Should Missionaries Send their Prized Pupils Overseas to Train?

In the country where I minister (South Africa), it is common to talk with young men that have crossed the ocean to train for ministry. I do not doubt their good intentions, nor am I incredulous about his pastor’s benevolent and optimistic hopes.

The thinking is generally along these lines. “Africa (or Asia or South America) is severely lacking in solid teaching. The church is a mile wide and an inch deep. Our context is filled with thousands of pastors that are untrained theologically. It’s going to take many years (and several degrees) from a Western seminary to train a native pastor so that he can take that knowledge back to his people. Sure, it may take 6-10 years of training but it will be worth it in the end.”

There is some validity to these arguments. If you give a native pastor the “best training” and he returns with that training, not only will that help his countrymen, but should it happen to enough men, it could eliminate the need for foreign missionaries.

But I’m skeptical, sometimes bordering on downright doubtful. Here are a few reasons why.

Three Reasons This is Rarely a Good Idea

First is the cost of training and maintaining the prospective pastor. I read recently that it costs nearly $60,000 to bring one pastor from Africa to the US to study for a year. With that same amount of money, one could train dozens of pastors in their own context. But it’s not only the cost of education that is an issue. Continue reading