On the second and third days of the three-day consultation, the Presidents and Academic Deans (PAD) were still hearing the strong admonition, "You are extremely dangerous people," ringing in their ears. More than two hundred and fifty PAD delegates representing theological schools from 53 nations were gathered in the Doxa Deo Church in Pretoria, South Africa, July 1-3, 1997, for the first such cooperative meeting in modern history. Their stated purpose, "to further the goal of, 'a church for every people and the gospel for ever person by the year 2000." The PAD consultation was one among ten that were simultaneously focusing on that theme.
Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo of Africa, in his second of three morning devotionals from the life of Joshua, exhorted the delegates to focus their vocation on the urgency of their leadership responsibility. But, often academics tend to get caught in the web of institutional traditions and politics rather than the spiritual development and disciplines required for training missionaries. When Joshua put God first, God honored him with trust and responsibility. When Joshua failed to seek God for the divine leadership strategy, his mission and all of Israel failed.
G. of India challenged the PAD delegates to be committed to change, to analyze and restructure our training of missionaries in order to produce more effective witnesses for Christ. G. said we are thankful for what the West has brought, but many educational institutions are not training missionaries to look carefully at the context into which they go. Missionaries often set up ministries or institutions that cannot be sustained by the nationals.
Several case studies in the form of testimonies representing a variety of training models were presented. This forced the delegates to stretch their minds to grapple with new training possibilities to include non-formal and informal training for missionaries. Preliminary results from some of these abbreviated training programs have been highly encouraging. Too often schools that follow the western model produce trainers (teachers) rather than practitioners. The graduates may know how to teach their courses, but they may not have experience or skills for doing evangelism or church planting in a cross-cultural context.
Most of the models and reports indicated that the missionaries who graduate from our more traditional schools generally have not developed the character, spiritual disciplines, or ministry skills to be effective under the pressures of long-term life and witness in a foreign culture.
Directly related to long-term endurance on the mission field, Dr. Bill Taylor, Director of the Missions Commission of World Evangelical Fellowship presented a challenging session on the problems that result from the separation and segmentation of the training process. The church, the training school, the sending agency, and the financial supporters have little contact with each other as they do their part in the development of a missionary candidate. Damaging gaps in training or wasteful overlaps often result.
Taylor also presented a startling new study that covered 14 sending countries on the "Attrition of Missionaries." Factors that contribute to the high dropout rate among young missionaries have less to do with their lack of knowledge and more to do with their lack of personal character and experience-based training. As a result, recently many large churches are starting their own training and sending programs. They do not trust the sending agencies any more. Yet, these churches are tending to repeat the same disastrous mistakes that specialized agencies corrected years ago. Therefore the churches, the schools and the sending agencies need to find ways to work together in partnerships rather than remain separated and less than appreciative of each other's unique role.
The Presidents and Academic Deans then had the opportunity to divide into small groups based on geographic regions to discuss ways to assist and partner in order to improve their part in the goals of the AD2000 and Beyond Movement. Each geographic region has its own unique set of problems and opportunities.
The PAD Consultation emerged from their three days of intense, but friendly, meetings with the following ten resolutions. This document is meant to be taken back to each of our institutions and to be circulated as widely as possible. It can be regarded as a series of guidelines to strengthen the whole process of missionary training. It alerts to concerns that should be addressed if we are to make significant progress toward the goal of "a church for every people and the gospel for every person by AD2000."
Looking to the future we call upon college Presidents and Academic Deans and commit ourselves to put the vision of "a church for every people and the gospel for every person" at the heart of ministry training. We resolve to explore together the new paradigm of partnership in theological education that training schools share their distinctives and resources to accomplish the goal of global evangelization. We shall continue to press the claims of the kingdom as we move towards the consummation of history and the coming of our Lord in the glory of God. HALLELUJAH, THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY REIGNS!
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