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Is missionary training necessary?

By Tshepang Basupi

Is missionary training necessary in 2021? Why should we bother investing in ministry training? One may think if you are a Christian and you have a calling from the Lord, then you are ready to step out and be a missionary. But is being a Christian and having a clear call from God sufficient?

To answer that question, imagine a soldier on the warfront who has never used a gun. He may be as much a danger to his fellow soldiers as to the enemy. Better still, imagine lying in a hospital bed and the doctor doing surgery on you has never attended medical school. Now that’s scary. If we would not send an untrained soldier to war or an untrained doctor to do surgery, then we should not allow any missionary to go to the mission field without training.

The Bible illustrates people who excelled in their ministries, and looking at their backgrounds, we can spot some significant training. There seems to be a relationship between training and effectiveness in ministry.

Before David killed Goliath, he killed a bear and a lion. Before Joseph rose to a place of overseeing Egypt, he oversaw Potiphar’s house and some prisoners. Before the apostles turned the “world upside down” (Acts 17:6), Jesus called them and appointed them Apostles that they might be with him (Mark 3:14-15). Those mostly unschooled, ordinary men were transformed by sitting at the feet of Christ and learning from Him (Acts 4:13).

From these examples, we see that the fruit and kind of ministry we will do will be greatly affected by the training we get. If we are well trained, we will most likely do well in the field.

Today over two billion believers live in the world – all because Christ invested in 12 ordinary men. Christ’s training was informal and relational. His relationship with them provided a stepping stone to train and equip them for a life of service to Him. Training is not always in the classroom.

The Apostle Paul was one of the most effective missionaries in his time. He claimed to have fully preached the gospel from Illyricum to Jerusalem (Rom. 15:19). This huge area included places such as Syria, Cyprus, Galatia, Cilicia, Pisidia, Phrygia, Mysia, Greece, Macedonia and many other cities. What made him successful? Acts 11:25-26 notes that Barnabas took Paul under his guidance and did ministry with him for a year in Antioch. Here we see a more senior leader taking time to guide a budding leader in ministry.

When Paul eventually went out as a missionary, he took along some younger disciples. After several trips with these protegés, he sent Titus to Crete to “finish what was left unfinished” (Tit. 1:5). He also sent Timothy to Ephesus to teach against wrong doctrine that had become prevalent (1Tim. 1:3). Paul’s confidence in sending these brothers signaled his confidence in the training he had given.

All this highlights the value of training before one is deployed to the place of ministry, and training revisited over time in ministry. When I decided to become a missionary over a decade ago, I underwent ministry training at a formal institution. It was hard and stretching. However, ten years later, I am grateful as it prepared me for a life of ministry. I can confidently say that with the hardships I have faced in my journey, I would have quit had not that training programme equipped me.

Is God calling you to be a missionary? A good place to start is getting the necessary training to ensure you are prepared for the task ahead.

In this issue, you will meet Andrew Abah who is so passionate about training that he founded a training school in Nigeria. You will be inspired by Robert and Carol Betts from Kenya, serving in South Sudan, who have woven in both formal training and hands-on training over time. We will also hear from Dr. Samuel Kunhiyop who has been educating and mentoring young men and women for the ministry for decades, and from Solomon Akalu who has helped to found missions ‘hub schools’ across Ethiopia. You will also learn to discern if a training programme is good quality.

Tshepang Basupi serves as the Southern Region Executive Director for Africa Inland Mission (AIM) International. He is married to Queen and they have two children. They are currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. He can be reached at tshepang.basupi@aimint.org.

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