Can pastoral formation and theological education be considered missions? After all, missions is about the fulfillment of the Great Commission:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Mt 28.18-20
Jesus sent out His disciples to make disciples of all nations. This Great Commission involves two key facets:
- bringing new believers into a faith commitment to Christ and, consequently, His Church (“baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”)
- an on-going process of discipleship by which they grow day-by-day in obedience to His word (“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”).
The example of Jesus’ disciples shows us where pastors fit into this mission. As the Apostles went out to fulfill the Great Commission, they preached the Gospel and planted local churches. In each local church they established pastors/elders as soon as possible (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). These pastors would be trained in sound doctrine (2 Timothy 2:2) and would lead the on-going discipleship process of the believers under their care, so that each one would be prepared for their own personal discipleship ministry.
The local church is God’s plan for fulfilling the Great Commission, and pastors are the divinely established leaders at the local level. Without well-prepared pastors, who have both deep biblical convictions in sound doctrine as well as the character qualities and practical abilities demanded by God’s Word, the Great Commission cannot be fulfilled.