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On solid ground
  • by Tim Swan
  • March 8, 2024

I was 21 when I first became convinced of the importance of good theological training. It was during my first foray into mission work, a short-term trip to remote churches in PNG.  

When I was there, I saw that almost everyone went to church, but the ministers were untrained, often barely literate, and weren’t able to teach people what it meant to live as a Christian. People would go to church on Sunday, then throughout the week they would fight with neighbouring tribes who had also been to their village church! 

I was struck by the impact of inadequate pastor training. Under God, the church rises or falls on the quality of training given to its ministers. 

A short-term mission trip to PNG was life-changing for Tim Swan.

My experience in PNG had a big impact on me. I decided on that trip to become a missionary. I trained at Moore College and in 2004, headed to Chile. At that time, Chilean churches were divided and ‘tossed here and there by every wind of teaching (Ephesians 4:14). Church leaders recognised the need for theological education, but couldnt afford to invest in it. When I arrived, there were just 19 Chilean Anglican ministers. In the 10 years I was in Chile, the Anglican church started a Bible training centre where I worked, and we saw 50 graduate into ministry. This training has continued. The Anglican Church in Chile is now theologically stable, united, and growing, with a shared gospel-shaped vision for the future. The change in less than 20 years has been remarkable! 

In many countries across the developing world, opportunities for sound theological education are scarce. Yet there are very, very few organisations that support the training of church leaders. This is why I am asking you today to give to support the training of church leaders. It is an excellent investment!  

Let me tell you about just one of the 25 countries where Anglican Aid is supporting this work. In Tanzania, the church is growing rapidly. Its church members are eagerly sharing the gospel and people are responding in faith! In just one diocese, Victoria Nyanza, 16 new churches were planted in the last 12 months. Yet 15 out of its 131 churches don’t have a trained pastor. The picture is similar in many of Tanzania’s other 28 dioceses, which is why Tanzanian bishops are asking us to support the training of 120 pastors and many other ministry workers this year. What an opportunity to help strengthen God’s church! 

In Tanzania, just like other parts of the world, we need trained priests and evangelists. We need people who know well what they believe so that they teach their people and be rooted in Jesus Christ. These days, there are many people – so called ‘prophets’ and ‘apostles’ – these people are very dangerous to the Church because they teach wrong doctrine. They mislead our people by preaching what we call the prosperity gospel. So we need people who are well trained to teach and guide our faith. 

Bishop Elias Chakupewa, Diocese of Tabora, Tanzania

The need for theological education in the world’s poorest countries is a concern that is close to my heart. I am convinced that when churches are established firmly in the truth of the gospel as they are built up by trained, godly pastors, the effects of this ripple out into the community and produce fruit that lasts into eternity. This is why it is so important to help these churches be established on solid ground.  

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