Monday, March 10, 2008

Statistics Don't Lie

A very important President of a local Bible Seminary came to my church to preach last Sunday.

He said he has two very important points he wanted to deliver to us.

"First, the focus of Christianity has shifted from North to South. The major growth centres are in Africa, Asia and Latin America. For the first time in history, there are more Christians south of the equator than north! "

"Second, there are about 2 million full time workers in the whole world. Out of this 2 million full time workers, only about 10% has any form of theological education, some only rudimentary."

"Isn't it a challenge for us to build more theological seminaries so that more full time workers can be theologically trained?" That was his challenge.

Me thinks,

10% of 2 million is 200,000 theologically trained full time workers. Yet, the church is growing exponentially in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Obviously these 200,000 is too small a number to influence about 2 billions Christians.

Could it be that theologically trained full time workers are not necessary?

And that God is doing well without them?

What do you think?



Blogger Kansas Bob said...

Everyone knows that God needs those seminarians Alex.. but not any more than he needs you and I.. of course.. in a theological sense.. God does not have needs :)

10:45 PM  
Blogger Kar Yong said...

Hi Alex,

I think God can use both - those who are trained theologically, and those who are not. But I think if the church is to continue to grow towards maturity, then theological education is necessary. Perhaps this is a reflection of the church in Asia, Africa and Latin America - that we produce masses of believers, but many are one inch deep - and perhaps this also explains why some of the "questionable" doctrines arise from churches these continents.

But at the same time, one also cannot deny that some of the most prominent theologians from the West have also sown the seeds of scepticism in the minds of many Christians.

So how can we hold the two in balanced tension?

2:24 PM  
Anonymous alwyn said...

perhaps it's more important to have Christian Educationists and pastors around and, i guess, we can't have those without the seminaries?

Theological training is not for *growth's* sake but for nurture's sake...

the huge numbers reflect a kind of spiritual hunger, thus it may be critical for us to build structures in place to meet that hunger...

although, one could argue, the early church didn't really need 'theologically trained' people...just very dedicated ones willing to teach Scripture and organise fellowship meetings(!)

11:33 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi Bob,

Interesting thought. Does God need the seminarians or only human being needs them?

Jesus never taught systematic theology, never exegeses any Old Testament text to its root words, and never talk about an organisation or institution. He just tell stories, lived with the disciples so that they can be with him and he modelled his life for them. Then he told them to go and make disciples his way.

How about that?

11:49 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi kar yong,

I have been thinking about these 'one inch deep' argument of the churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The argument is derogative and is 'value loaded'. The implication is that they need theologians to go and show them poor simpleton the way.

Yes, we find some of the most devoted, vitally alive, joyful, spiritually connected, sacrificial, and miracle working Christians in these areas. What we read about in the gospels and Acts, they live with. Of course, we poof poof these claims of miracles that we hear. I often wonder if we, with all our knowledge is missing something or some One.

11:59 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi alwyn,

interesting comment. Why can't we have pastor and Christian educationist without the seminaries? Where does spiritual gifts come in our thinking?

Sorry, I didn't get your nuance about Theological training is not for *growth's* sake but for nurture's sake.... Hope you will explain.

it may be critical for us to build structures in place to meet that hunger. Here I am bit cautious about 'structures'. What type of structures? Will any form of structure meet the spiritual hunger? It will be good to hear your thoughts on this.

12:07 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

I know that I appreciate SOME of the training I received at seminary BUT not all. SOME of the training has been helpful and I would be struggling mow without it

However, what I did not appreciate was not knowing the relevance of some of the subjects taught and how it would relate to ministry. I hated the "do as you are told", and "figure it out yourself stance" that came without satisfactory explanation of why!!

I was young then and on hindsight I realise that I needed more personal guidance and encouragement - "the come alongside approach" was sorely absent during crucial moments

What I missed in seminary was lecturers who could connect with me on a deeper level and mentor me. All the ones I thought would be able to do this resigned during my 2nd year. It was a big blow to me to see 4 lecturers in particular leave as they were both gifted lecturers as well as good pastors.

It was the MBS crisis time so perhaps this was a major contributing factor. Morale was low and those who remained were preoccupied with other matters

4:04 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi Paul,

Thank you for your insight.

I believe you have hit the nail on the head by mentioning relevance and mentoring.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Hi Alex,
The statistic is an interesting one.

"Could it be that theologically trained full time workers are not necessary? And that God is doing well without them?"

Well, for me, it does not matter if a full time worker is theologically trained or not(meaning they attended seminaries and have a diploma/degree or something) in order to carry out God's work. While a person certainly learn quite a bit of stuffs in seminary, I agree with Paul that some stuffs are just not relevant. I had the privilege of doing 2 modules that are relevant to my work(as a non-matriculated student) and I must said I have gained a lot of insight from my lecturers. Especially when their heart beats for the subject at hand and I had the privilege of connecting with one, and gotten some guidance and advice in my journey. It has been most valuable. I share Paul's sentiment.

I had friends who advise me to get a so that if I ever had to work with another Christian organization/church, it qualifies me. While I'm not saying my friend is wrong, nor are Christian organizations/churches wrong in having certain policies at place for protection/assurances, I certainly have reservations in getting a for the sake of being qualified for full-time work. We need to ask ourselves whether the knowledge gained is the bonus or the qualification is the bonus.

I certainly do not think a worker needs to be theologically trained for full time work, although in the human eye, a person who is theologically trained seems to have an edge. We must really come back to what is really important - does the person truly loves the Lord? Does he have a good character and is he constantly being transformed to be more like Christ? And sometimes we will never know till we work with the person - and that is why leaders of churches have to really pray and discern who is the person the Lord wants to use, send in the particular area of full-time ministry; theologically trained or not.

And God is certainly doing well with or without them. It's His harvest field; we really need to pray (Matt 9:38) and do our part (John 9:4)

6:58 PM  

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