The Need for Theological Education in the Global South

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The Need for Theological Education in the Global South

The following statistics provide a snapshot of the underlying reality of the Christianity sweeping through what is being called the “Global South.” Eighty-five percent of churches in the world are led by men and women who have no formal training in theology or ministry. If every Christian training institute in the world operated at 120 percent capacity, less than 10 percent of the unequipped leaders would be trained. Eight out of ten nationals who come to the west to receive training never return home. Leaders from every non-Western region say their number one need is leadership training.

Contemporary Realities: Case Studies

The following statistics provide a snapshot of the underlying reality of the Christianity sweeping through what is being called the “Global South.”

  • Eighty-five percent of churches in the world are led by men and women who have no formal training in theology or ministry.
  • If every Christian training institute in the world operated at 120 percent capacity, less than 10 percent of the unequipped leaders would be trained.
  • Eight out of ten nationals who come to the west to receive training never return home.
  • Leaders from every non-Western region say their number one need is leadership training.

(David A. Livermore, Serving With Eyes Wide Open (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006) 41.)

Nigeria:

Southern Baptists have been working in Nigeria since 1851. Yet many of their churches have adopted the “health & wealth” gospel.  Why?

Today, there are some 8500 churches and 4000 pastors in Nigeria.  Animism still reigns in the hearts of most believers.  Some churches use juju to bring crowds to their meetings.  One professor from the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary reported some large churches sacrifice cows and bury them in juju ceremonies in order to bring forth power to attract and sway the crowds in their church services.  Many students in the seminary are not convinced juju is demonic.  They believed it could be a neutral, ambivalent force to be manipulated for good or ill by the initiated.  These were graduates of the oldest theological seminary on the continent of Africa, founded in 1898.

Ecuador:

½ of the Baptist churches in Ecuador have no pastor and only 17% of pastors have received theological education.  (Reaching and Teaching, David Sills)

Zambia: 

Evangelical Church in Zambia has 688 organized churches and 284 developing ones in Zambia. Out of nearly 1000 churches in Zambia, less than 200 have pastors. (20%)

The Baptist Union in Zambia dates back to 1905.  There are three Associations within the Baptist Union of Zambia.  One of these, the Zambia Baptist Association, has over 200 churches in their association but less than 50 of those churches have pastors. Baptist Union in Zambia is reported to have over 1000 churches; however, less than 50% of those have pastors.

The Christian Brethren (CMML) is reported to have approximately 2000 congregations in Zambia.  The condition of many of these congregations is a cause for great concern.  Reports are they have succumbed to political insider fighting for control and many congregations engage in African traditional religious practices.  One influential African leader was asked his opinion as to how the denomination got to such a point. “Our missionaries focused on the quantity of converts instead of the quality.”

David Sills is right, “When your church growth outstrips your trained leadership, you are in trouble; weak and dysfunctional churches abound.”

Sources:

3 Where We Work, SIM United Kingdom, www.sim.co.uk/where_we_work/africa/zambia

4 Background ZBA, October 21, 2008, http://zambaptist.com/

5 From personal interviews with leaders of the Baptist Union, 2011

6 From personal interviews conducted by the author with national leaders within the organization.  2011