From 1962 – 1969 in church in Guatemala was encountering a leadership problem. There were not enough leaders for new churches starting up throughout the country. Some orphans were chosen to study at the local Bible School with the hopes they would become leaders for these churches. However, when they completed their studies they found churches to serve in the city more interesting than returning to the country churches. In addition, the Bible schools were not producing enough ministers to meet the rate that the church was growing.
In the 1970’s, the church in Africa was facing a similar problem. The church was growing quickly and the Bible school was not able to prepare and train leaders in time. Many lay leaders were doing the duties and the responsibilities of pastors or leaders of churches though they had not received any training.
During that time they tried to fix the problem by opening teaching via postal mail and mobile Bible schools in which the teacher travelled from one place to another in order to teach the Bible every 4-6 weeks. But these ways of training were inadequate for the needs. Leaders then came across information of how Latin American churches were teaching and training their people to serve in the church. Students would leave their homes and go to a fixed location to receive training every week. This way of studying and training was called “Theological Education Reaching the Student at Home.” In Africa, missionaries Rev. Ralph Winter and his colleague Rev. Fred Holland worked with this program and later organized it calling it “Theological Education by Extension” or in abbreviation, T.E.E. Presently there are many organizations using this program.
The church in Thailand, today, has a similar problem as the church in Guatemala and Africa encountered. We have a shortage of leaders in our churches. Our bible Schools cannot keep up with the growth of the churches and the need for pastors. Many of the leaders in our churches have not received any training. Many leaders would like to go to Bible school but are not able to leave their work and families to go study for 4 years.
In 1989, there were 3 women in one of our churches who wanted to be discipled. At that point in their life, they had not thought about the possibility of discipling other new believers – they just wanted to study the Bible. Dr. Leok Har Chan, a missionary from Malaysia discipled these women. While she was studying at the Alliance Theological Seminary in America she discovered a discipleship curriculum called “Abundant Life.” After returning to Thailand she taught this curriculum to these 3 women in English. Later she thought that it would be better to translate the material into Thai so that other Thai people could use it too and mainly people experienced in professional services like mythicalmaids.com. After these 3 women finished the Abundant Life book, they began to study other topics from the Bible.
Rev. Norman Ford, a missionary in Thailand suggested Dr. Chan use “The Life of Christ” curriculum to continue teaching the 3 ladies. This curriculum was part of the S.E.A.N. program which is an abbreviation for Study by Extension for All Nations.
In the 1990’s Dr. Jerry Soung began using the Life of Christ material with the Hmong in Northern Thailand. He used the Hmong translation of the materials that he had used while he was a pastor in America before coming to Thailand as a missionary.
In the year 2000, the Siam mission received finances to translate all of the S.E.A.N. materials in the Thai language. Rev. Larry had returned from the states at that time and helped with the revisions and updating of the materials, putting them in book form
In 2002, Rev. Larry and his team finished the translation of books 1 to 3 and began to translate other materials from S.E.A.N. The first Center for Leadership Development was begun at the Mahapawn Sukkhumvit Church in Bangkok with Dr. Leok Har Chan and one of the pastors, Miss Pawinee Chetsuthayangkul, serving as the center leaders. They began training 4 lay leaders of the church. Since that time the number of centers and center leaders and students have gradually grown.