And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.- Acts 14:23
Right from the time Jesus gave the great commission, planting of viable Churches have always been the hope of the sustenance of any meaningful Missions foray into any area. The fruit of Missions work are sustained by the Church while the Church became the seed bed where fresh Missions outreaches were launched.
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Jesus commissioned the Apostles and as the church grew, the Church in Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas for Missions and as they got fruit from their labours ,churches were organized and leaders appointed.
From the foregoing, it is clear that Missions, Church and Pastoral ministry have always been an interwoven kingdom expression to fulfil the great Commission.
In this paper, efforts are being made to look at the relationship between Missions and Pastoral Ministry and by extension Pastoral training in the Nigerian context examining the issues involved and the challenges.
Missions and the development of the Church in Nigeria:
The first contact of Christianity in Nigeria was in the 15th century through the Augustinian and Capuchin monks from Portugal. Their major interest of engagement then was trade and economy as such there was no meaningful Gospel engagement and acceptance. However, In September 1842, Rev. Birch Freeman of the Methodist Church of England arrived the shores of Nigeria at Badagry and preached the first Gospel message on Nigerian soil, ever since then, the gospel has spread from the coastal region into the hinterland. Soon after that, other missionaries arrived the shores of Nigeria to complement their effort.Notable among them were the Baptist Missions, the Anglican Missions (CMS) and the brave young men of the Sudan Interior Missions who had a vision to take the Gospel into the dangerous hinterland of the Sudan.
From that small beginning, the Church in Nigeria has grown in leaps and bounds.Today, it is on record that Nigeria has the highest Christian population in Africa with an estimated population of 80 million Christians and about 40 million of them being Evangelicals.The World Christian Encyclopedia (Johnson and Zurlo 2020).
Missions advance and Church growth and development:
God blessed the different Missions and with time came an increasing number of converts and followers which led to the establishment of Churches and congregations. The growth of the Church raised the need for Pastoral trainings for indigenous believers who will provide leadership in the local congregations. It is worthy of note here that the need for Pastoral training was a direct implication of concerted Missionary efforts that has borne fruits. Therefore, it can be deduced that there is a direct relationship between Missions efforts and need for Pastors among the fruits that came out of the efforts. As we saw during the Apostolic era so it was in the development of the Church in Nigeria.
The beginning of Pastoral training in Nigeria
What started as a “Preachers’ Training Class” in Ogbomoso, Nigeria for Baptist Mission Station workers on May 3, 1898 soon became the first theological Seminary in Nigeria now known as Nigeria Baptist Theological Seminary,Ogbomoso. Others soon follow as the work of the different Missions grew and the need for indigenous Pastoral training for leaders arose for their growing congregations. It should be noted that these Churches and the Seminaries grew out of the pioneering Missionary work of European and Americans. Today we have several Seminaries across the length and breath of Nigeria, notable among them are Anglican Seminary at Abeokuta, ECWA Theological Seminaries at Igbaja,Jos and other places, UMCA Seminary at Ilorin, TCNN in Jos, mainline denominational Seminaries started as a result of Missionary efforts among others.
We cannot talk about Church growth in Nigeria without the mention of the contribution of the Pentecostal Churches in Nigeria. According to Lindhart and Martin (2014-12-01) in their paper ” Pentecostalism in Africa: presence and impact of pneumatic Christianity in postcolonial societies” , they wrote that “Pentecostalism began in Nigeria during the early twentieth century as a renewal movement to the prominent mission churches in Africa. At first, the growth of Pentecostalism was due to the efforts to break free from Western missionary control. This resulted in the popularity of many AICs (African-initiated churches), which focused on prophecy and healing. The second wave of Pentecostalism arose as a result of the Nigerian Civil War among students and young people who belonged to Pentecostal churches, mainline churches, and the Scripture Union”. Also as part of efforts to respond to the challenge of growing membership, there was need to establish Bible schools to train Pastors with Pentecostal/ Charismatic Theology. Notable among the Bible Schools are All Nations for Christ Bible Institute of Church of God Missions, Word Of Faith Bible Institute of Living Faith Church, Redeemed Bible college among others.
It is worthy of note also to mention that the Missionaries that came with the Gospel to Nigeria are products of the church in their homeland who were groomed and sent by the Church. It is clear that the task of Missions advance and church Ministry are interwoven and cannot be separated from each other and very vital in this relationship are well trained Pastors.
After setting the relationship between Missions and Pastoral training in perspective, it is proper we examine the issues these have raised for us as Nigerian Christians of the 21st century that desire to carry on with the baton handed to us by our forebears.
- Importance and Centrality of Pastors and Pastoral training in the Church life: The vitality and viability of the Church as a whole is predicated on the health, competence and capacity of the Pastor. If the Nigerian Church will be healthy, we must have well trained and healthy Pastors on our pulpilts. As a Nigerian Church leader did say,”There is no dead Church but dead pulpits!”.
- Church growth means more pastors as such more training institutions but there must be quality control . The explosion in membership in the Church has thrown up the need to commission more Pastors to take care of the growing number of congregations. This also goes with the challenge of availability of equipped training schools, competent trainers for the Pastors and the issue of quality control for the training schools. Unfortunately today, there is a degree awarding seminary in almost every street corner in Nigeria! Everybody and anybody opens theological schools and Bible colleges today without accreditation.
- Gospel advance to the unreached in the North is predicated on a sound Pastoral training: The local Church Pastors are vital to Missions resource development both human ,material and financial. A well trained local Church Pastor is the best catalyst for Missions advance on the frontline. The strength of a Church is not in her sitting capacity but in her sending capacity. Today we have about 50 Unreached People Groups in Nigeria in dire need of the Gospel, missionaries are needed from the Church to reach them. Also, the Missionaries working among some of these unreached People Groups need to be supported. The advance of this missions efforts are predicated on the effectiveness of the local Church Pastors.
- The need for training of indigenous leaders(Second generation leaders): This is more relevant among Missions Churches in the North and rural areas. As missionaries plant churches in the north/rural communities, indigenous leaders emerge who in turn are charged with leading their congregations. In most cases, the best training they had was basic discipleship training and perhaps on-the-job training as they observe the Missionaries. There is need for effective training for these leaders too to strengthen the Missions advance of the Church.
- The need to give transferable and practical training to Pastors: Most Pastoral training have the trainees housed in the seminary,stuffed with a lot of information and when they leave the seminary there is a total disconnect between what they learnt and the reality of ministry in the local Church . Pastoral training should be practical and relevant to the needs of their congregant and the needs of the world at large. ( Curriculum should be developed to be need based and not as was dictated by Church dogma, western Curriculum imposition etc. )
- The need for wholistic and relevant training: Interacting with some Church Pastors ,it was discovered that training was heavily bent towards their church and denominational doctrine. However, a training package that empowers the head,heart and hand of the Pastors (Know, be ,do approach) would be very helpful for their task and calling. Pastoral training should also equip Pastors to minister in a Post modern world of relativism and in a Post- COVID world riddled with economic challenges, climate change and insecurity.
- The need for a movement focused Pastoral training: Pastoral training should engender Kingdom movement. The training should equip Pastors to groom members for outreach and frontline ministry while also building a strong congregation base.
- The need for training for bivocational Pastors: Churches have come up with creative ideas to respond to the need for Pastors by ordaining Pastors involved in other vocations. These bivocational Pastors combine Pastoral services with their daily job. While in some cases it reliefs the Church of the burden of remuneration for the Pastors, it has also raised the issue of a growing number of local congregations with untrained Pastors. The financial advantage of that is paid for by a congregation Pastored by an untrained clergy.
- The need for retraining for trained Pastors: Even as we focus on the importance of training untrained Pastors for effective Missions advance, there is also the critical need to pay attention to trained Pastors for retraining and refreshing. The dynamics and reality of the 21st century Church calls for a well rounded Pastor continuously evolving to respond to the challenges the members are facing.
- The need to incorporate missional content into Pastoral training: Since the local Church is the nursery where global Missions visions are nurtured, there is need to incorporate missional content in the curriculum of Pastoral training. This will help local church Pastors be equipped for their strategic role as catalyst for world Missions.
- Funding for quality training: In as much as effective Pastoral training is very important, a major challenge in getting quality Pastoral training is the cost of such trainings in credible Theological schools in Nigeria. Except those that are sponsored by their local churches, very few with Pastoral calling can afford the cost of training.
- Some Pastors do not see the need for a formal training: There is a believe in some quarters that there is no need for a formal training if you can read and study the Bible by yourself to understand enough to teach others. Some others also believe that the grooming they have in their Church or in their campus fellowship while in school is just enough to Pastor a Church. This is a dangerous trend and it is not healthy for the kingdom.
- The challenge of having resources and materials in indigenous languages: Most training resources are in English and as such non-literate and oral learners have been disenfranchised from receiving training.However, in some cases,some of the training materials are now being translated to indigenous languages. In spite of this, there is still a large gap in the need for Pastoral Training materials in several indigenous languages.
- The challenge for oral learners: This is similar to the point above but for the fact that there is need to develop oral resources especially for rural Pastors who could not read or write.
5.The challenge of wholistic curiculum development : It takes a well rounded Pastor to raised a healthy congregation. As has been mentioned earlier Pastoral training curriculum should be such that target the Head, the Heart and hands of the Pastors. ( Know, be,do approach to training)
- The challenge of contextualization: Most Pastoral training resources were developed in the west and with western audience in mind. There is an urgent need to develop more culturally relevant curriculum and materials that will speak to the training needs of local Pastors.
Unlike the dichotomy and parallel relationship between the Missions Movement and the Church in Nigeria, the Gospel was set up to have a robust and complementary relationship between the Missions movement and the Church. This was clearly demonstrated in the Bible by the early Church. The hope of the Nigerian Church in playing her role in God’s global agenda lies in the robust,wholistic and effective training and equipping of local Church Pastors.
(This paper was presented at the Re-forma Global Quality Assurance Institute,Lagos Nigeria.)
About the presenter
Pastor Adegbite Olanihun is a follower of Jesus Christ with over 2 decades in Missionary service. He is the Executive Director of Omega Centre for World Missions, an apostolic Centre committed to catalyzing the Church and Missions community until there is a worshipping community among all the tribes and people of the world. He has been involved in Missions mobilization, research, teaching/Training, Disciple Making and Missions administration after working on a cross cultural Missions field . He is a Network Catalyst and Missions Consultant. He is passionate about the followers of Jesus Christ living their lives daily in obedience to the word of God and to see nations of the world reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ until Christ is worshipped by the nations. He served as the Director of Finance and Administration of Nigeria Evangelical Missions Association (NEMA), the Nigeria Missions network body with over 15000 Missionaries in 196 countries . He is married with children. He can be reached at +2348068120447. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.omegamissions.org.