Can we use our theological students for world evangelism?
How can we use our theological graduates for the present days’ missionary movement? This is a question which each Christian and every church must answer properly in order to win the world for Christ. As we all know that India alone has 1.2 billion people, it is a huge task to reach all of the Indians and Asians with the Gospel of Christ. According to our human efforts, it is impossible to bring all the Indians and Asians to Christ but nothing is impossible with God. Amen. “Matt. 19:26; Mak.10:27; Lk.18:27, But Jesus beheld them and said unto them, “with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”
Our God is an omnipotent God. He could save the whole world without human involvement on the matter but He will not. He is not even going to use His heavenly hosts or the holy angels to preach the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ to the dying souls in Asia. He has not given the holy angels to preach the gospel to the whole world but He gave His Great Commission to mankind (Matt. 28:19 – 20). Since this great commission is given to men, it is obvious that He is going to use men who are truly born again Christians. It is to state that the genuinely regenerated child of God will be greatly used as an instrument to reach these dying souls in Asia. This statement is simple and well known to all of us. However, when it comes to reaching the world for Christ, we need to rethink and restructure our system of reaching the unreached world. It is a high time to restructure our system of theological education and promotions for the great harvest yet to take place.
According to my personal evaluation of the kind of theological educations that we are providing and that we are receiving in India, we seem to be more worried about the existing churches and the issues in Christian communities than the unreached dying souls. It looks to me that most of the subjects we have are dealing with the problems in churches and Christian lives, but very less thoughts and concerns has been given for the lost sinners and salvations in Christ. It is a high time for us to rethink the kind of educations we have and the need for the lost world today. I believe in the imminent return of Christ, but even if He delayed for the next 2000 years, there will always be problems in the churches. Therefore, our concern should first of all focus on the lost and dying souls. May I repeat this: “It is the high time for us to restructure our educations and system of world evangelism in order to reach the world with the true Gospel of Christ.”
I. Theological Education and the Graduates:
After I have visited more than twenty nine theological colleges and seminaries in India, I came to the point that India alone is producing an extra – ordinary number of theological students and world class theologians. The academic performances of the students in Bible Colleges and Seminaries are second to none. The classroom lectures are excellent. Above all, in one year there are not less than 4000 theological students who are passing out in all over India. In Matt.9:36 – 38 “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them … then saith he unto his disciples, the harvest truly is plenteous but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”
May I repeat what Jesus had said 2000 years back that His disciples should pray for the labourers, so that the Father in heaven will send forth labourers for the harvest: “for the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few”. I personally believe that this prayer request or matter to pray for more laborers which was requested by our Lord Jesus Christ has been already answered by our Heavenly Father. They are already available here in India. So far I have not heard and I’ve not read any articles mentioning that there were more theological graduates than at present. Neither there were more laborers available than at present. We need to realize that these laborers coming up in India must be used. What Jesus was talking about in Matt. 9:35 – 38? He was talking about the lack of man power to make the great harvest. We as a church and truly born again Christians need to use these man power which is available in India for the great harvest that will usher the second coming of Christ. If we don’t now, we will never!
There is a huge printing press in India which was donated by the First Bible International in several year back. This printing machine is also known as the largest printing press in Asia with the cost of at least 1 million dollars. Out of sincerity and simplicity, the primary purpose of that printing press was to print Bibles, Gospel tracts and Christian literatures related to the winning of dying souls in India and Asia. However, today that offset press is lying there as a liability property. A mere excellent theological education is not enough. Today this printing press is not in use and it is even getting rusted and decaying. One day we will surely hear that this particular machine is completely spoiled and in unusable condition. How sad it will be! Likewise, today if we do not use our theological graduates, tomorrow they will be of no use and they will become a useless man power. We are already seeing useless great theologians and seminaries graduates. My sincere appeal to all the churches is to use your theologically well trained graduates for the great harvest still awaited.
II. Theoretical Theological Education:
On top of high quality system of theological education in India and producing several thousands of theological well trained laborers, we are still yet to see the greatest harvest. We are still yet to see the increase of Christian percentages in India. Why the 2.2% or 4.2% still stagnant there for the last three to four decades? I see two reasons which caused problems in our efforts to reach the unreached in India and Asia.
i. Lack of Practical Educations
Theological Education though they are excellent in its academic performances, the students are not given practical educations in the Colleges and Seminaries. Many students are deprived their rights of practical educations while in Colleges & Seminaries. Most students whom I had opportunities of discussing on this issue of practical works or ministries in the Lord’s field, they all informed me that they are not motivated enough to practice what they learnt in their theoretical class rooms. Most of them are not given opportunities to exercise their faith and put into practices what they learnt from their professors. Most Bible Colleges and Seminaries seem to be not worried about the students’ practical life and ministries in future. Therefore, lot of them could not come to the final conclusions and convictions of their callings. Today most of the theological students in India are coming from the North Eastern regions of India (NEI). However, to my great surprise many of them are being exploited in the name of the theological educations. The 99.99% of the students from the NEI are given very less or even no practical ministries whatsoever while they are in colleges. In some colleges 100% of the NEI students are completely denied or not given the opportunities to practice what they learnt in theory classes.
There are many authorities of the colleges in India who says the following excuses such as: The students do not know the regional languages or the local languages of the people where they are studying. Therefore, when students are sent out, they encountered problems. The unbelievers around the Bible Colleges and areas around them are radical Hindus or Muslims. Due to such oppositions the students should not develop any relationships in order to avoid contingents and conflicts with the local people, so that the colleges will avoid getting into persecutions. I called this is a very pitiful excuses on the part of the college authorities. My comments on those statements are such as, that these colleges or the authorities are not even burdened for their own communities around their colleges. Those students who are victimized from such colleges cannot exercise their faith. They are afraid to face the problems and issues because they had never experienced during their college times or studies. No wonder we have thousands of young people who are theologically trained but seeking for easy jobs, or secular jobs, etc. No wonder we are still yet to see the growth of Christian percentage here in India. What can we expect from a MBBS doctor or a GNM/ANM nurses, if he or she had not done any practical works while in medical colleges or studying their nursing? Would you like to listen to a doctor who may be excellent in theory and zero in practical? Will you go to a doctor who doesn’t know how to prescribe a medicine? Will you go for a major operation on your body to a doctor who doesn’t know how to operate a patient practically? No, is the answer for all these questions. Practical work experience is a major field/ task for all the theological students. Certain years of related practical experiences with earned degree holders are preferred to fill in a vacant post. No Bible Colleges/Seminaries should take it for granted that they (students) will learn after they graduate but may I say this to all the concerned institutions that “which they do not or never put into practice while studying or training in colleges, they will never practice thereafter.” Therefore, as a result, there are hundreds and thousands of theological graduates in NEI who are engaged in all kinds of secular jobs and unable to preach the Gospel of Christ. Having studied theologies for several years but end up serving in high-tech companies such as call centers, restaurants, etc. is the outcome of lack of practical ministries while in Bible colleges. This is my simple thought and sincere encouragement for all the Bible Colleges and Seminaries in India that they should encourage the students to practice what they learn in theory classes. The Professors themselves should strongly influence their students to practical ministries. Mere going into churches and preaching during summer and winter vacations are not enough for a student to come to a strong conviction that will lead him to be a missionary or a soul winner. When a student is preparing for fulltime ministry after the college life, if the practical ministry or works are not done, such student is most likely to end up his life by hiring himself for a secular jobs as mentioned above for his livelihood and family supports. Live by faith is unknown and unreasonable to most of our theologically well trained graduates.
I grew up in a village where there are two rivers. I also remember going to these rivers on uncountable occasions for fishing. I was never satisfied after I caught just one fish. In fact, I would try to catch more fishes. Due to the joy of fishing, I used to forget to go home in the evenings. Though fishing is interesting, it is never an easy job but I will still go again. Sometimes we went for fishing in the nights. You do what you do is because of the joy of doing what you do. The conviction that conquers your heart to do what you do is because of your conviction through experiences. Rich experiences will lead one to confirm or recognize own callings. Great joy or great success never comes in an easy or short cut ways. We need to toil into waters to catch a fish. A rich experienced plays a vital role in any successful project. Similarly we must allow our theological students to practically enjoy in fishing the souls for Christ on daily or weekly basis. I’m grateful for my seminary authority whose programs on practical ministry had moulded me and shaped me with practical ministries while I was a student. Unfortunately, most of our students do not get a chance to experience practical ministries and therefore, they could not come to strong convictions that will take them extra miles for their ministry and personal walk with God. We also see that deficiency of exercising their faith to take a step ahead for world evangelism. As a result on the other hands, Satan is happy because of more and more people that are going to hell everyday due to the lack of practical programs in Bible Colleges and theological Seminaries. Please note that the practical experiences will play a vital role in the lives of our theological graduates.
What I am talking here is a case studied. Most of these students somehow heard the called from above for them to become the servants of God. Another unfortunate situation is that due to lack of this practical ministry during studies, many of these students lost their visions and burdens for the Lord and the world evangelism. The pathetic results of such students are that they do not see themselves as fit to serve the Lord and end up hiring themselves in the called centers in IT companies in the metropolitan cities in India, instead of mission centers or mission fields. Some students came to the point where they saw themselves as incapable of handling the great responsibilities of the Great Commission of the Great God. They felt unworthy to follow Christ. They could not materialize their callings due to lack of practical ministries/ experiences. They often conclude about themselves by saying that they do not know their callings. Would you like your graduates to serve God in mission fields or serve Satan in restaurants and call centers?
ii. Lack of vision by the Churches.
In India most of the missionaries and church planters are not supported by local churches. We need to change this mindset that a missionary should be supported by a mission organizations or agencies only. I would like to encourage churches to start supporting new missionaries. Churches should have a mission programs to recruit more missionaries and church planters.
My sincere suggestion to the existing churches is that they should start discipleship programs for the Bible College students so that the ongoing theological students will become their missionaries. No doubt there are many churches in the North East India that are supporting several church planters and sending many into cross-cultural mission field to work as Church Planters in North India, Nepal, Bhutan, and other Asian countries. On the other hands, there are hundreds and thousands of churches with beautiful buildings and so many workers in their respective churches but they could not support even a missionary with minimum supports. They have several programs and performances in their local churches but nothing is there for the dying world and great harvest fields still awaited.
In Rom. 10:13 – 15 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? …” According to Paul’s method, bringing a soul to Christ is by sending a preacher first. Today the world is growing very fast in every aspect. Theology or theological thinking is growing rapidly. Ideas and opinions are growing and changes are taking place in various forms according to circumstances and school of thoughts. However, Scripture never change. People try to change Scripture by way of reproducing various versions. Yet one thing we need to know is that the God whom we serve and worship is a God who has no pleasure on the dying souls. Deep in the heart of God remains a strong desire to see all men from everywhere to come back to him and be saved. He wants all men to come unto the knowledge of the truth (I Tim.2:4). Our Savior has no joy in our worship if we are not reaching our neighbors with the good news of salvation in Christ. Our praises and worships are futile if we aren’t exercising in reaching our world. The church and mission are two wheels of a bike/ bi-cycle. They both must roll together less they fall. When we start to talk about sending a missionary one will first tend to see is the financial support. Hudson Taylor said that “God’s work must be done in God’s way and will not lack His (God’s) supply”. We must encourage all of our church members to involve in whatsoever capacity to make the vision a reality.
Many Pastors are unable to preach a subject on Missions and soul winning, because they themselves are not mission minded. There are Pastors in our churches who have not experienced the joy of leading a soul to Christ. Therefore, they could not comprehend the importance of sending a missionary to the unreached and dying souls. There are also some who have been pastoring in churches and they have never been a born again Christian. Such pastors will preach on social gospels but the gospel for salvation is always missed out. The simple fact is that you can’t give what you do not have.
Excuses and Reasons for less or no practical ministries in colleges and less or no discipleship by local Pastors:
1. May I repeat this thought once again as I emphasize the matter here. Some colleges’ Presidents and Lecturers or Professors in India says that the students especially from the North Eastern part of India are unable to speak languages of the local area and therefore, they are not sent out for practical ministries. If that is the case, why not teach them the local language? The students are required to learn Greeks and Hebrews which 99% of the students will never use them in their entire ministries or life. However, if the Bible colleges will make a mandatory for all the students to win one soul in one academic year, there will be hundreds and thousands of new believers in and around the Bible colleges.
2. Another reason is that in numerous occasions when the local areas are being reached out by the students, they encountered with fanatic Hindus or Muslims who in return try to cause troubles and agitations/ filed cases against the Bible Colleges or Seminaries. Therefore, in order to avoid the further problems, the students are not sent for practical evangelism or ministries in the local areas. Gospel is always offensive to those who are in darkness. When Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” It is already offended to those around us who are holding their pluralism theory. Therefore, encountering with the oppositions should not be our lame excuses.
3. A very pathetic situation for not using the students in practical ministry near or local area of the college is due to lack of practical work experiences by the professors and college authorities. Most of these professors are not experience in the joy of leading someone to Christ. Why this is taking place in our country where there are more than a billion of dying souls? It is due to wrong selection and appointment for the right profession. Many of these teachers are being picked up from fresh graduates who are excellent in theological studies/academic excellent but practically nil. Therefore, they cannot strongly influence their students for practical works to start winning souls for Christ. They cannot teach what they do not know or experience.
4. Many Pastors are so busy that they do not have time to disciple their theological students, therefore most of them are not interested in Mission works and souls winning. Most of the theological students are not given carrier counseling.
5. Many Pastors are unable to direct the theological students to win souls since they themselves are not soul winners.
In October 2010, I met Dr. Jaya Kumar the President of IIM in a Church Planters’ training in Mirik, Darjeeling. I asked him why do we have so many theological colleges and graduates, yet we have very few missionaries? He told me that one day he asked to a group of professors in one of the well-known Bible Colleges in India about leading a soul to Christ. To his great surprise, none of those 10 – 15 professors had experience of leading a soul to Christ. What a sad and pathetic condition! No wonder that we have hundreds and thousands of theological students who are without passions for the dying souls! This is unfortunate that many professors are not soul winners. As a result we have many graduates who are not passionate for the lost souls. Recently, I spoke to a group of theological students about soul winning. 7 out of 10 were not even saved. They do not have the eternal security, why? They were not taught and they were never influenced in that direction of the importance of souls and for the eternal destinations. I asked another question: How many of you had led someone to Christ? There were only two out of 10 who raised their hands to tell me that they had led someone to Christ. What happened to the other eight students? Either they did not know Christ or they are not influenced to lead someone to Christ. Though winning a soul is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring the lost souls to Christ, we as the people of God should play a vital role in this great task of harvest.
Primary concern of the churches and the theological colleges and seminaries is evangelism. There are many colleges today that don’t have even a course on evangelism. Isn’t that a sad condition? Most of the Bible Colleges and Seminaries courses are to meet the need of the existing churches and nothing for the dying world. No wonder the 98% of Indians are still orphaned.
In conclusion, I want you to note that even if we know the whole knowledge of the world and heaven, yet if you haven’t led a soul to Christ, you have no gain. After one earns all the knowledge of the Bible and philosophies of the religions in the world, if you are not a soul winner, what is your gain? What will be your rewards in heaven? Will you receive a crown for winning souls for Christ? All other things are important but the most important thing we need to know is winning souls for Christ. A soul is more worth than the whole world Matt.16:26 “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his souls?” In other words, the whole world is not worth enough to exchange with a soul. Therefore, Christ had a great concern for the lost souls.
Matt.18:11 – 14, “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and again goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” This scripture portion reminds us the important of a soul.
I strongly believe that the coming of Christ with His rewards is very near. Pro.11:30 “He that winneth souls is wise.” If you are a soul winner, you are a wise person. Your excellence in theological education will not qualify you to be a wise person in the sight of God if you are not a soul winner. Jesus is coming soon. His coming is imminent! Any time now!! He is coming with his rewards on his hands. It could be today, my friends. May I ask you this, what will be your rewards today? All your good works and knowledge you gained in this world will be left behind here. However, the souls that you won for Christ will go with you for eternity. Therefore, let us work for eternity. Please take a careful note to the things that which will remain for eternity and for which you will be rewarded with crowns of righteousness.
I would like to make a wake-up call to all the Bible Colleges, Churches and to all the theological students in India. “It is now or never”. Let us do the work of an evangelist (2Tim.4:2 – 5. Let us preach the word of God, the Gospel of Christ in season and out of seasons. Let us study the word to give a full proof of what we believe (2Tim. 2:15). So that we shall be looking forward to the second coming of Christ with rewards and crowns from above for the souls that we have won to Christ. Will you begin to defend your faith from today? Or will you go to Him with your empty hands when He’ll calls you home? May our blessed God bless you all to bring many souls to Christ. Yes, we can use our theologically well trained graduate students for the world evangelism. Yes we can! Amen & Amen.
(Rev. Athem Khiang Chothe )