BibleMesh Unique Among Missionary Education Platforms

What are the factors that should push us toward greater platform ministry in the near-term future? Obviously the almost complete penetration of mobile technologies in the West plays a role. Along with this has come changes in our own behavior and the sorts of things we are willing to do digitally. Just a few years ago our behavior was different. COVID-19 has pushed us much further in this direction. A few years ago only the technologically astute used Zoom. Now, elderly people use it to connect with their families, sometimes throughout the day. As people turn to their phones for answers, the church needs to be present. Giving, teaching, Christian education, and outreach will migrate toward platforms.

What does a shift toward platform ministry look like in the real world? Education in general is in massive flux and missionary education is no different. The rise of marketplace missionaries and other, nontraditional missionaries has risen sharply over the past two decades. The route of Bible college, seminary, and the missionary candidate is becoming less common. This in turn affects the amount of theological education that candidates have as they join agencies. Different approaches have been adopted to address this, most often in the form of a standard list of classes an aspiring missionary must take before going overseas. This takes time to administer, including ongoing follow-up, encouragement to finish in a timely manner, and a system for tracking each individual and their requirements.

These people are interested in getting overseas in a reasonable amount of time. That time is often set by their fundraising time line, which takes about twelve to eighteen months. Traditional theological education is packaged in semesters. Even some nontraditional, online courses are delivered in semester packages. People must choose between accredited coursework and nonaccredited coursework. Courses at a seminary typically cost more than $1,000 per course.

BibleMesh has stepped into this gap. They have created a set of classes that are designed from the ground up to be online. Working in tandem with Zondervan publisher’s academic division, textbooks are indexed to coursework. Using a “best of the best” approach, the classes are taught by leading experts in their field and proctored by qualified educators. You might think, “Many schools are attempting this,” but there are a couple more elements that make BibleMesh different.

Typically, payment for a seminary course is an up-front arrangement. The student writes out their check and the class begins. Nontraditional students do not work on a semester schedule and like open-ended time frames. Unfortunately, this does not motivate students to get the work done in a timely manner. BibleMesh charges per month for the course. The price point is set low, at $250 per class per month. Motivated students can finish the class within two months, reducing the cost of the class while encouraging them to finish on time. Most students will pay half of what a traditional institution charges for the course.

BibleMesh classes are not accredited. However, the BibleMesh team has signed partnership agreements with a broad range of seminaries who will consider these classes to meet degree requirements. Thus, time and effort spent in a BibleMesh class can be later transferred into a conventional seminary. This has an important secondary outcome. Schools that would otherwise be in direct competition with BibleMesh are now trusted partners.

A final element makes BibleMesh unique. Organizations can craft their own certificate programs by working with the BibleMesh team. Our association, for example, is currently creating a Missio Nexus Missionary Preparation Certificate Program. Within the next few months, any member missionary agency will be able to suggest this program to their candidates as they seek to prepare them for long-term cross-cultural service.

The BibleMesh platform is an example of using a digital strategy to satisfy the needs of multiple stakeholders. The student receives high quality, decentralized, work-at-your-own-pace theological education. The cost to the student is substantially reduced from traditional models. The organizations sending the students have a “plug-and-play” certificate-level program to offer their candidates. Finally, theological institutions that would otherwise be competitors are partners.


Ted Esler is president of Missio Nexus, the largest association of Great Commission churches and organizations in North America. Excerpted from The Innovation Crisis: Creating Disruptive Influence in the Ministry You Lead by Ted Esler (© 2021). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.