Millions of Pastors Lack Education
The Global Church is Growing Rapidly
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A truly wonderful thing is happening in the world. The church is growing at an astounding pace in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, the former Soviet Union and Asia. In fact, by the year 2050 more than half of the worlds Christians will live in Latin America and Africa.
U.S. government statistics estimate that there are already between 80 and 100 million Christians in China, and that by the year 2025 Russia will rank among the worlds 10 largest Christians countries. Beyond this, Christian minorities are growing throughout Muslim nations along the Pacific Rim, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as in other traditionally Muslim areas in Africa and the Middle East.
Growth Exceeds Education
The problem is that church leaders in these regions have very little opportunity to learn the Scriptures and sound theology. In many nations, high quality theological materials are scarce and out of date. In many other nations they are not available at all.
Ralph Winter, the founding director of the U.S. Center for World Mission, estimates that there are at least two million functioning pastors outside of North America who do not have access to biblical and theological education.
In other words, where the church is growing most rapidly, there is the least opportunity for adequate pastoral education.
Syncretism and Idolatry
Sadly, the absence of sufficient pastoral training in these areas often produces a syncretistic faith. For example, in Africa traditional religions are often integrated into Christianity, resulting in things like ancestor worship in the churchs weekly meetings. Although these pastors love the Lord and mean well, they lack the basic doctrinal training to separate the truth of their new faith from the lies of their former paganism.
Traditional Solutions are Insufficient
In the past, several important strategies have been employed to address this crisis. Not uncommonly, key indigenous leaders have been brought to seminaries in the United States. But more than 75% of them never return to their native countries.
Missionaries have also tried to educate native pastors. But they lack the tools, time and manpower to be seminary professors as well. Further, they have no curriculum in the languages of those they serve.
Short-term teaching sessions have been held by professors and pastors who travel to these parts of the world, but these events can reach only a small portion of those who need training.
Traditional seminaries have been established in underprivileged nations. But indigenous leaders are often too poor to pay the tuition, and many are prohibited from attending by government restrictions. Existing indigenous seminaries also lack facilities and staff. Moreover, according to recent estimates it would require 15 billion dollars per year ($15,000,000,000/year) to run enough traditional seminaries to train the pastors of the world.
All of these strategies are important and should continue, but the crisis is far too great for traditional solutions alone to solve. Third Millennium Ministries' works cooperatively with traditional forms of education, but also seeks new ways of meeting this tremendous and urgent need.