By Nick Moore
From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, the biblical storyline significantly involves the topic of leadership. A brief survey of the Old Testament shows that God’s plan of redemption seems to hinge upon those He calls out as leaders. Whether prophets, priests, or kings, throughout history God is setting apart those He calls “shepherds” over His people.
But there is also a major problem. Time and again, those God sets apart to “shepherd” prove themselves wicked and faithless. Of course, we know that all these leadership expectations are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, the King. But after Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, He has not left His flock untended. The New Testament is replete with instructions regarding the significance of leadership within the life of Christ’s Kingdom on earth, the church.
By God’s grace, I have had the immense privilege of being well-shepherded throughout my Christian life by faithful and capable pastors. But as I rejoice in the opportunity to have been loved and fed by faithful shepherds, I am constantly reminded of a tragic reality around the world. In a recent article at Training Leaders International (TLI), Weymann Lee writes:
75% of all Christian believers today live outside the U.S. in the “majority world,” where the majority of the world’s population resides—in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Many refer to this area as the “10/40 Window.”
As a result of this radical move of God in the Global South which Philip Jenkins calls “The Next Christendom,” many new churches are being established and growing at an astounding rate. A corresponding reality, however, is that with the increase in these churches there is “an insufficient number of pastors who are theologically trained in God’s Word to shepherd the growing number of believers in these churches!”
Lee estimates that there are about 5 million pastors outside the U.S., 85% of whom “have very little to no solid theological training or have no access to it.” To put that in perspective numerically, Lee cites the following:
* The ratio of theologically trained pastors to people in the U.S.: 1:230
* The ratio of theologically trained pastors to people outside the U.S.: 1:450,000
This is a sad reality that many (including the folks over at The Gospel Coalition International Outreach [TGC IO]) have dubbed a “theological famine.” And lest you think these folks are merely foisting western church expectations upon pastors in the majority world, consider Lee’s statement that “the number one need and request from missionaries, churches and pastors outside the U.S. is for pastoral and leadership training.”
What I see in this statement is the fact that pastors in the majority world are simply saying the same thing I said 8 years ago when I entered pastoral ministry (and have continued to say ever since): “I want to shepherd the flock of God, but how in the world do I do it?” By God’s grace, Christianity has been established in the U.S. (particularly the Southeast) for long enough that the options for pastoral training and equipping have been virtually limitless for me. I can literally open my laptop to find a library of resources at my fingertips that most pastors in the world (or church history for that matter) could only dream of! This is an embarrassment of riches in the truest sense.
So what can we, who have so much, do to help those who have so little? Well, for starters, consider praying for and giving to organizations like TGC IO. Here is a video recently released by TGC in which pastors John Piper and Randy Alcorn cast a vision for TGC IO’s “theological famine relief” campaign. Follow the relevant links here to contribute in any way you can.
But your involvement need not be limited to helping from a distance. In recent years, a number of organizations have sprung up to meet this global need by mobilizing U.S. pastors, professors, and even laymen who have theological training to travel on short-term trips to share some of their wealth of resources with pastors in underserved areas. Although (praise God!) there are now many of these organizations in existence, here are some I highly recommend: World Hope Bible Institute, Training Leaders International, Reaching and Teaching, and Teaching Truth International.
Finally, as a missionary with the International Mission Board, I would be remiss if I failed to reiterate the priority our organization places upon meeting this need. Under the leadership of president David Platt and Zane Pratt (Vice President for Global Training), the IMB has adopted a posture of prioritizing global theological education. Around 1997, the board made a decisive move away from institutions (including seminaries and Bible schools) and the negative consequences have been felt. As a result, the board has begun moving back toward this task by not reducing seminary personnel overseas and even appointing new personnel (like us!) to such posts with the hope revitalizing these institutions and emphasizing theological education throughout our organization as a whole.
About 6 years ago, when I began personally to recognize this global need, I looked around at the ministry landscape to see who was addressing it and to be honest I almost threw up my hands in despair. But in God’s goodness, we have seen major progress in this area as ministries such as those listed above have raised up servants and resources to send to the nations to help ensure that none of our Shepherd’s sheep are left without an under-shepherd, and particularly those who know how to shepherd in a way that is “after His own heart.”
Nick Moore is married to Kyndra and they have 7 children. He was a church staff member, pastor, and church planter in Kentucky for more than 8 years prior to being sent out to serve internationally through the IMB. He is currently completing his Ph.D. in Old Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary while also serving as Professor and Academic Dean of the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zimbabwe.
The views expressed by guest writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of B&H Academic, LifeWay Christian Resources, or any employee thereof.