Seminaries and graduate schools
around the world are asking for
PhD holders to come as missionaries and teach Bible and theology. I know
of one major seminary in Europe who posted their openings in a major
evangelical magazine, only to find no takers. Why is this and how can we
Why They Are Hard to Find
1. God has not called them.
This is simple enough. To go to another culture with your wife and
kids usually requires God to uproot you in some way that is so clear that you
believe God is leading you to the field.
2. Some think raising money
is below their degree. I only write this because I have heard it so
often. Raising support is for the M.Div. students, so I have been told.
It is for the staff of some campus ministry or for helping orphans and
those on the margins of society. I know of many that would rather work at
Starbucks or UPS than ask people for their support to go overseas.
3. It is a career killer,
or maybe better an inhibitor. You can't participate at ETS/SBL. Your library (if you have one) is more limited. The education level of the students (in some
cases) is at a much lower level then what you find in the US (though that seems
to be changing for the worse here). Their colleagues might not be as
educated and able to provide them helpful feedback or sharpening of ones own skills.
4. It may involve learning
ANOTHER language. Most PhD students have learned Greek, Hebrew, German
and French and now we are asking them to potentially teach it all in another
language. This is a real challenge. Who wants to spend 2-3 years trying to master
Japanese in order to teach Greek when your mother tongue in English after
having spent years toiling with participles?
5. You don't have very many friends who can support you. One reality that faces graduates is that in the last six years you have probably lived in three different locations, and in each locations you probably did not make a lot of friends. You have spent a lot of time in libraries or have probably only gotten to know your fellow classmates.
6. You can still teach
modular classes overseas without leaving your job in the US.
7. Debt. Plain and
simple, going to school costs a lot of money. Very few escape with a PhD
and less than $45K of school loans from the various institutions they have
attended (at least in my experience).
How The Church Can Help
1. Pray God calls them (or
me or you). There is such a great need for well-trained, godly, pastoral
2. Challenge the belief
that fundraising is not for them. Have them read Steve Shadrach's Viewpoints.
It could be that one of the reasons people have a hard time asking for
support is because they do not think the people around them are generous.
That is fair. That means we should be even more open in our generosity and encourage them to go by pledging our support.
3. Seminaries in the west must
talk to students about the global Church and do so often. It is not enough to
talk about it in the Missions 101 class. It should permeate all of our
classes. Maybe seminaries should offer some full rides to students interested in teaching in developing countries.
4. Churches should talk about being missional not just in their community, but
around the world. They should also disciple these students and get them into small groups with people in the church who are not theology students, but serving the Lord in different career paths.
5. Create a way to get rid
of the debt. I have prayed that some donor would come to TLI or set up on
their own a fund that would pay off the debt of PhD's if they committed to 5
years of service overseas. Medical doctors have a program
like this. I believe this incentive would unleash many into service. I am thankful for places like Eternity Bible College and Bethlehem College and Seminary that are focused on keeping the costs low.
I am sure there are many reasons people do not go and many more ways we can help them. This is just a starting point.