The Gospel Coalition

 

Stories

Combating Worldwide Biblical Illiteracy

Global Pastor Profile Project: Honduras

By Mike Pettengill



La Ceiba, Honduras

 

Jesús is a typical pastor in La Ceiba, Honduras. In fact, his story is all too common in the Third World. He is 35-years-old and, like most Hondurans, he completed only six years of public education. He has no formal theological training, but has been pastor or co-pastor of various churches for ten years. 
 
In the cool Honduran mornings Jesús walks the community and visits with people in their homes to pray and share the gospel. In the evenings he preaches or leads small group studies for a new church plant, launched by the Presbyterian Church in Honduras.  
 
Each afternoon the pastor sells ice cream from a tricycle-cart he rides along the bumpy roads. As he pedals his umbrella-covered cart down the streets, its three bells alert children to the possibility of a sweet relief from the heat. The tinkling bells also inform the community that the Gospel is on its way. Each sale of ice cream comes with a free side-order of biblical truth—fresh preached. 
 
Jesús is dedicated to the Gospel and devoted to his community. But his lack of theological training is a handicap—an impediment to biblical clarity. It’s hard for him to address some challenging questions. 
 
The average Honduran makes only $4,000 a year, so theology books are an unaffordable luxury. Like most pastors in Honduras, Jesús does his job with only prayer and his Bible. Even if he could afford to purchase theology books, they are hard to find in Honduras. And most available ones are light on biblical truth.
 
Our Problem
 
Eighty-five percent of the world’s 2.2 million evangelical churches are led by pastors with little-to-no theological training or books. Our brothers in Christ around the world are crying out for resources. But their problem should be our problem. 
 
Christians are called to be globally-minded (Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 6:4). Every believer should be concerned about equipping the church with sound biblical teaching. The challenge of getting good theology to every preacher, missionary and evangelist should burden our churches.
 
Paul instructed the young church on the island of Crete, giving clear qualifications for church leaders. While core requirements revolved around character, Paul plainly wrote, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). 
 
Church leaders must be biblically literate. It is incumbent upon us in the West to utilize our vast resources to ensure that our Third World brothers have the means to grow the kingdom and glorify God. 
 
We might take for granted our bookstores, libraries, seminaries and DVDs, or how easily we can jump on the Internet to order the latest book from our favorite theologian. And while we could choose to attend conferences to receive world-class instruction, much of the world can’t access simple theology translated or published in their own language.
 
If we will provide pastors around the world with theological training and help stock their libraries, the communities they serve will experience revival. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said “The privilege of teaching and training ministers for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is priceless.”
 
Into a Pastor’s Hands
 

Pastor Jesús recently received a few Spanish language resources that have already proven to be a great blessing to his church and community. He proudly holds his MacArthur Study Bible at the pulpit and preaches directly from the notes at the bottom of each page. Charles Spurgeon’s daily devotional, At the Master's Feet, is in the hands of Jesús as he leads weekly small-group studies.
 
Jesús is one of countless other passionate servants of God who need the tools to combat biblical illiteracy in their churches. Think of the increased glory to be bestowed upon the God of the Nations if we will work to put language appropriate, Bible-centered resources into their hands.
 
The Gospel Coalition-International Outreach (TGC-IO) does precisely what is needed to relieve global theological famine. They get sound resources to the neediest servants of the Lord. 
 
This summer, our full-time missionaries will ask every church sending a short-term mission team to Honduras to bring a box of Spanish theology books provided by IO’s Packing Hope ministry. Pastor Jesús and dozens like him will be blessed. And we will be blessed—to see the joy in their faces. 
 
Mike Pettengill and his family left the U.S. in August 2007. He serves as a full-time missionary and leads a 12-person mission team in La Ceiba, Honduras.
 
UPDATE: Short-term team to Honduras has brought Spanish books to pastors there including Jesús.