Monday, July 09, 2007

Influencing For The Great Commission

In a couple of days I will be traveling to visit a school here in the U.S. to discuss the possibility of a position within their education program. I will not be an employee and will not receive a salary, but I will act as an advisor and coordinator for their overseas distance learning program. It has the potential of being a good fit for me as I will maintain my autonomy, will continue to serve in the capacity as a trainer in India, Kenya while at the same time expand my ministry to other parts of the world.

This university provides non-accredited degrees. Some of my friends have questioned why I would want to be involved with a school which offers MA’s and PhD’s that are not recognized in educational circles? I must admit, I am uncomfortable with people who hold degrees from schools that don’t have the same criterion as that of accredited institutions. I worked hard in getting my academic credentials and feel that if a person wants to use titles they need to meet the standards of education for that privilege. So why would I want to be involved in a non-accredited training program?

First and foremost I believe education and training is important at every level, especially for national church workers. It’s estimated that of the 2 million pastors in the world only 5% have any formal education. The church puts a great deal of emphasis on church planting and evangelism but is weak in stressing the importance of training. I learned many years ago that a river will only rise as high as its source. Over the thirty years that I have been working internationally, I’ve been appalled in the lack of spiritual depth in most congregations. 83% of the evangelical community will live outside the West by the year 2025. The need to train and educate church leaders is greater now than ever before.

Secondly, it is the act of pursing a degree that is most important. Any program that compels a person to read more, attend lectures, receive guidance on how to serve Christ more effectively, for me, is a worthy endeavor. Most people do not study new things just for the fun of it. One motivator for learning is a carrot, which for schools is a diploma or degree. If a distance learning program, accredited or not, causes pastors to read and write papers, to expand their intellectual and spiritual growth, then it is a project worth pursuing.

Of course I have another agenda for training and that is introducing cross-cultural studies to national workers and missionaries. If only 5% of pastors have formal training, I would guess .001% has ever been exposed to issues such as contextualization, worldview and people group strategy. My hope is that I can be an influence in training others for the Great Commission.