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Disciple-Making Crisis? Toward Accelerating Church Health Worldwide

Is there a disciple-making crisis in the world today?

No doubt. It is well acknowledged that the global Christian movement is not really making disciples as we should, regardless of where we are in the world. Here in the U.S. we can look at the decline of the American Church over the past twenty years, with a doubling of the “Nones”[i] and know that something is not right about how we have been making disciples or even if we have. That was the notable experience of Willow Creek and what they found from their own 2007 study[ii] about their lack of effective disciple-making. Globally the issue is even more critical, even though many places of the world are growing very rapidly in terms of new believers. Africa is leading the charge with 390 million Christians, which more than tripled the number of Christian there in the past 35 years.[iii] It is often said that the Church in Africa is “a mile wide and inch deep” but that’s not an uncommon condition for the world in general, including right here in the U.S.A. The good news is that there are significant disciple-making movements in some parts of the world and a re-emphasis on disciple-making the past several years. Time will tell how effective this will be in sustainable growth and church health.

Why is there a disciple-making crisis?

We could simply say we have not followed the mandate of Matthew 28:20, the Great Commission Part II, “teaching them to obey” all that Jesus commands. I read a report recently that two-thirds of the nations of the world now have a Christian majority.[iv] We could conclude that the world would be a much different place with that majority. But what kind of impact does the majority have? Is community health affected due to the influence of Christianity? To some extent, yes, in terms of some economic and social indicators.[v] But while some improvements have been made much more can and needs to be done – biblically and contextually.

The “why?” of the disciple-making crisis came into sharper personal focus for me the other day in conversation with a South Sudanese-American pastor, James, I met over lunch.  Pastor James told me that he had asked a Bishop back in his homeland what the greatest need of the Church in South Sudan was. The Bishop’s response, “We need trained pastors!”   One of the greatest needs negatively affecting the health of the church worldwide is the lack of trained pastors, with 85% of the world’s 2.2 million pastors have little or no training.[vi] This lack of trained pastors contributes to and perpetuates the disciple-making crisis. We must not take for granted, here in the U.S.A., that the majority of pastors in the world lack access to training and resources. But even with access many pastors are calling out for help.

More good news is that the church is growing globally by over 50,000[vii] new believers every day . Some put the number over 80,000. But that means that we need over 1,000 trained pastors every day, for churches of fifty each, just to keep up with the daily demand of the growth of the global Christian population. Complicating the issue even further, seminaries, or the formal training sector, can only meet 10% of the present demand for pastoral training. This truly is the crux of the disciple-making crisis – lack of trained pastors who preach, live, think and lead their congregations biblically.

How must we strategically attack the problem?

Dr. Ramesh Richard, President of RREACH, with whom I serve likes to say that “pastoral health affects church health, church health affects community health.” If pastors aren’t well trained and resourced we will continue to see the church “a mile wide and an inch deep,” or more likely in decline. The most strategic way, we believe, to begin to address the problem is through improving the delivery of pastoral training, increasing access to the best training practices, expanding training and forming opportunities for the greatest number of pastors. They are already called, gifted and placed by God. They need pastoral skills, ministry tools and vital peer relationships for long-term pastoral health. Our strategy is to connect, unite and strengthen pastoral trainers—the “providers of pastoral health”—since they are the leaders on the front-lines training pastors.  Pastoral trainers are in the best position to strategically address the problem at the grass-roots and the highest levels, at the non-formal and formal levels. This is presently a community of perhaps 7,000 based on a Gordon Conwell study commissioned in 2012 by RREACH. But the need is clear for large, systemic, and intentional delivery of better pastoral training for more pastors who will preach, live, think and lead biblically. That is why we are working toward hosting the Global Proclamation Congress for Pastoral Trainers.

What is the Global Congress for Pastoral Trainers?

Or, what we call GProCongress for short. The GProCongress is the first of its kind gathering of the pastoral training community of the world who minister in 200 countries to be held in Bangkok, Thailand, June 15-22, 2016, the Lord willing. This historic event will bring pastoral trainers together to build community, explore opportunity, discover resources and receive encouragement. Our hope is that up to 5,000 pastoral trainers will come together from the formal and non-formal training sectors to share best practices, form learning communities, and serve better together toward the deliverability of pastoral training to large numbers of undertrained and isolated pastors. The hope is that this result in better pastoral training and large numbers of pastors trained with impact beyond the 21st century. A New York pastor friend of mine said in December, upon learning about the GProCongress, this isn’t just an historic event but a “seismic” event. We always like to add, the Lord willing.

Why is the GProCongress important?

By multiplying pastors who better preach, live, think and lead biblically, Church health will better keep pace with church growth, and community health will see discernible, even measurable improvement. This is not about pastoral training for the sake of pastoral training but pastoral training for the sake of the Great Commission. Toward that end, the GProCongress is not the end but rather the beginning of a 4 year process to determine if we’re making gains in the area of church health. Every delegate who attends is asked to affirm that they will be responsible for the training of 25 pastors a year for the following four years. The mission is 100,000 better trained pastors by 2020 contributing to our vision of spiritual health of 1 billion individuals by 2030. That is something we must do together as the global Church. Partners are already coming forward wanting to share in this vision.

 

Who belongs at the event?

Anyone who trains pastors__individuals, churches, organizations or institutions from the formal and non-formal sectors. Additionally, we are inviting pastoral training strategists, theorists, facilitators, funders and aspirants to the 2016 GProCongress.

Where & When?

The GProCongress is being convened at the Impact Convention Center near Bangkok, Thailand from June 15-22, 2016. Applications are now being accepted. They are already coming in from across the globe, at www.GProCongress.org.

How can we help?

We are suggesting three ways that the global Christian leadership community can help:

Come – apply to be a delegate if you train pastors. Our primary focus is Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Bring – plan to bring other pastoral trainers with you.

Send – invest in a pastoral trainer from an economically weaker part of the world to attend.

We invite you to help us spread the news about the GProCongress and pray with us toward “accelerating the health of the church worldwide.”

 

Brian Considine serves with RREACH (Ramesh Richard Evangelism and Church Health) as Mobilization Director for the Global Proclamation Congress for Pastoral Trainers. Brian has served in ministry since 2001 and with the Mission America Coalition since 2011.  Brian resides in McKinney, Texas with his wife, Debbie, of nearly 30 years and two college aged children, Michael and Alexandra. Email Brian@RREACH.org.

 



[ii] “Reveal Where Are You?” by Greg L. Hawkins and Cathy Parkinson (Willow Creek Association-2007)

[vii] “50.000 people are baptised each day in evangelical churches worldwide, that do not come from a Christian backround and do not have any basic Bible knowledge” Source: http://www.thomasschirrmacher.net/tag/theological-education/


 

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