A Vision for Pastoral Formation in the Developing World

A Vision for Pastoral Formation in the Developing World

What if the healthiest churches in the developing world were responsible for the pastoral formation of the next generation of pastors?

While the global numbers regarding the scarcity of theological education among church leaders are astounding (around 80% of leaders in the developing world have no formal theological education), the problem, at least in the Portuguese-speaking world (Representing almost 300,000,000 people in mostly South America (Brazil) and Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau), is quality and not quantity.

A major factor in quality pastoral formation is the engagement of men with credible models of Christian living, sound faith and pastoral ministry.  In conversation recently with a minister in an African country, he explained that large investments from the West have resulted in seminaries with buildings and libraries, but the men who often study there are not converted or have glaring moral issues that disqualify them from ministry. The men graduate and go on to pastoral ministry as a profession, but their ministries are spiritually dead and frequently scandalous.

In Brazil, there are innumerable seminaries and Bible institutes. Some are very good and are serving a resurgence in sound Protestant theology. However, broadly schools are overcome by denominational politics. Professorships become political tokens to grant status or employment to friends or relatives. Efforts to improve quality have often led to submission to government accreditation standards that compromise curricula and produce a purely academically oriented faculty removed from pastoral ministry and the local church. To serve a population of over 200 million people, one may count on their fingers schools where a pastor in formation can receive competent teaching from a genuinely evangelical perspective (commitment to the 5 Solas) and where one can have regular personal contact with more experienced pastors.

I will not defend church-based pastoral formation and theological education here. However, I want you to dream with me. What would the church of the future look like if every one of its leaders was trained in sound doctrine and practical ministry skills in the right handling of God’s Word and pastoral care, all under the discipling eye of credible men of God who knew their names, who prayed for them, who held them accountable for areas of their life that were not yet conformed to the image of Christ?

For the sake of argument consider the 9 Marks of a healthy church proposed by Pastor Mark Dever:

  1. Expositional Preaching
  2. Biblical Theology
  3. The Gospel
  4. A Biblical Understanding of Conversion
  5. A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
  6. A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership
  7. Biblical Church Discipline
  8. A Concern for Discipleship and Growth
  9. Biblical Church Leadership

What would the church of the future look like if every one of its pastors had spent years of intensive training in churches that possessed (at least most of) these qualities?

Here at the Pastors School at First Baptist Church of Atibaia we are experiencing the first fruits of the answer to these questions. The vision can and is becoming a reality. Sin is present and the enemy is active; some men fall along the way. But local churches are being supplied with godly men of proven character who possess the skills and experience that pastoral ministry demands. They preach the Word and they preach Christ. They hold out their lives as examples. Those under their care flourish.

We are one small school in (by God’s grace) a healthy church in one state in Brazil. Is there not at least one healthy church in every state of Brazil and every Portuguese-speaking nation around the world? I believe so. What would the future look like if the next generation of pastors were trained with excellence in these churches, under their faithful pastors and elders?

It would change these nations and the world. The salt of the world would be saltier. The light of the world would be brighter. The flock of God would be well-fed and well protected from destructive error for generations to come.

About The Author

Jeremiah is the Director of the Pastors School of First Baptist Church of Atibaia in Brazil. He is married to Ana Karlina (2006) and they have one daughter, Manuela.

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