I am so grateful for my seminary experience – however, it lacked any significant training to fulfill the mission of the church. I love that I was taught how to study God’s Word, to defend God’s Word and to teach God’s Word. I really enjoyed my systematic theology classes. I learned a lot in my church history and homiletics classes, too.
However, as I reflect on my training, I had only one class on mission and evangelism. That was the only class that addressed the mission of the church. That’s the only class that attempted to equip me to equip others to fulfill Jesus’ mission for the church.
Here’s the reality: Pastors are not trained for mission, neither are they trained to equip others for mission. Therefore, no one should be surprised that the mission isn’t being accomplished in America.
I was surprised to learn recently that
- “Roughly half of all churches in America did not add one new person through conversion growth [in 1999].” (Tom Clegg and Warren Bird, Lost in America, p. 27)I personally doubt that has changed at all in the past few years.
- “In the U.S., it takes the combined efforts of 85 Christians working over an entire year to produce one convert.” (Thom Rainer, Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, p. 23)
Part of the problem is that pastors are trained to maintain the members, keep the members happy, and be paid by the members. They are not trained to equip the members for mission or to lead the members in making disciples of non-disciples. (Almost all the church planting candidates I assess are weakest in relating to unbelievers. Most do not have close friendships with any non-Christians and few are seeking to initiate them.
This is why I believe that Missional Transformation is vital for the church in America! I want to encourage believers to make Jesus’ mission their very own. And I long to empower pastors and church leaders to see their strategic role in building missionary congregations who are reaching the world for Christ.
“Local congregations the world over will gain new life and vitality only as they understand the Missiological purpose for which they alone exist, the unique culture, people, and needs of their context, and the missionary action through which they alone will discover their own nature as God’s people in the world.” (Charles Van Engen, God’s Missionary People, p. 20)
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