Serving in the military comes with the potential of being deployed to the front lines of battle where you can expect to come face-to-face with the enemy. For this reason, the military invests billions of dollars every year into training, equipment and technology designed to adequately equip and prepare personnel for the task of executing military action whenever it becomes necessary. Military leaders recognize the need to prepare for when military force is necessary, not if it will be necessary. Equipping and training happens before engagement with the enemy, not after the first strike.
If this concept is a necessary part of military warfare, how much more should it also be applied to spiritual warfare. Paul was clear when he said “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” that spiritual warfare would be a part of gospel ministry (Eph 6:12). Much of his ministry could be summarized as equipping and preparing church leaders. Paul was not simply preparing them for the good times, but for the battlefield engagements of a war being unleashed against any who would seek after the righteousness of Christ and invoke a desire for God’s glory to be made manifest in the saints.
It was for this reason the institutions of seminaries were created. The purpose of seminary was never simply to serve as a jobs training program designed to teach people the mechanical movements of ministry. The rich theological history of the long-established seminaries was not on the basis of establishing an institution for students to learn the latest church growth strategy, church building program 101 or new visitor market conversion. They were intended to serve as a place where those being called into ministry would be drawn closer to God by being thoroughly equipped with a knowledge of His Word, so they could become spiritually discerning and “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). In the same way a military officer is equipped for being an expert in wielding a country’s military capability by attending a military institution, so also is the pastor, elder, teacher to be equipped as an expert in wielding the Word of God in spiritual battle (2 Tim 3:16; Eph 6:17).
Do we really believe the church is engaged in spiritual warfare and the leaders as those who equip the saints for ministry (Eph 4:11-12)? Do we see the necessity for pastors to be equipped for faithful ministry by faithful leaders who are faithful to God’s Word in preaching, teaching and their own spiritual discipline (2 Tim 2:2)? While I was flying over the cities of Iraq in the early parts of Operation Iraqi Freedom we could see the gunfire and hear the ground battles taking place over the radio. We were part of the war, but from our vantage point it was a rather subdued version. My brother had a different perspective since he was on the ground, imbedded with a special operations unit where the battle was face-to-face with the enemy. It was the same battlefield with two different perspectives.
The comfortable atmosphere of Christianity in Western culture can often give the appearance of a subdued battlefield. It is not any less real or important, but it is different. We are blessed with having nearly full access to a multitude of spiritually mature, theological discerning pastors, leaders, seminary professors and authors. The latest theological book can be ordered today and delivered tomorrow by Amazon. At the same time there are pastors worldwide, who at this moment are serving on the front lines, but have never been properly equipped to wield the Word of God. They are confronting the lies of the prosperity gospel, the fraud of so called faith healers and the often deadly impact of syncretism without having ever received any training or even having access to resources for their own self study. There are pastors who reach out to our ministry who do not even have access to a Bible.
When we equip pastors worldwide who have limited theological training and limited access to resources such as Bible commentaries or systematic theologies, we are not simply preparing them to be armchair theologians, but military captains on the front lines of battle. They are being equipped to faithfully protect the flock (1 Pt 1:5; Acts 20:28) and guard the good deposit entrusted to them (2 Tim 1:14).
Learn how we are equipping pastors worldwide at Discerning the Faith Ministries.