why theological education is essential for the growth of the gospel

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It’s a Sunday afternoon, you’ve just come out of church and you’re trying to remember the subject of the sermon. Something the visiting pastor said really touched your understanding of the Bible and that of the rest of the congregation.

Ring a bell? While you’ll never see a “were you involved in an accident at church that wasn’t your fault?” In style advertising promising your money or your time, a lack of theological understanding on the part of our preachers and leaders can have an equally significant impact on our lives.

When Langham Partnership founder John Stott visited churches around the world, he was often surprised at the poor quality of preaching he saw in many churches and nations he visited. This, he believed, required a program to improve and improve the standard of education. If not, how would church members be equipped to reach out and transform local communities?

And this is the crux of the problem. Having a good understanding of the Bible and being able to explain the teachings of Jesus is crucial to building up the church and enabling members to share their faith effectively. The Great Commission is not just for evangelism, but for the promotion of discipleship.

This is not just a problem in majority world nations, but also in the UK. Since a question on religion was introduced into the UK census in 2001, the number of people identifying as “Christian” has steadily fallen, with analysts widely predicting that the 2021 results – released later this year – will show a further decline.

In a similar 2011 poll that rephrased the question to “Are you religious?”, less than half of those who checked “Christian” said they believed Jesus Christ was a real person who died, is came back to life and was the son of God.

These are the most fundamental basic tenets Christians believe in. While the pastors and church leaders who responded to this survey may not be part of this minority, does this indicate a lack of effective teaching of Christian beliefs in the UK?

Building the Global Church

Perhaps partly because of this, the UK and many other Western countries have become increasingly secular in recent years, leading the world center of Christianity to shift south in terms of population. and to focus more on Christian teaching in non-Western countries.

Church leaders from Majority World nations have long been underrepresented on the Christian world stage. Many of us have heard of Hillsong, but how many could name a religious movement based in Africa? Ensuring their theological understanding is solid is equally important to fulfilling the Great Commission and to making their contextually relevant voices heard around the world.

The Langham Scholars Program aims to equip and support aspiring scholars from minority and majority countries around the world through theology-based doctorates. Nathan from Sri Lanka, for example, is currently studying his thesis in Birmingham, which focuses on theological anthropology in a South Asian Buddhist context.

In Ukraine, one of the graduates supported by Langham Scholars was repairing a dormitory so that it could be used as a meeting place for Christians. Then the war started and the dormitory is now used to house families fleeing the war. Over 80 men and women are currently part of the program, with graduates now in over 90 countries around the world.

John Stott once said that “we should be BBC Christians”, based on balanced, biblical Christianity. Fulfilling the Great Commission requires a deep theological foundation and, more importantly, the equipping of pastors, evangelists, and “ordinary” Christians to create disciples in whatever situation they find themselves in. Some of our graduates have used their PhDs to start NGOs, others have gone on to become governments. anti-corruption advisers to help build a better society.

The question is, what can we do to encourage our church leaders and preachers to increase their understanding of the Bible, and use it to inspire our churches to have real impact in our communities?

To learn more about Langham Scholars, visit: https://langham.org/what-we-do/langham-scholars/

Riad Kassis is International Director of the Langham Scholars Program at The Langham Partnership and former International Director of the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education (ICETE). Dr Kassis is also a Langham Scholar (PhD, Nottingham, 1997) and International Board Member of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) and was Associate Professor of Old Testament at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Beirut, Lebanon. Riad is originally from Lebanon where he lives with his wife, Izdihar.

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