One More God?
by Meritt Lohr Sawyer
International Program Director, Scholars
The land of Mother Teresa. Hand-drawn rickshaws. Vivid multicolored saris. A sea full of humanity. I find myself in Kolkata (Calcutta) for a gathering of the Fellowship of Langham Scholars for South Asia. Today we have gathered to consider the impact of theological education on the church. Langham Scholar Dr. Paul Swarup reminds me that India places a high value on religious leaders and gurus. Unlike in the U.S., the religious leaders are highly esteemed and the role of religion is integral to the society. I find myself envious of a society which integrates a god into everyday moments. Isn’t this the goal of our faith in Jesus Christ? To see our faith, our theology played out in context. This is the reality in India!
But reality? 400 million poor people are looking to pastors for answers. What does theological education have to do with this reality? Why should we care about theological education when the rickshaw drivers are selling their blood to feed their children? When the kids are dependent on garbage heaps for “recycled food.” Why would we invest in theological education?
As Americans we must consider theological education and the training of indigenous leaders and pastors. Of course we would much rather invest in the quick-fix programs. We would prefer to see the child fed that day. I would – I would prefer to respond to the immediate need. And that can be a good thing. But this is not a lasting solution. It is only when our church leaders are trained on the authentic Word of God will there be a real answer for these people. These leaders will, in community, offer the solid solutions which will be the foundation for the church. And it is through the support of these leaders that we can provide long-term solutions, not quick fixes.
It may seem best to simply distribute food or money to those in need. But what the people of Kolkata really need is Jesus integrated into their lives. A pastor with training can reach people on the spiritual level and help them to see an otherwise meaningless existence as having eternal purpose in service to God.
India is a society which is open to spiritual leaders. Millions of people are calling for this leadership. Please pray that the leaders who will give that foundation to this society will be that of Jesus Christ.