China (MNN) — The growth of the church in China is outpacing its resources. Not enough seminaries and Bible schools exist to help all Christian leaders who need training. And many country lay pastors could not afford it, even if there was enough room.
"Ask an individual pastor or lay pastor, ‘How many baptisms did you have last year in your church?' Usually the answer is anywhere from 200 to 500 new converts that they have baptized," says Erik Burklin, president of China Partner. Baptism is no small commitment in China, so the number of baptisms typically represents the number of genuine conversions.
China Partner is doing what they can to encourage this phenomenal growth. The ministry recently returned from a trip to Jiangxi Province during which they helped train over 100 lay pastors in ministry.
China Partner is working with churches all over the country to encourage similar lay pastor training programs.
These programs are invaluable for a growing church that often does not have the time or money to get formal training. Most pastors in China have other full-time jobs; ministry is mostly a volunteer commitment. As these pastors guide flocks of believers, however, they need proper training to do it well.
Burklin says when lay pastors attend the training centers in more established churches, the first focus is on the pastors' own lives. "We concentrate very strongly on personal devotional life," says Burklin. "This is the key to ministry success."
Burklin goes on to say, "We do not teach much on methodology (how to grow a church, for instance, or how to evangelize). We do very little of ‘how-to's.' We do much more of spiritual formation type training." This training teaches pastors about discipling, and it teaches them to lead based on the Biblical examples of leaders like Jesus, Moses and Paul.
"Once these lay pastors receive the training, they go back to their respective townships and villages and minister to the people that God has called them to," explains Burklin. Pastors return excited to preach the Gospel message and now more qualified to help people as they respond.
Many pastors are receiving training, and many more are still hoping to receive it. In the meantime, they need your prayers. Pray that the Lord would protect the pastors from the temptation of materialism (which Burklin noted is a particular concern in large cities like Beijing.) Pray that the Lord would continue building up these pastors for the great work He is doing in China, and that the harvest would continue to be plentiful.