The founder of a group promoting Christian support for Israel wants to take seminary students from U.S. colleges who desire to enter fulltime ministry to the next level by offering a two-week accredited, study tour held in the Holy Land.
Pastor Kevin Dieckilman, who is the founder and CEO of "One Heart for Israel," is inaugurating his program by taking 45 students on a trip to Israel later this month where they will study Scripture in an environment that most upcoming pastors and ministry leaders never experience.
"We offer the opportunity to take Scripture and show how Jesus was a leader in the places where he was and the meaning and the value of how he led in certain places," explained Dieckilman, who said that only five percent of the pastors in America have been to Israel to study the Word of God.
The pastor of Simi Hills Christian Church in Simi Valley, Calif., said he believes this hands-on approach to seminary education will be a teaching method that provides a new style of leadership.
"This whole program is to equip pre-pastors in a way they have never been equipped before. It is not a standard, regular tour that many people have been on. This is an in-depth, intensive study tour. The average tour takes people to between 28 and 35 places. We go to 68 different places and sites," he said.
"We believe what this will do is it will equip the young pastors to be able to not only study and teach the Scripture like they never have before, but give a new meaning and depth to the stories behind the Scriptures," he continued. "They've all completed their education in either an undergraduate, and some, in a Masters' program," but he adds that "as great as that education has been," he's hoping that this type of trip will transform them to passionate scholars able to incorporate what they experienced on the trip with Israel's current conditions, issues, and cultures.
Five different themes will be explored during the two-week class (which also has text books and a pre-trip study). The study subjects include archaeology, Old Testament, New Testament, modern-day Israel, and world leadership.
In addition to Dieckilman's teaching, four other professors will immerse students in the study of Israel prior and at the beginning of the trip.
The class, which is in the Fuller Theological Seminary curriculum, will be as much about current events as the historic events in Israel described in the Bible.
"The advantage of this tour is we offer the opportunity for the students to speak, meet, and engage with Palestinians, Jews, and all the other ethnic groups within Israel so they see how all this melting pot of cultures and religions work within the Israel framework," said Dieckilman, who also explained that the Israel's government and its Ministry of Tourism fully embrace his program.
StandWithUs, a non-profit group based in Los Angeles that is "dedicated to informing the public about Israel and to combating the extremism and anti-Semitism that often distorts the issues," is also a partner with One Heart for Israel.
"We're being hosted by members of the community … rabbis, spiritual leaders, moral leaders … every aspect," Dieckilman said.
Scholarships of $1,000 per student are currently being offered through the organization to bring down the total $3,800 cost. Classes in Israel will be offered in the Fall and Winter semesters as well.
"I look forward to the transformation of these students' lives," he added.
For more information on One Heart for Israel, click here.