I am encouraged by the strong and steady growth of the body of Christ in some areas of the world.
Every day, on average, 69,000 new people will call themselves Christians, 30,000 people will receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, 165,000 Bibles will be distributed, 11 million portions of Scripture will be distributed, and 500 new worship centers will be built. Christianity is growing.
With the growth in the church comes a heightened need for trained pastors to serve, shepherd and instruct new believers. Jesus commanded us not merely to preach the gospel, but to make disciples.
Yet, currently, more than 90 percent of all pastors worldwide have no formal training. To fulfill the Lord's mandate in the lives of the 1 billion new Christians whom we will have to serve in the next 10 years, it is projected that we will need to train 5 million new pastors.
I believe in and support academic education for pastors. Here at New Life Church, we host the Rocky Mountain campus of The King's College and Seminary. Yet with the massive need for trained leaders to serve the coming generation of new believers, it is impossible for our academic institutions to prepare pastors at the rate of the current harvest.
The problem of training Christian leadership in adequate numbers becomes even more complex when you consider that the vast majority of the current and future growth within the body of Christ will occur in underdeveloped and unchurched countries--exactly where most of our Christian universities and seminaries are not. If we rely exclusively on our current institutions to train competent leaders for the coming harvest, we will fall hopelessly short.
One alternative for leadership training is an increased use of practitioners training practitioners. People who are successfully leading ministries need to teach people who will be serving others in the future. The best organization I know of that is doing this is Global Pastors Network (GPN).
Co-founded by Campus Crusade for Christ's late founder Bill Bright and James Davis, and currently chaired by John C. Maxwell, GPN uses live venues and Internet classes, utilizing the expertise and experiences of some of the most successful ministry practitioners to train huge numbers of future leaders.
Consider this: In the last two years alone, more than 10,000 pastors from all 50 states, every province of Canada and more than 50 countries have received training at a GPN pastors conference. Every week, pastors from 135 nations come to GPN for training.
The breadth and variety of material keeps growing too. In 2004, GPN is developing and deploying 100 additional pastoral-training classes; in 2005, it is sponsoring the first pastors' wives conference. Thousands will attend.
It is important to note that GPN is not the only training venue following a practitioner-based leadership-training model. Organizations of this type are springing up all across the body of Christ, and many of them are doing great work within a particular stream of the church.
The strength of GPN--and the reason I have served since its inception as a founding board member and trustee--is that it offers material taught by a broad variety of instructors from strong yet diverse streams within the body.
This is, in fact, our goal: to present a broad and deep array of pastoral-training courses from the world's most effective and respected practitioners that represents the diverse spectrum of ideas and expressions within the body of Christ.
Simply put, successful ministers have a wealth of knowledge and anointing that, when imparted to the growing numbers of workers, is advancing the Great Commission in unprecedented numbers in our lifetime.
Ted Haggard pastors New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is the author of many books and serves as the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.