India (MNN) — When most people think of Calcutta, India, they probably think of poverty or of Mother Teresa helping needy children. Conditions in the region truly are devastating.
Due to the extreme slum conditions of an impoverished Calcutta, many ministries in the region focus a great deal on humanitarian aid.
In the midst of that suffering, what place is there for a pastors' conference?
David Shibley with Global Advance says while physical needs are important, the need to train area pastors and church planters is significant.
"Without capable, godly, high-character men and women of God who are right there as nationals on the ground, any humanitarian outreach from the West is certainly going to be short lived," says Shibley. "Whatever humanitarian outreach you want to undertake, you're going to have to find credible, pastoral leaders on the ground–national men right there in the nation–to oversee those projects"
As if these needs were not enough, spiritual growth in India is booming. What had been for centuries a country with no more than 2-3% believers has slowly evolved to 8-10% Christian.
There are many pastors and church planters in India responding to the need, but only about 8% of pastors have formal training, Shibley says.
With a clear need on so many fronts for good pastoral training, Global Advance recently brought a Frontline Shepherds conference to Calcutta. The conference hosted over 400 church planters and pastors, willing and ready to learn how to best serve Christ in their nation.
The conference, which trained attendees on things like character development, leadership and discipleship, was received with tears of joy and motivation by many.
Shibley says, "One pastor came up to me with tears in his eyes saying, ‘This was the last stop on the train. If God didn't do something in my heart in this conference, I was going to quit the ministry.'"
Shibley continues, "Another one came up to me so stirred to reach more people to Christ and to win more people to faith in Him. And he said through his tears–just almost convulsively crying: ‘I've got to do more. I must do more to reach this nation for Christ."
These committed church leaders will undoubtedly go on to lead India's believers with strength and truth as the church continues to boom. Excitingly, those interested in leadership seem to be getting younger and younger (many at the conference were in their 20s and 30s), which means they will be able to reach a younger generation for Christ–not to mention they will be around to do ministry well for a while. Shibley met with several Bible college students who were eager to serve the Lord's church as well.
God is doing amazing things in Calcutta and many parts of the world through Frontline Shepherds conferences, and you can be a part of this. Find out more at globaladvance.org. The ministry is currently planning to take the conference to a secure location in the Middle East.