International (MNN) – Globally, as many as 85 percent of evangelical churches are led by pastors with no formal biblical training.
“We don’t really see it so much in the U.S. because most of our pastors have the training, but it’s not the reality, especially in places that World Mission works, which is inside the 10/40 window, which is populated by unreached people groups of the world,” World Mission’s Greg Kelley says.
According to the Joshua Project, 5,937 people groups, or 3.04 billion people, in the 10/40 window remain unreached by the Gospel.
But, World Mission is seeking to change these statistics. They want the Gospel to be shared with the unreached and to take firm rooting in people’s lives all over the world. To do that, they’re providing biblical leadership training to pastors and church leaders in about 30 countries in the 10/40 window areas so that they can plant churches.
Biblical Leadership Training
“We empower nationals to go through trainings so we can reach these tribes that haven’t heard the Gospel,” Kelley says.
“There’s strategic places in the world that World Mission is investing resources so that these national leaders can get training so that they can go accomplish what Jesus told them, which is go make disciples.”
Recently, World Mission completed trainings with three dozen pastors in India, a training in Nigeria, and a training in northern Kenya where 81 leaders have now been trained to plant churches.
Kelley shares trainings are different time lengths in different nations.
For example, in Nigeria, there are two-week courses once every quarter. In Kenya, the course is one month long. And, in India, they include one week courses at a time.
“It all kind of depends on the availability of the people and trying to work it into their life.”
Kelley says at the most recently completed training in Kenya, the 81 Church planters came from five unreached tribes. Some walked as far as ten miles to be a part of the courses.
The trainings are run by national leaders who’ve helped plant churches and are excited to train others to do the same. They teach them how to interact with villagers, learn to be self-sustaining missionaries, and how to farm for an income.
“They’re training these people what a life utterly surrendered and dependent on Jesus looks like. And these people come into it – they have very little, but they are passionate about the Gospel and so, we equip them with resources like the Treasures and like the Jesus Film,” Kelley explains.
Once believers finish their trainings, they are challenged to go to different unreached areas and plant two new churches within a six-month period.
They start by establishing listening groups with World Missions’ solar-powered audio Bible, the Treasure. However, many times, leaders begin a humanitarian project to open villagers’ hearts to listen to the Gospel, such as a water or disaster relief project.
“It unbelievably elevates their position and it gives them favor and all of a sudden, an audience that really didn’t have an interest in them, takes great appreciation in the fact that they’re caring for their physical needs,” Kelley shares.
Leaders will then share Treasures with the people. Often, they will end up sharing the Gospel with more than one thousand unreached people in one year.
“Our strategy is to reach oral learners and unreached people groups,” Kelley says. “So, all of the trainings that we’re investing in, the people that are going through these trainings, are being sent out into unreached people groups – that’s places that have never heard of Jesus – with these tools because they can’t be with them all the time.”
Kelley says listening groups have sat up to seven hours listening to the Word of God.
Church leaders’ ultimate goal is to form a Church from the listening groups.
World Mission has seen many come to Christ this way, but it’s not always so easy for Church planters.
The Struggles Behind Church Planting
“These people are sacrificing a tremendous amount. But they don’t really look at it that way. They look at it as a tremendous privilege to serve Jesus in this way as they’re taking the Gospel to places that it’s never been before.”
In many of these unreached areas, violence, conflict, and persecution are extreme, and missionaries are willingly risking their lives to share the Gospel, sometimes even with their persecutors.
“We work in northern Nigeria, in areas that are just literally occupied and territories filled with Boko Haram radicals, but those are places that are incredibly strategic and important for the Church to prioritize because they’re really blocked off from a Christian presence. We do training in the Hausa language among northern Nigerians and there’s another people group up there called the Fulani that are also really largely influenced by Boko Haram.”
Kelley shares that a passionate church leader trained by World Mission went into that area several months ago to share the Gospel. However, he has since gone missing and is believed to have been killed.
“He’s got a wife and four children, and we’ve just been praying for the last couple of months for them to find him, but they’ve searched all over,” Kelley says.
“But the crazy thing is that this missionary, they serve willingly in realizing that they’re putting their lives in danger because they’re so passionate about these very people that are persecuting them and having the opportunity to share Jesus.”
There remain five million pastors in the 10/40 window that still have no access to biblical training. Pray the Lord will provide training to them and help support biblical leadership training through World Mission so believers can plant Churches.
“As the body of Christ, we need to recognize this need. Jesus didn’t call us to go and make converts. Jesus called us to go and make disciples of all nations.”