The number one request from majority world Christians is for more training for their leaders. The number one need is to reached the final 4000+ people groups who have little to no access to the gospel.
Since it's inception TLI has been focused on answering the request of Christian leaders around the world. The initial plan was for TLI to be a ministry focused on mentoring and sending western seminary students and pastors to send them to provide culturally sensitive theological training in places where none was available. That was 2009. At the start of 2015 we have 18 staff, 8 missionaries and 2 school plants. Things have changed.
Over the last 18 months I began to hear from missionaries and leaders wondering if there was a missions organization to the unreached peoples where people who are Reformed could serve. The answer of course is yes(!), there are many worthy organizations. However, while these organizations welcome Reformed leaning missionaries, the teams that are sent out are not typically on the same page. Many missionaries relayed to us that they had become uncomfortable with practices that were at odds with their theological convictions.
Because it is difficult to start a completely new organization, we began to wonder whether we might play a role. We already had the administrative infrastructure in place, had many experienced missionaries on staff and were committed to a theologically robust statement of faith and vision for ministry.
Depending on who you ask, there are 4,060 unreached people groups totaling 2.9B people. There are 1,390 people groups in the infamous 10/40 window that have no access to Scripture in language they can understand. That is amazing and hard to comprehend.
There is plenty of work to be done and room for more organizations. We love many of the organizations that have taken up this call and rejoice in those whom God has sent all over the world with the precious gospel. Their stories are amazing. They have risked a great deal for people who do not love them and are hostile to their message. May God multiply their number and give them fruitful ministries!
We desire to send humble, winsome, biblical theology oriented, Bible-loving, ministers of the Word who are yearning to help emerging leaders among unreached people groups who want to be truly indigenous pastors and teachers, eventually acquiring skills in original language exegesis so they can do their own rigorous exegesis and producing of materials, not patronized by the West, but equal conversation partners in the articulation of theology.
We desire to see churches planted among unreached peoples. We will pursue church planting in ways that we believe is biblically-driven, culturally-sensitive, and sustainable.
Our Theological Convictions
We love the evangelical community and rejoice in the things we hold in common. However, we believe that, especially when planting churches, leadership should have a significant amount of agreement on a shared statement of faith. We embraced our statement of faith because we believe it reflects sound Reformed theology while remaining silent on secondary issues. Our statement of faith would have us affirm a great deal of what is already happening amongst unreached peoples, but it would also have us reject some of the theologically driven practices of many missionaries.
Our Ecclesiological Conviction
TLI is not a church and we have no plans to become one. Because of this we really plan on sending no one. What we mean by this is that it is the local church’s role to identify, prepare and send missionaries. TLI is not planting churches. Churches are planting churches. Our role comes as an advisor and facilitator. We can provide strategic help and direction. We can help local churches identify and equip those who are called to go. We can provide logistical care. However - in the end, we are not senders or the planters. No people group will ever say that TLI is their mother church.
Because of our convictions we will only send people who have a local church who owns the responsibility of sending in conjunction with us and possibly other churches. We love the local church and as a para-church org. our job is to serve the local church.
What Is Ahead
We have received requests from people interested in transferring to TLI. If you are one of those people, we will only engage you on this possibility with the blessing of your current organization and can agree that there is good reason (like theological and missiological tension) to switch. Tranferring does not grow the kingdom of God, but we recognize finding theological affinity amongst your team and sending organization is imporant.
We are also looking for a Director of Pioneer Church Planting. Might you know somone interested in leading this new part of our ministry?
Lastly, pray that our mission to equip pastors where there is a lack of theological training would compliment and not compete with our expanded mission to unreached people groups. Pray for me as I lead TLI into this new season. And pray especially that the Lord might use us to shrink the number of unreached people groups in the coming years.
Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International. As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.