Many would be surprised if they discovered their pastor had very little knowledge or understanding of the Bible, and didn’t even own a concordance or Bible dictionary—yet that is the situation in many parts of Asia—inspiring Pastoral Training of Asia to step into the gap.
“They don’t have the tools we take for granted,” says Jim Davis, founder and international director of Pastoral Training of Asia (PTA). Davis was a Calvary Chapel pastor in Mission Viejo, California for 13 years before he and his wife went overseas as missionaries in 1987. Four years later, recognizing a tremendous pastoral training need, he started PTA.
Pastoral Training of Asia has a special burden for the Karen people along the Myanmar-Thailand border. “Many of them are Anglican priests,” Davis says. “Many haven’t had much theology other than the catechism and their prayer book,” he says.
“They don’t have concordances, Bible dictionaries, commentaries, or computers with Bible software,” Davis says. “They’re already pastors, so they can’t drop everything and go to Bible school,” he says. “How could they leave their church?”
The answer is to take training materials to them, using the concept known as Theological Training by Extension. “We use the inductive method of Bible study and gear it to an Asian mind,” Davis says. “We show them how to teach through the Bible using the expository method, because the majority of pastors in Asia teach topically,” he says.
“It cuts down on heresy and gives them a strong sense of what’s right,” he adds. “They’re also able to combat heresies that come from the West.”
One pastor trained by Davis’s team in a restricted country in Asia was so excited he’s been teaching through the Book of Matthew for three years. “Remember, in this country they haven’t had any Bible schools open for years,” Davis says.
PTA also distributes training booklets for the inductive method of Bible study, evangelism and discipleship, and marriage and family life. “We teach them communication skills, budgeting, conflict resolution, and about sex, love and romance,” Davis says. “At the end of our marriage and family life training we have couples rededicating themselves to each other,” he says. “At a recent training the whole front row started weeping.”
“Pastors are under tremendous stress,” Davis says. “They’re under stress from their congregations, from the community, from the devil, and from their own weaknesses,” he says. “They’re getting beat up.”
“Asia has the largest population in the world and the smallest percentage of pastors, missionaries and Christian workers,” Davis says. “It’s heartbreaking.” Despite the overwhelming task before him, he maintains enormous gratitude for the inroads made by PTA.