At our last seminar we expected to be training people but God was training us. Let me explain. We had all of our careful plans and our thoughts about what we would do at and how we would do it. But it didn’t happen that way. For example:
- We were expecting the group to be all pastors. But there was only one.
- We were expecting 20 people and there were only 12.
- We were expecting one trainer to come to teach and translate but we had to get another—and he had never been with our team before.
- We were expecting all adults and yet one of the church leaders was a 14 year old girl. (She was the leader of the Jr. Youth.)
- We were expecting the adults to teach the practice session. But the young girl taught the first half of the session on counseling! This was definitely unexpected because it is not culturally appropriate for her to be teaching adults and especially men. But it was exciting to see how well she did.
I watched as her small group worked during the preparation time and how the two elders on her team worked with her and involved her as they planned. I watched as she interacted with them on the content and presentation. And it was exciting to see how well she did during the actual teaching of the lesson.
And so God unexpectedly trained me. It was good to see that people who only had a high school or lower level of education being able to use the lessons and to clearly teach them to others. I had written these lessons for pastors to use to teach their leaders. And yet unexpectedly God showed me that these training sessions could be used by anyone to train others if they are given enough time to prepare.
What is the lesson to be learned? We need to be willing to assist and equip the church’s untrained leadership to train themselves because many will never receive formal training. This is highlighted in the two quotes below:
“There is an average of 178,000 people coming to Christ daily around the world. Seven thousand new church leaders are needed daily to care for the growing church. Eighty-five percent of the churches of the world are led by people who have no formal training in theology or ministry (emphasis mine). Leaders from every non-Western region say their number one need is leadership training.” (David Livermore, Serving With Eyes Wide Open, p. 41)
The second is one that my colleague Dr. George Renner shared with me from a presentation by Dr. Ted Ward at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology a few years ago:
“Only 4% of the pastors on planet earth today have a bachelors level (or higher) education.”
I believe these quotes point out the urgent need to bring training on all levels to the non-Western church but also demonstrate the need to make training accessible to the vast majority of church leaders who are not able to attend formal educational institutions. And yet where is the vast proportion of funds and effort by the Western church and Mission organizations going? I believe it is channeled into formal educational institutions and not directed to the non-formal education which is pointed at the grass-roots church leadership.
This is what fuels my passion to go out and train church leaders no matter what level of education they may have. They have the Holy Spirit who can take what we share with them in their context and equip them to serve the church.
And there is nothing unexpected about that.