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Posts Tagged: Missions

Why Spend My Time in Theological Education When There Are 2.6 Billion "Unreached" People

Oct. 31, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

A sermon that lays out the reason for why TLI exists.


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A Case for Informal Theological Training

Oct. 21, 2014By: Philemon YongAuthor Bio

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.

The 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 so sure!!!

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.


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Ten Reasons You Cannot be a Missionary

Oct. 13, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

From David Sills:

1. I don’t have the training I need to be a missionary.

2. I couldn’t raise the kind of support I would need.

3. I’ve been divorced.

4. I have some medical issues.

5. I have student loans.

6. I’m not a preacher/theologian/church planter.

7. I can’t learn languages.

8. Our children are too old/young.

9. I’m too old.

10. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to adjust to the food, dirt, heat, traffic, crime . . .

Read the whole thing here.

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Tips on Using a Translator When Teaching

Aug. 28, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Ever teach overseas and wonder if what you are saying is being translated correctly? I have certainly been in situations where the translator was nowhere near my intended meaning. I have also make many mistakes. The following tips are what we have written in our short-term ministries handbook.

Step 1: Pray for your translator.

Reason 1: ®Although your translator’s primary job is to be a means of communication between you and other people, remember that the translator is a person too, who is hearing all your words and can be positively or negatively impacted by them. If your translator is not a believer, pray that he or she will come to know Christ! If he is a believer, then do not hesitate to minister specifically to that person while you are with him.

Reason 2: ®Your translator is even more directly connected with the people you are speaking to than you are. Sometimes a word-for-word translation of your sentences would make no sense to the people you are communicating with. Pray that your translator will have wisdom to explain things if necessary and have the mental energy to keep going even when he or she gets tired.

Step 2: Be understanding about the complexities of English and general non-native language use.

Since America is still, to a large extent, a monolingual society, our instinct is to be impatient with those not proficient in English. If we recognize that bent, then we can try to adjust for it.

Tip 1: ®How well a person can speak English is not a measure of his or her intelligence.

Explanation: Obviously, in a country where people have spoken English from birth, we are tempted to think that people who are slow of speech are also slow of thought, rightly or wrongly. But in a foreign country we must remember, against our instincts, that even if a person has very broken English, he or she might still be incredibly smart.

Application: Don’t become condescending when a person doesn’t understand you. Often, even though they might not understand all your words, they will sense your change in tone and aversion to conversation and feel insulted by you. Just be patient, try different words, try annunciating more clearly, and never write them off as unintelligent.

Tip 2: ®In other parts of world, good English is not always the same as American English.

Explanation: There are many places, mostly ones with an English heritage but where English is still a second language, that have developed their own English colloquialisms. That is, phrases that are English that aren’t “proper English,” but still make sense to them and are widely used.

Application: You might be annoyed by their improper usage or just tempted to correct them. But it is better to see their terms as their own dialect of English, not as improper English, and adjust your own speech accordingly.

Tip 3: ®Just because a person is a translator doesn’t mean he or she is completely fluent in English.

Explanation: Depending on where you are going and what you are doing, you may get a translator who has studied English for 10 years and speaks like he graduated from Oxford, or you may get a person who has much less training but is still quite capable to handle most conversation.

Application: Be patient with whoever is translating for you and be grateful that you have a translator rather than having to learn a whole new language. You are just going to have to get to know your translator to discover the limits (if any) of his or her understanding.

Tip 4: ®Avoid idioms.

Explanation: Idioms are phrases we use that make sense as a standard phrase but don’t necessarily make sense just as a sum of the words in the phrase. This means that idioms won’t make sense to someone who knows English words and grammar but never lived in an English-speaking place.

Tip 5: ®Avoid humor and sarcasm.

Explanation: Humor and sarcasm are very culturally situated, and even if translated properly, the fact that something was intended to be funny or meant in jest will not cross over. 

Tip 6: ®It never hurts to go over a lesson ahead of time, whether it just be looking at the outline together or even going through words or phrases that might be especially difficult to translate.

Step 3: Get familiar with the skill level of your translator.

Ultimately, to really communicate fluidly through a translator, the only path is to be familiar with his or her skill with English and preferred method of translation. Some like short phrases and some can handle long sentences. Some need simpler words and some can handle professional terminology. You will learn the basics of how well your translator can do in just a few sentences, but the longer you work with him or her, the easier and more comfortable you will be.

Tip 1: ®Here are some things to observe about your translator as you are trying to figure out how comfortable they are with translating:

How long of a pause is there between you finishing your sentence and the translator starting translating?

How long does the translator speak in relation to how long you spoke?

The amount of time isn’t the most significant thing, the most significant thing is whether the translator looked confused as he was trying to come up with words or whether he was confident and just giving an expanded description.

How frequently does your translator as you to repeat yourself?

Step 4: Adjust your speech according to the skill of your translator.

Due to the fact that each individual’s ability with English is a little bit different, and even each American speaks a little differently, there can be no hard and fast rules about exactly how to adjust your speech with a translator. Use the principles above and use the observation techniques mentioned, and you will quickly be speaking through a translator with accuracy and fluency.

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Retiring from the Ministry?

Aug. 26, 2014By: Weymann Lee

“Retirement” is the dream of most Americans.  We work hard throughout life with the hope that someday we won’t have to work anymore.  We will be able to just relax and enjoy the remainder of our life without any worries or concerns.

 However, for those of us who have been called by God to the ministry, the word “retirement” should not be in our vocabulary! We know that Scripture never teaches the concept of retirement. We believe that when God calls us to serve Him, it is not for a limited period of time; rather, it is a life long privilege and calling where we serve Him until He calls us home to glory. When God calls us to serve Him, He also puts in our heart a deep desire to continually serve Him – to be “abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58) and that desire is what keeps us in the ministry, even during difficult times when we feel like quitting.

From a financial standpoint, most of us in the vocational ministry often can’t afford to truly retire. The salary that many receive doesn’t allow us to put much away for future retirement.  We don’t have the kind of retirement or pension plans that are offered by secular employers.

So, what is a pastor to do when he reaches retirement age and feels it’s time for him to “retire” from the pastoral ministry?  How can a pastor continue to serve the Lord through his retirement years?  Is there a ministry that he can be involved with where he can continue to make an impact in Christ’s kingdom?

These were the kinds of questions that I struggled with last year as I was completing 35 years in the pastoral ministry.  My wife and I felt it was time for me to retire from the pastoral ministry and to “pass the baton” onto younger men who have been trained for the ministry. But yet I didn’t want to “sit on the sidelines” and idly watch others serve.

My heart’s desire was and is to continue to serve the Lord and make an impact in His kingdom throughout my “retirement” years. (Psalm 71:17-18). Little did we realize the Lord had already started preparing our hearts for our “retirement” ministry.


Over the past several years, we had learned that 75% of all Christian believers today live outside the U.S. in the “majority world”, where the majority of the world’s population resides – in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Many refer to this area as the “10/40 Window”.

As a result of the advancement of the gospel in these parts of the world, many churches are being established and are growing at an astounding rate! However there are an insufficient number of pastors who are theologically trained in God’s Word to shepherd the growing number of believers in these churches!

It is estimated that there are approximately 5 million pastors outside the U.S.  An overwhelming majority of them (85%) have very little to no solid theological training or have no access to it. This situation has been described as a “theological famine”.  

We were able to truly understand this great need when we heard the following statistics:

      * Ratio of theologically trained pastors to people in the U.S.:            1:230

      * Ratio of theologically trained pastors to people outside the U.S.:     1:450,000

When my wife and I first learned about this immense need, the Lord put in our hearts a deep desire to help with the training and encouragement of these national pastors. I wanted to share with them what the Lord has taught me through my years of training and experience in the ministry. 

While I was still in the pastoral ministry, I was able to participate in a number of short-term ministry trips to help equip these national pastors and church leaders in various countries around the world.  Through these trips the Lord truly opened our eyes to this great, pressing need.  We learned that the number one need and request from missionaries, churches and pastors outside the U.S. is for pastoral and leadership training.

Last year, as I was considering retiring from the pastoral ministry, it became very evident to my wife and me that the Lord was leading us to become involved in this ministry.  As we stepped out in faith in following His leading, the Lord sovereignly led us to serve with Training Leaders International.

We’re excited and humbled about our new ministry and to see how the Lord will use us through our retirement years to not only impact the lives of many national pastors and church leaders around the world, but also the churches that they lead!

THE ENCOURAGEMENT – From Pastor to Pastor

Let me encourage those of you who are currently in the pastoral ministry to consider being a part of a short-term ministry team (1-2 week trip) to help in the training of these national pastors in other countries around the world*. It is a great opportunity for you, as well as your church, to make an immense impact for Christ around the world.   

Let me encourage those of you who are veteran pastors, those who may be considering “retiring” from pastoral ministry, NOT to retire from the ministry. As Dr. John Piper exhorts us in his booklet “Rethinking Retirement”**: Finish life to the glory of Christ!

Utilize the remaining years that the Lord graciously gives you to continue to serve and to glorify Him.  Pass on what the Lord has taught you to national pastors and church leaders around the world who are eager to be equipped to teach the Word!

“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2


*TLI offers a number of short-term ministry opportunities throughout the year that pastors can participate in. (See “Short-Term Opportunities” ) TLI is also seeking veteran and retired pastors and missionaries to be International Trainers either part-time or full-time. (See “Employment”.)

** Download a free pdf of “Rethinking Retirement: Finishing Life for the Glory of Christ” 


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