Here at Reaching and Teaching we are known for our emphasis on training pastors and church leaders. The need for such teaching is apparent. It is estimated that about 85% of the pastors in the world have little to no theological training. Though it is difficult to precisely confirm this number, we have seen great need evidenced over and over again in the areas where we work.
The lack of pastoral training is most deeply noted overseas. In the United States, there is one trained Christian worker for every 235 people. Outside of the United States, however, there is only one trained Christian worker for every 450,000 people. It’s clear that there is an overwhelming need for leaders of existing churches, particularly those outside of the United States, to be trained. Reaching and Teaching, as well as numerous other faithful ministries, exist to meet this need.
Yet, we are not aiming at a stagnant target. Christianity is growing worldwide, and thus the need for well-equipped pastors and church planters is rapidly growing!
In 2015, Pew Research Center released a massive study on religion worldwide.1 There is much in this study that could be discussed, but today let’s consider the projected growth of Christianity. Pew estimates that in the next 45 years, Christianity will grow by over 775 million. What is most interesting is where that growth will take place. Christianity will grow most rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. The population of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa will more than double, growing at a rate of over 15 million new believers per year. Christianity in Latin America, though not as staggering, will grow at a rate of 2.3 million new adherents per year. I know these are a lot of numbers, and they can be difficult to wrap our minds around, but let’s consider a couple of implications of these numbers.
Let’s say that in a perfect world, all of these new believers would gather in churches of 100 people and each church would have one pastor. That means that in Latin America we need to plant 23,000 new churches per year and train 23,000 new pastors per year to lead those churches. In Africa, the task is even more astounding. Over the next 45 years, we need 153,000 new churches and pastors per year to meet the needs of the growing Christian population. 153,000 per year. This does not take into account the the thousands and thousands of pastors of existing churches that still need theological training.
So, should we be focused on training existing pastors or training church planters and future pastors? The answer, of course, is yes. We should be doing both. An existing pastor needs sound theological training so that he can rightly handle the word of truth for his current congregation. A future church planter needs sound theological training so that he too can rightly handle the word of truth for his future congregation. The common need is for sound theological training.
We at Reaching and Teaching are committed to addressing this growing need through short-term training trips and through career missionaries who devote their ministries to mentoring and training current and future leaders. Yet, it should be obvious that Reaching and Teaching alone cannot meet this need. We need many more faithful organizations committed to theological training. We need many more faithful seminaries who are committed to providing sound theological training. We need in-person methods and online methods as well as new methods that we have yet to consider. We need basic training and advanced training. We need churches in the United States committed to meeting this need and we need churches in Argentina, Kenya, India, and beyond committed to meeting this need. In other words, we need all hands on deck to teach the next generation of pastors ,“to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3, ESV).
It is easy to look at these numbers, to consider the enormity of the task, and to feel overwhelmed. The task is that big. We must remember that it is not our call to build the church. Jesus promised that He would do that and He will. It is our job then to confidently go and teach the truths of Scripture to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
1This report is free and can be accessed at: https://www.pewforum.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2017/04/FULL-REPORT-WITH-APPENDIXES-A-AND-B-APRIL-3.pdf