Why take the time train people to be faithful teachers of Scripture
when untold millions are going to hell?
That is a helpful question for me to wrestle through as I spend a good
deal of my time training pastors and church leaders and trying to think of ways
to train more pastors.
When most people recount the Great Commission, they usually say
something to the effect of, “We must go to all the nations and share the
gospel.” To that I say amen! But then something strange happens – we
stop. Baptists might add the word
“baptizing,” but the recounting of the Great Commission often ends there. So what about the command in verse 20 to
teach? It is what David Sills has called
the Great Omission.
If we are not careful, those precious people groups and nations that
we have deemed to be reached will be moved back to unreached. Why?
Because in our need for speed, we have not helped to deepen the roots of
faith, and instead of trees firmed planted by streams of water, the church is
blown over with just the slightest amount of false teaching. The supposed explosion of Christian faith
around the world has left us with lots of Christians and very few trained
When I say “trained,” I do not mean “gone to school.” Theological training is just part of a
discipleship process, and for a pastor it means learning to rightly handle the
Bible. Many pastors have been trained by
sitting in jail cells, but they still don’t know their Bible. Or they know a lot of Bible verses, but have
no idea how they fit together. So this
particular training that is needed is deliberate theological education that is
God-centered, Christ-exalting and Bible-saturated.
I have met many zealous Christians who are clearly gifted evangelists
who know nothing about the Bible except for the four spiritual laws. I have heard of pastors who asked my friend,
“When was Jesus converted?” I have heard
the strangest sermons you can imagine that are were anywhere close to Christian
faith. I have a good friend from West
Africa whose country is no longer on the unreached list who says he only knows
of a handful of churches in the whole country that preach a gospel that is in
line with apostolic teaching.
So, how can the Western Church be strategically involved in reaching
the unreached? From my perspective, as
someone who is currently giving his life and tears to training pastors and
Christian leaders, here are my thoughts:
- Get off the frontlines of church planting and spend a significant
amount of energy training the untrained pastors of reached people groups. Americans do not need to lead the way in
checking off unreached groups. There are
1000’s of pastors and evangelists that could make a far greater impact on
unreached groups in one week than an American over 10 years. These untrained leaders often know 4-5
languages (at Gaba Bible Institute in Uganda last year the students in the
missions class between 6-8). They don’t
have the baggage an American brings nor do they attract so much negative attention. They just need theological grounding – help
with basic hermeneutic questions. Help
on how to preach the main point of a text.
Help on how to put the Bible together and see the overarching story of
God’s redemptive work culminating at the Cross.
They need to see where they fit in God’s story of redeeming the
- Send those unemployed PhD holders on the field. Our seminaries and graduate schools are
putting out some highly competent people who are working at Starbucks and UPS
because they have nowhere to go.
- Send your pastor overseas twice a year working with another
organization that is aiding to provide theological education. It’s easy to invest this money. Just don’t send them by themselves!
- Send your pastor overseas for good and free up openings for seminary
grads. We need men who have been in
pastoral ministry to go. Guys in
seminary need a place to land. Makes
sense to me.
The end goal is to strengthen the existing church with deep truth
that will sustain them and to help those who are trained to reach into those
unreached people groups we care about. This
is not just on my heart. Read the prayer
requests of Operation World. Number one
on the list – theological education. At
the Desiring God Conference this year, David Sills, who critiques our
abandoning of theological education in favor of church planting in Reaching and Teaching will surely be speaking
to this very issue.
Let’s pray God raises up church planters to reach the unreached, possibly even
from amongst our American churches!
Let’s just not think it has to be us planting the churches.
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.