In one developing country, there is a denomination with over
1000 churches. Church planting is a strong push in this denomination. A glaring
problem is that of these 1000+ churches, less than half have a pastor with
reasonable theological training. This means that less than 50% of the churches
have a leader who is able to guide the flock biblically.
This denomination, for many years, has had one significant
seminary that trains pastors for their churches. Over the years, the seminary
has not been able to produce enough pastors to meet the needs in these
churches. As a result, many churches continue without a trained pastor. The
unfortunate thing about this situation is that for a lot of the Christians, the
pastor’s sermon each week is the most they get in terms of interaction with
Scripture. The good news is that some of the untrained pastors want to seek
training at the seminary. The bad news is that they do not meet the standards
for admission. This creates a dilemma.
Each year, the seminary conducts interviews for those who
want to pursue a formal theological education. Many apply and interviews are
conducted. In many of the interviews, it becomes clear that a good number of
the candidates do not meet admission requirements. Some of them clearly are not
believers (it seems). Others struggle to explain their faith or even explain
the gospel that they believed in order to be saved. Obviously, such individuals
should not be admitted into the seminary to be prepared as pastors. Right? Not
The problem is that these same individuals are currently
pastoring churches as lay pastors. Some have been pastors for 5 years and other
more. Now, they are deciding to go to school and learn more. These are the ones
who can afford to go to seminary and yet, they are not qualified.
What then should be done in such situations, when it is
clear that these pastors who do not qualify to enter the seminary are going
back to continue their pastoral work? Two options:
First option is admit them as a service to the church to
keep it from continuing to sink deep in wrong doctrines. But, then, with whom
do you replace them? Churches cannot find pastors since there are more churches
than trained pastors. So, we say no to admitting them to seminary, and send
them back to their churches. Is this helpful?
A second solution is most likely, but requires commitment.
While they are rejected from entering the seminary, the seminary can be taken
to them informally. In this scenario, the pastors go back to their churches,
but we provide them with a biblically-grounded curriculum that will help them
grow in their knowledge of Scripture, and in turn help the Christians grow
through teaching. We go into an area where theological education is lacking,
set up a training center in one close location where pastors can attend without
having to leave their churches on the weekends. We send teachers for one week,
three times a year for three or four years, five days a week for 4-8 hours a day.
At the end of the three years, the pastors would have received between 60-120
hours of theological education. This is reasonable and when done well, will
equip pastors to be equippers.
You see, theological education does not only have to take
place in a traditional seminary setting. Informal training programs, like the
one just described, will introduce the Bible to pastors and prepare them to be
better preachers and teachers of the word for the good of the church.
Training Leaders International believes in this informal
approach to theological education as a way of filling in the gaps, and as a way
of helping meet the need to put trained pastors into local churches.