I’ve talked to a number of mission committee members about the missionaries their church supports financially. Many committees are not happy. Why? Reason #2, some missionaries have inadequate training.
Many missionaries who are available to go and work cross-culturally also have little training. Just because a sending agency agrees to send them doesn’t mean a person is qualified. I’m not necessarily talking about seminary education, but when it comes to seminary, we have thrown the baby out with the bath water. What I mean is that while it is possible to have a seminary degree and not be a good missionary, that isn’t the same as saying that a seminary degree is unhelpful. A seminary degree is not essential, but theological understanding and education is.
Working cross-culturally causes missionaries to interpret and apply the Bible in a new context. This requires a deeper understanding and skill than it does in one’s native culture. The more training a missionary candidate can get in theology, hermeneutics, and anthropology the less likely that he’ll make errors in the new culture. In many contexts, the errors are spread throughout new churches.
Every missionary should have a solid understanding of the Bible and how to apply it in any context. One way to learn this is in seminary. There are other excellent ways to learn these lessons. There is no excuse for sending an untrained missionary.
What should we do?
If a missionary candidate has little formal training, encourage him to further his education. You may let him know that you will delay your funding until he has the training that he needs. If you are supporting someone who is already overseas and has little training, make it a condition for further support that he gets additional training when he is back on his next furlough.
Missionaries should not only be life-long learners, but also, at least at some level a teacher. They should have a solid understanding of the foundations of the faith and be able to articulate the lessons in a cross–cultural context.
Stewarding the financial resources is an important role in your church, avoid the error of funding missionaries with inadequate training in the job they want to do.
See summary article here.