Oral Roberts University is launching a new partnership with an internationally popular yet criticized charismatic church movement to make the Oklahoma college's theological education more accessible and affordable worldwide.
This month, the Tulsa-based university began partnering with Misión Carismática Internacional's G12 Vision movement to offer undergraduate and graduate coursework as well as ORU's Bible certificate program to thousands of students affiliated with the cell-church discipleship ministry.
The ministry, founded in 1991 by Pastor César Castellanos in Bogotá, Colombia, has grown to be hundreds of thousands strong as churches in places like the Philippines, China, Canada and Singapore have adopted the G12 strategy.
The strategy is based on the need to be involved in discipleship groups of 12. In the strategy, a pastor trains 12 people to be cell leaders. In turn, those 12 are then supposed to disciple 12 others in their own cells group.
Under the articulation agreement with the Charismatic liberal arts college, leaders affiliated with the G12 movement will be eligible to receive discounted rates toward online classes for bachelor's, masters or doctoral degrees from ORU.
"They will be promoting ORU at G12 meetings around the world at their larger conference that will happen this month in Bogota and we feel like it is a really good partnership that is helping them with their small groups in Bible study and will help us to have students that we can raise up into leaders and impact the world with," ORU President William Wilson told The Christian Post. "G12 has some amazing leaders and some of the largest churches in the world are part of their network."
Commenting on G12's unique discipleship strategy, Wilson said that the strategy is "really meant for multiplication and discipleship."
"It has worked better in some parts of the world than others," Wilson said. "But in many places around the world, it has really exploded into some of the largest churches on the planet."
G12 has faced its share of critics over the years with some accusing it of having an abusive culture and a pyramid-style leadership structure. Critics have also claimed that G12 is a "cult." However, Williams assured that what he has seen firsthand out of the ministry has not been cultlike.
"There has been some controversy around G12," Wilson admitted. "We are aware of that over the years. We have been very forthright with Pastor Castellanos about it. I think some of that has cooled over time."
Wilson added that he believes the G12 movement "has proven themselves."
"I have been at their church about four times now in Columbia. They have 70,000 people of small groups across Bogota," Wilson said. "I found them to be very solid Christian believers."
Wilson explained that when you have a ministry with so many discipleship groups and leaders, a lot is determined by who leads the group "and how restrictive or legalistic or overbearing they may be."
"I think G12 has tried to ameliorate the problems over the years and I think it has done a good job," Wilson said. "I am very pleased at this point with what I see in the G12 movement. I think it is a solid Christian group. It is not cultlike from what I can tell in any shape or form but loves Jesus and is prolific in its evangelism. Thousands and thousands of people coming to Jesus, it is a little hard to argue against that."
Wilson said that ORU has an immediate goal to see about 2,500 students worldwide studying in the Bible training certificate curriculum.
There are over 1,000 already enrolled in ORU's Bible certification program. Wilson said the program is "growing rapidly" since the curriculum was translated into Spanish a couple of years ago.
"This is our first big foray down to Bogota using this finished curriculum and we feel like the future is great," Wilson said.