Strengthening pastors: the epitome of missions strategy today

Training at a pastors conference in Bangladesh some time ago, we were thanking the Lord for 616 pastors from 19 different denominations—a first in that great Muslim land!

I came upon a man who introduced himself as “Pastor Islam.”

“Eight months ago,” he said, “I was a Muslim. Now I’m a pastor!”

Elsewhere, a pastor told his congregation to climb trees to see Jesus, because that is what Zaccheus had done.

In yet another land, a pastor did not know Jesus had promised to come back.

Some research suggests that only about 5 percent of the world’s pastors are formally trained, supporting what I have witnessed first hand about lacks in pastoral training resulting in losses in pastoral effectiveness.

Untrained and isolated pastors regularly minister in areas where Christ’s Church is numerically growing. Around the world today, church health is not accompanying church growth.

I believe strengthening pastors—training and uniting them—stands at the epitome of missions strategy today. Social ministries, evangelistic presence and church-planting should be crowned with pastoral training initiatives.

We might enter into cultures and peoples via compassion initiatives—whether in medicine, education, relief and development, justice or human trafficking issues.

On these goodwill platforms, we must evangelize. Otherwise, we resemble secular non-governmental organizations. Beyond evangelism comes church planting. But after church planting, what?

May I suggest that pastoral training as a distinct focus justifies the cost, undergirds the future, and preserves the fruit of all the other efforts?

Strengthening pastors also stands at the epitome of missions strategy because we often go to local pastors to counsel us about digging wells, showing movies about Jesus and planting churches.

So let’s seriously consider the training of underserved pastors—who are on-site, long-term, less expensive and more relevant—as the focus and framework of our ministry efforts to carry out final mandates of our Lord Jesus.

Here are a couple of suggestions on how to wave a flag for this strategic missional priority in your sphere of influence.

•   Consider supporting pastoral training organizations with proven track records of effectiveness and integrity in strengthening local pastors.

•   Consider volunteering time and talent to non-formal pastoral training organizations—there are hundreds of local pastoral training initiatives forced joyfully by large responses to evangelism and sadly by the attrition of church plants.

Dr. Ramesh Richard serves as the founder and president of RREACH, general chairman of the Global Proclamation Congress for Pastoral Trainers 2016, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and founder and chairman of Trainers of Pastors International Coalition.

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