On Sunday night, I returned home to Israel from a very encouraging four-day trip to Jordan.
The purpose was to visit the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS), at the invitation of its founder and president, Dr. Imad Shehadeh. A Jordanian national, Imad is a remarkable Arab believer who graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary (and currently serves on the board of DTS). He has a deep passion for studying and teaching the Word of God and training others to “preach the Word, in season and at out” and it’s clear that the Lord has truly given favor to this man despite enormous challenges he and his wife have faced over the years.
Until this trip, Imad and I had never met, only communicated by phone and email. So I was enormously grateful for his invitation and eager to get to know him and his colleagues.
In many ways, this trip was an ideal complement to the visit I made to Jordan earlier this spring. On that five-day visit, I focused primarily on better understanding how Jordan’s monarch and government leaders are handling the refugee crisis and various security challenges, particularly the threat of ISIS. On this trip, I was able to focus on understanding on how the Jordanian Church is doing and how they are training future pastors and ministry leaders.
I traveled into Jordan with some dear friends, Rev. Munir Kakish and his wife, Sharon. Munir is a Jordanian citizen, but grew up most of his life on the West Bank. He is a pastor in Ramallah and also runs an orphanage. For the past decade, he has also served as chairman of the Palestinian Evangelical Council of churches and Christian ministries. It was very encouraging to spend so much time with them and get their take on the health and growth of the Church in the West Bank and Gaza as well in Jordan. (plus, they took me to some wonderful restaurants in and around Amman!)
Together, we had a great time meeting with Imad and other Jordanian pastors and Christian leaders and hearing their perspective on what God is doing in Jordan and throughout the region these days. We toured the beautiful JETS campus on the outskirts of Amman (some of which is still under construction.) We attended a banquet with students and faculty to celebrate JETS’ 25th anniversary, and we had the joy of attending the graduation ceremony.
I was deeply impressed and enormously encouraged by what I saw. I learned that the Church in Jordan is growing steadily and there are now between 10,000 and 15,000 Evangelical Arab Christians. The gospel is being preached throughout the country both by pastors and individuals sharing their faith with neighbors and even more extensively by the ministry of numerous Christian satellite TV networks — broadcasting the gospel and Bible teaching in Arabic — that can be seen all throughout Jordan.
And starting 25 years ago, the Lord began raising up in JETS a doctrinally solid, Bible-centered theological training center for pastors and future ministry leaders. The school has the support of all the Evangelical denominations in the country and is producing quality graduates, well grounded in their faith.
Here, too, is a more detailed snapshot of what God has been doing JETS over the last 25 years:
JETS was founded in 1991.
The first graduating class was in 1996.
On Saturday, August 20, 2016, 38 students graduated — this was the 20th cohort of students completing their studies at JETS since it was founded.
Since its inception, JETS has 285 graduates with degrees up to a Master of Theology (Th.M.).
Many more students have taken classes and received theological training without being in a degree program. This includes special programs for American students taking semester-long courses, as well as students who participate in non-formal training.
The average enrollment on campus is 120 students in degree programs.
Thirty-four students have applied to the new Doctor of Ministry program in the Fall of 2016.
A growing number of students receive their JETS education through on-line distance learning programs. This is a growing trend.
Graduates are serving in 10 Arab countries, as well as Arab communities in 11 non-Arab countries.
60% of the churches in Jordan are pastored by JETS graduates.
95% of Jordanian churches include JETS graduates in their ministries.
At the beginning, Dr. Shehadeh was the only Jordanian national to be teaching at the seminary. Today, however, 8 of 17 resident faculty are Jordanian nationals, and most have Ph.D.’s.
JETS also has a pool of at least 24 adjunct and visiting faculty from the West.
The JETS library contains 37,000 volumes.
Given the volatility in the region, please continue praying for the people and leaders of Jordan. Please pray for the Church in Jordan. And please pray for those involved in JETS, that the Lord may continue to do a great work in and through the faculty, students and graduates for His glory. Thanks so much.