accompanied Paul on some of his journeys and much of what Timothy heard was in the context of the Church and people in the churches (Acts 16:1-5). The best explanation of the “many witnesses” is not that they were seminary students, but that they were people in the context of local churches. Some of the “witnesses” were hearing the gospel as part of evangelism related to starting a new church. Other “witnesses” were people who had come to Christ and were now in a local church.

One should ask another question related to 2 Timothy 2:2: Who were these reliable men? Timothy was serving the church in Ephesus when Paul wrote 1 and 2 Timothy and, among other things, Paul instructs Timothy about certain aspects of church life (1 Tim. 5:19-22; 2 Tim. 4:2-5). It is readily apparent that he instructed Timothy about the church in the context of the church—Church Based Training. It is also apparent that the “reliable men” were associated with a church ministry. One should also notice that Paul wrote the book of Titus with instructions about the church as Titus served the church in Crete (Titus 1:5-9)—a further example of on-the-job training in the church.

Ephesians 4:11-13 is another pivotal text for CBT. The Apostle Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, writes to the “saints” (the church) in Ephesus (Eph. 1:1). He states later that Christ gave various leaders to the church (4:11) in order to “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (4:12). Church leaders have the responsibility to train believers so that “all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (4:13). In these passages, this training takes place locally and in the context of the church. Even in a city where Paul and his disciples had daily discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus for two years (Acts 19:9-10), one finds Paul’s end goal the emphasis on the local church (Acts 20:17-38).

Another example of Church Based Training is seen in the lives of Aquila and Priscilla, probably one of the best examples in the Bible of a healthy marriage. The New Testament mentions each of them six times by name (Acts 18:2, 18, 26; Rom. 16:3; 1 Cor. 16:19 and 2 Tim. 4:19) and they are always mentioned together and in a positive manner. While at Ephesus, they helped Apollos and “invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26). Given that the church in Ephesus apparently met in Aquila and Priscilla’s home (1 Cor. 16:8, 19), they provide another good example of training occurring in a local church.

Is BAO a biblical and practical approach in helping missionaries and nationals train leaders? Yes! BAO has proven to be a valuable option in helping train leaders and workers in Austria, Germany and Switzerland in the context of the local church. It is exciting to see that Church Based Training is a truly biblical concept whose time has once again come.

Forman, Rowland, Jeff Jones and Bruce Miller. 2004. The Leadership Baton. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.


Joe Wright and his wife have been missionaries in Austria with World Venture (formerly CBInternational) for thirty years. Joe’s primary ministry is with the Austrian church-based training ministry BAO, which helps train leaders and workers in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

Copyright © 2007 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.

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