It’s ironic that in parts of the world where churches are growing the fastest, there’s the greatest shortage of trained pastors. This problem is obvious in India, where many leaders of newly planted churches are often newcomers to the faith themselves. They’ve had little or no formal training in Bible, doctrine or leadership. Often they have no study materials other than a copy of the Bible. Even more challenging, these new pastors must support themselves and their families as farmers, carpenters or shopkeepers.
Making matters still more difficult, most of these new leaders are only marginally literate. David C Cook has already provided more 100,000 of them with basic libraries of Bible commentaries and other practical leadership books. Cook’s Program Director in Asia, Vijay Kumar, points out however that while the pastors usually can read, it is only at a slow, painstaking pace. When they struggle to sound out each sentence, its message may not capture their hearts. Yet these are the teachers who help people turn from idols to worship Christ.
Two new innovations are now in use to help such pastors. Both innovations leverage the widespread availability of mobile phones. Throughout the developing world, one the first purchases many people make is a cell phone. Usage costs are far lower than in Western countries. Another benefit is that almost all the phones in many countries like India use the same type of memory chips. This make is possible for us to supply new pastors with audio books of commentaries to play on their mobile devices.
Earlier this year, working with Trans World Radio, Cook completed a large set of recordings in the Hindi language. Tiny SD cards hold more than a dozen Warren Wiersbe Be Series Commentaries that last more than 65 hours. These easy-to-follow recordings equip leaders to serve churches filled with new believers. They communicate in the way many pastors understand best.
How do Indian leaders feel about it? Initially, we planned to give out a modest number of chips – 3,000 – to test their impact. We announced to a limited number church leader that the chips were available. Within days, we received over 12,000 requests!
The Wiersbe commentaries are favorites in India. During a gathering of several dozen leaders of church networks in New Delhi celebrating the launch of the audio commentaries, one leader told us how Warren Wiersbe has influenced him:
I read his Be Series books daily. He has a way of being deep, while at the same time not talking over your head. I use his books for every sermon I give.
Over the past 8 years, David C Cook gave away more than 1,380,000 copies of Wiersbe Bible commentaries in India, millions more in other countries. If we can raise adequate support, we will now expand availability of the audio commentaries both in India and other parts of the world.
At the same time, we are experimenting with an even more advanced tool. In recent weeks, we provided 100 busy church planters in northern India with the latest generation Android smart phones filled with, not only the Wiersbe audio commentaries, but also video training from one of India’s leading indigenous church planting networks. We want to know whether the smart phones, packed with video courses and special apps, can double the number of new pastors they can serve. The church-planting network is optimistic that it can soon replace time-consuming and costly training meetings that require travel with mobile phone conferences.
Technology, of course, can never replace God’s call on individual men and women or the Holy Spirit’s anointing but, used carefully, these tools can increase what these dedicated people are able to accomplish.