It is thought that 95% of pastors around the world have had no formal theological education. That equates to 2.3 million pastors! So whilst in the UK and Ireland we would be somewhat surprised if our church leaders haven’t been to bible college, that’s what’s normal in many places.
What are the reasons for this? For a large part the problem is financial. A pastor’s salary is small and congregations are not in a position to fund their pastor’s college fees or expenses whilst they study. Costs are often high as many pastors have to relocate – with their family – to a different region or country in order to access training. There’s also the cost of books, possibly a laptop, trips back to their parish. On top of all of this is the question of who will fill their place whilst they’re away. So whilst in the UK and Ireland pretty much all church leaders have had some sort of formal theological education, this is not the case in other parts of the world.
The global distribution of Christian resources is vastly unequal. We face not only the need for training up all the untrained church leaders, but the need to make theological education available more locally. Sending out mission partners from the UK and Ireland is hugely helpful in addressing these issues. But training locals has significant advantages: they do not have to adjust to a new country or learn a new language, they know their own people, culture and needs. They won’t be perceived as ‘foreigners’ bringing in a ‘foreign religion’.
So though your church may feel strapped for cash, we must recognise that we’re so much richer than our brothers and sisters in the global south. What a responsibility lies in our hands! If much of the global church’s resources lie with us – in the west – oughtn’t we invest it globally?
Crosslinks’ bursary programme (BEST) links UK and Irish churches with men and women from over 20 countries, all of whom are embarking on theological education. They’re all passionate about bible-based ministry for the sake of their countrymen. For example:
Krisztián is an engineer in Hungary but, noticing the need for more pastors in the Hungarian Church, gave up his career in 2017 to pursue full-time Christian ministry. His church leaders and family recognise Krisztián’s gift for bible teaching and have recommended him to study at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Budapest to equip him for church ministry.
Noel works for a church in Myanmar. Christianity is not banned by law but the military regime makes life increasingly difficult for believers. He is studying at Myanmar Evangelical Graduate School of Theology to be trained for pastoring a local church.
Ameyaw works for RELITE in Accra, the capital city of Ghana. RELITE trains university students in bible-handling skills, discipleship and expository preaching. Ameyaw plans to relocate to Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana, to pioneer RELITE there. Ameyaw is training at George Whitefield College in South Africa in order to gain the necessary skills to carry out this project.
In supporting Krisztián, Noel, Ameyaw or any of the other 50 men and women currently receiving bursaries through Crosslinks, you will be helping address the issue of the 95%. Send us an email if you’d like to be linked up with a study partner.
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