by Tim Glasscock
In 1972 I arrived in Madrid, a young and inexperienced missionary with a great deal to learn. In the Lord’s goodness and providence, I found myself among a group of men of God whose years of experience in serving the Lord in Spain were invaluable to me learning process. Ernest Trenchard (briefly, before the Lord called him Home in that same year), Terry Wickham, Ken Stunt and a number of outstanding Spanish brothers were my teachers and models. Since then I have felt a huge debt of gratitude to them and to the Lord for the privilege of serving among and learning from them.
Almost 50 years on, and nearing the end of my active service to the Lord, I have felt the challenge of the Lord through His Word as to what the orientation of my ministry should now be. The prayer of the elderly psalmist has struck me with its relevance: ‘O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come’ (Ps. 71:17-18). The author of this song longs to have the opportunity to share with others, especially younger people, the accumulated experiences of God’s goodness, power, love and guidance over the preceding years and decades.
The Challenge of Scripture
The Apostle Paul felt the same challenge and, with the shadow of his pending execution constantly present in his mind, wrote to Timothy, his younger companion in his missionary adventures. ‘What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.’ The chain of transmission is clear: Paul had received from the Lord the fundamental truths of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4), and these he had faithfully proclaimed throughout his ministry as an apostle of Christ. Timothy had had the privilege of listening to Paul’s expositions of Scripture and enjoying many private conversations with him, through which he had become firmly grounded in the truth. Now Paul would soon depart to be with the Lord, and Timothy was called to continue the work of teaching these same truths to others. Paul tells him to select first ‘faithful men’, men of God who are spiritually mature and gifted with the capacity to teach in the local congregations. Timothy had been instructed to ‘follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and the love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you’ (2 Tim. 1:13-14). Now his mission is to commit to others like him, in this same pattern and deposit, what they in turn must pass on to others. And thus, the truth of the gospel has come to us, many centuries later, through those who accepted the challenge and formed an unbroken chain in the transmission of the Word of God to our own day.
Responding to the Challenge
Now we are called to do the same. It is imperative that the light of the gospel should be faithfully transmitted to those who follow us, and to generations to come. How do we set about it?
Proyecto Éfeso (Project Ephesus) is a three-year programme of biblical studies and training for service, inspired by texts such as Colossians 3:18, 2 Timothy 2:2 and 3:16-17. It is designed for believers serving in their local churches who are interested in deepening their knowledge of Scripture and developing their gifts of service to the Lord and His people.
The programme combines six intensive weekends of shared Bible study each year, with tasks to be done at home, set books to read and written assignments to prepare. Each student has a tutor to provide direct guidance and assistance throughout the programme.
The first year of studies includes a survey of the main sections of the Bible with summaries of the content of each book, guidance on the correct interpretation of the text of Scripture (Hermeneutics), and a final weekend with a practical emphasis on spiritual life. The second year of the course centres on the study of fundamental Bible doctrines, and the last year on more specific subjects such as spiritual leadership, mission and children’s work. There is a constant emphasis on equipping the students for the transmission of the message of the Bible through expository teaching and preaching. In the third year, a mission trip is organised, outside Spain whenever possible, to offer the students direct exposure to cross-cultural mission work.
And thus, the truth of the gospel has come to us, many centuries later, through those who accepted the challenge and formed an unbroken chain in the transmission of the Word of God to our own day.
The Project Ephesus ministry commenced in 2002 as a result of the vision of several elders and full-time workers in Castilla y León, a region situated north of Madrid. A large proportion of the students matriculating during these past 18 years have been from this area, though many others have come from different regions of Spain. To matriculate, the students must be actively serving the Lord in their local church, write a personal testimony of their conversion to Christ and present a letter of commendation from the elders of their assembly. Limitations of space in the facilities mean that new intakes of students occur once every two years. The number of students in each course has been limited to a maximum of 30, though due to Covid-19 restrictions, that number was reduced to 20 for those who commenced their studies in October 2020. Approximately 200 students have graduated from Project Ephesus and continue to serve the Lord in their local churches.
The Next Generation
‘Project Ephesus has been a means of great blessing to me. Structured over three years, it established a firm foundation on which to study and penetrate more deeply into the Word of God. It was three intensive years of hard work, reading and study of the Scriptures, but also a very enriching time of fellowship with brothers from different parts of Spain. An excellent team of teachers, chosen according to the specific subject of each class, shared with and encouraged the students during the intensive study weekends. The first year, we received a complete survey of the Bible, giving an overview of God’s message to man. It has been an experience I would love to repeat.’
‘This learning experience opens a huge window for understanding the realities of spiritual life and deepening one’s knowledge of the Bible. After completing Ephesus, neither our reading of Scripture nor our times of prayer are the same as before, and one sees the local church in a different light. It would be great if all believers could have the opportunity to benefit from such a positive experience.’
‘An incredibly enriching experience. I have wonderful memories of those three years: moments of warm fellowship with close companions and brothers; classes centred on the Word of God that were dynamic and deep; times of exploring different fundamental truths that were not merely theoretical but also practical learning experiences. An experience that I would want every believer to enjoy!’
‘Project Ephesus has left a precious mark on my life. It gave me the opportunity of coming to know and share with brothers from all over Spain, who love and serve the Lord. It also allowed me to construct a panoramic perspective of the different literary genres, theological aspects and practical ministries in the Bible. I must also mention the help I received in preparing expositions of Scripture in the local church where we are members.’
Many of those who have graduated from the Project Ephesus programme are now using the knowledge and practical experience aquired to serve in their local churches. At present, José Sánchez is a teaching elder in his assembly in Salamanca. Daniel Tester became a founding member of Foco Bíblico, a similar programme to Project Ephesus, based in the south of Spain. The biblical objective they share with the teachers and tutors involved in Éfeso is to teach others also, to use the means available to transmit the eternal truths of the Word of God to a younger generation and to a world in desperate spiritual darkness, which urgently needs to hear the good news.
‘Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honoured’ (2 Thes 3:1).