Editor's note: The author wishes to credit two sources for his comments: Mark Harris, "Pitfalls of Student Selection in Leadership Training in Russia," Mission Frontiers (March/April 2003), 12-13; and Ralph D. Winter, "What's Wrong with 4,000 Pastoral Training Schools Worldwide," Mission Frontiers (March/April 2003).
1. In the selection of theological students, new converts should not be admitted. They do not have maturity. They need milk, not meat.
2. Due to changes in society, there are fewer and fewer quality applicants. They have no experience in ministry or experience of life or families. We train people academically who cannot use their education practically in life.
3. Students are not qualified spiritually. We need those who fear God and have a strong commitment.
4. Students come without a call from God. They do not want to be missionaries. They come for answers. They stay as students for years and years.
5. Students are not sent by churches. After graduation, churches will not accept them due to changes in their theology.
6. The level in seminary is professional and academic. Students watch professors and presidents and these [not preachers] are their models.
7. Students come for diplomas, especially if the seminary is accredited. They want the name recognition. The goal is a diploma, not education.
8. Some students have the goal of a good career with a Western mission or to obtain a good scholarship in the West. Many graduates have no place to serve and many will not serve where they are needed.
Why do the qualified not apply? Most ministers are working full time and cannot study in seminary because of pastoral and family responsibilities. Still, there are good students, but others do not have hearts that burn for Christ. We need to use the principle of maturation. Will the immature influence the mature or vice versa? Seminary graduates are not trusted by senior pastors when they return. Pastors do not want talented people to leave for seminary because they do not want them to leave the church.
1. Each student should have a mentor and should be assigned to a specific church for an internship while in school.
2. We should use the Internet so people who cannot move to a seminary location can study in remote places.
Nikolai Kornilov (Moscow Theological Seminary of Evangelical Christians-Baptists) : Some go to seminary to get answers to questions they have in the church.
Peter Mitskevich (Vice-President, Russian Evangelical Christian-Baptist Union) : The task of seminary education is to change the whole person.
Kornilov : We need to shape the personality as well as to educate.
Counter opinion : This [approach] would be the same as the Soviet Union.
Another comment : Graduates are wandering around without church assignments and they end up in Western missions.
Anatoly Prokopchuk (Kyiv Evangelical Christian-Baptist Seminary) : The exclusively academic approach is the greatest danger. We need the application of education, not academic education only.
Mitskevich : Our seminary academic standards need to fit our circumstances.
Alexander Karnaukh (Odessa Baptist Theological Seminary) : Seminary professors need to be involved in teaching in churches. Then candidates will be more prepared for seminary. The number of schools is increasing, but the number of students is decreasing. This relates to the quality of students and increases the desire for students from other countries.
David Hoehner (Donetsk Christian University, Ukraine) : Now there are five or six schools in Donetsk alone. We need to discuss the issue of the number of schools. We should depend not only on Western donations, but also on national support. Students shop around for the best scholarships. We need to find ways to be independent of Western funds.
Igor Kobyakovsky (Kyiv Christian University): Students need to pay more for their education.
Another brother : Most students are new believers. Why don't we have more students from believers' families? Christians do not want their children to be pastors.
Another brother : Maybe we need to work with these young students up to 20 and change our education to meet their needs. Then many will be Christians in society if not in the pulpit. We need new programs and new approaches. We need to change our attitudes.
Mitskevich : We should work with everybody. We also need to help the older pastors who have had no chance for seminary. We need to reorganize our seminaries using extension centers and/or the Internet and/or teaching in churches.
Rudolfo Giroi (Euro-Asian Theological Seminary of the Church of God Cleveland, Moscow) : I suggest that students return to their churches in the middle of the program.
Another brother : Some pastors send students to seminary to get rid of them. Seminaries and churches have to work together. We don't want to have seminaries and churches going in different directions and criticizing each other (as in the West).
A sister from Christian Leadership Development, Kyiv : Does the seminary exist for the church or the church for the seminary?
Asatur Nagapetyan (Armenia Baptist Theological Seminary) : Seminary should be in the church and then it will not be purely academic.
Ivanas Shkulis (Lithuanian Pentecostal Institute) : One problem is that we have no Sunday school for adults.
Another brother : Pastors just do not trust seminary graduates.
Another brother : Churches need to support students in seminary. If the church invests in a student, then it will want the student back.
A Tashkent brother : We need to have a sympathetic attitude towards our institutions. Many Christians from Central Asia have emigrated to America. Now we work with a new, younger generation. No school graduates generals. Our graduates can obtain greater leadership with experience after graduation.
Alexander Abramov (Odessa Baptist Theological Seminary) : Our churches are closed culturally and we have a danger that our students will be too Westernized.
Peter Mitskevich is vice-president of the Russian Evangelical Christian-Baptist Union. His presentation was made at the Euro-Asian Accrediting Associate Conference, Kiilov, Ukraine, 15 October 2003. The discussion section is based on notes taken at the meeting by the editor.
Written permission is required for reprinting or electronic distribution of any portion of the East-West Church & Ministry Report.
© 2004 East-West Church and Ministry Report