Guidelines for World EvangelismGeorge Gurganus, editor
Previous SectionNext SectionContents | Foreword | Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | Personalia



Mission work is a multi-faceted effort aimed at accomplishing the purposes of God, The methods employed in this global task have varied in each era since the Master issued His impelling order to "make disciples among all nations."

Perhaps one of the most important innovations1 in mission during this century is Leadership Training by Extension.2 The idea of training converts is not new. The Lord said "to teach them whatsoever He had commanded." But the extension concept is a dynamic breakthrough in world evangelism. Indeed, it is one of the fastest growing educational movements in history.

In order to grasp the significance of this phenomenon, it is necessary to compare some of the problems in traditional training programs with the basic philosophy behind extension work. This will not only reveal the factors which generated the idea but also give a rationale for its use around the world.


Christian colleges and preacher training schools are relatively new. They do not have exclusive claim to being the "scriptural" method of training. Therefore, they must not be uncritically exported abroad. Instead, methods of training that truly meet the needs of the local churches should be developed in each country.

The FORM of training must always be relevant to the culture of the people, while the FUNCTION of the leader must always be rooted in the will of God. Many missionaries have confused the two ideas. They have acted as if there was only one form and one function. This is unfortunate. There should be many forms of training in order to develop a biblically functional leadership in each of the various cultures of the world.

For example, there were no formal theological schools in New Testament times. The disciples of Jesus were trained "under the palm tree." Likewise, the apostle Paul used an apprenticeship method. His travel companions were trained "on the job." This is the form of training the early Church needed. For, as Kenneth Scott Latourette points out, sole dependence on formally trained leaders would not have enabled the ancient Church to expand so rapidly.3

In Alexandria, Egypt, about 230 A.D., a man named Origen formed an advanced theological school (from what had previously been an informal adult Bible study). The Church was being attacked by pagan philosophers. She needed a capable leadership to defend the faith. This new form of training grew out of the need of the local situation.

By the beginning Of the sixth century, the invading Goths, Vandals, Franks, Visigoths, and Lombards had virtually destroyed the Roman Empire. If the Christian faith was now to survive among these pagans, training had to be done. The form adequate to serve this function was the monastery. A curriculum of reading, writing, and Bible memorizing preserved Christianity during the "Dark Ages."

Later, during the Protestant Reformation, the Bible was "rediscovered" by the common people. Suddenly individuals everywhere wanted to understand the word of God. Trained leaders were desperately needed. And, consequently, the academy established by John Calvin emphasized the exposition of scripture. Form was again closely related to function.

Seventeenth century England had hundreds of neighborhood grammar schools. These schools trained young men for the Church of England. Religion was the core of the curriculum. In 1644 all ministerial candidates were required to read Greek and Hebrew. Was this an arbitrary decision? No! The form of training was determined by the function for which the trainee was being prepared. The Anglicans were under attack by Roman Catholic scholars who were well-versed in the biblical languages.

The American colonies (during the first half of Me eighteenth century) customarily sent young men back to England for training. However, several things made this an unacceptable arrangement. (1) It was expensive to go abroad. (2) There was no certainty that the students would return. (3) And, even if they did, it was difficult for them to readjust to frontier life.

All of this resulted in the development of a new, functional form of training. Circuit riding evangelists were produced by tutors who instructed a few apprentices in an "on the job" fashion. Class was held wherever the teacher and students were. This type of training was not inferior. It was merely different. For it fitted the circumstances in which it was used.

The first theological seminary in America was started by the Dutch Reformed Church at Long Island, New York in 1774. And, after the colonies gained their independence, the forming of special schools for training ministers became common. Seventeen such institutions were established during the early part of the nineteenth century.4

Applicants to these schools were often little more than functionally literate. Few of them had any secondary schooling.5 And, even after much academic upgrading, over 40 per cent of the ministers in 1926 (among the seventeen largest Protestant denominations in America) had attended neither a college nor a seminary.6 Moreover, as late as 1960, about one-sixth of those listing the ministry as their principal occupation had had no college preparation.7

Special theological schools have been the most common form of ministerial training in America for no more than fifty years. However, the impression is often given that this is now the only option available (at home or abroad). And, where such an unexamined conviction is held, resistance has frequently developed against different forms of training that might indeed be more functional. Such an attitude is truly unfortunate (especially when the future of third-world churches, composed of poor, rural peasants are at stake).

No one can deny these third-world churches the right to have first-rate theologians who can formulate an indigenous expression of the Christian faith for their own people. But it must be remembered that the desperate need of younger churches is training that functions in their present situation and that satisfies their contemporary needs. Therefore, it is unwise to impose on them the recently acquired North American forms of training.


It is becoming increasingly clear just how unwise exporting Bible-school forms of training to foreign countries really is. Many problems are created. Frustrations result. And, in the end, the cause of Christ is often hindered instead of helped.

Failure To Train Enough Leaders. There are thousands of village churches on the mission field. Less than 5 per cent of them have elders. And the situation grows more desperate each year. For over 1500 new congregations are being started annually. Yet there are less than 200 graduates each year from the 35 training schools operated by the churches of Christ outside the United States. Obviously the Body of Christ can never be stabilized under these conditions.

The lack of trained leaders in these little churches is tragic. Schismatic and syncretistic movements are often formed. Christianity is seriously distorted. Christo-pagan groups result. This alone should cause serious consideration of an alternate (or of additional) means of leadership training.

Unbearable Cost In Training Enough Leaders. It is a well known fact that the average per student cost in a resident Bible school in the States is very high. Perhaps few may realize that the cost is about the same on the mission field. The budget for brotherhood training programs abroad is $3600 per student per year (which does not include the physical facilities that average $40,000 per school). At this rate, it would take over $20,000,000 to train one leader for each congregation on the mission field (if no new churches were started). There is simply no way to evangelize the world under such circumstances.

The problem of finances, however, is not just limited to the lack of funds. The effect of subsidizing the students' training is subtle, but very real. At the school they are introduced to a standard of living that is significantly higher than they had in their village. For the first time in their lives, they do not "work" in order to eat. And, after their training, they are often unable to readjust to village life. They become financially dependent upon North American money. The missionaries soon reach the saturation point in funding such a support program. They ask the village churches to begin helping these men. But the churches cannot offer the trainee a comparable wage. It becomes a vicious circle. Something has to give. And, unfortunately, the Bible school graduates often feel the most pressure. They become dissatisfied. And, within 5 years after they leave the school, over 50 per cent of them are no longer serving in churches.

Improper Selection Of Students For Training. Resident Bible schools generally train the wrong men. There are three basic aspects to the problem.

1. Age. Few if any older men with a family of six, eight, or ten children can attend a resident program. The school does not have facilities to care for them. Yet it is these very men who are the accepted leaders in the village churches. The younger men (who make up over 90 per cent of the student body in campus-based training programs) are not looked to for guidance. They are trying to fill a role for which they are not yet accepted by their own people. No wonder so many quit.

2. Aptitude. No training program can impart an aptitude for leadership. No one should expect this of a school. Yet many times the Bible institute receives students who have shown no prior evidence of leadership. It is merely hoped that the school can somehow do wonders with them. These men are enrolled because the school does not want to offend them and/or it desperately needs all the students it can get. Eventually a diploma may be given to them. And the churches take this to mean that these students are now leaders. But, in too many cases, disillusionment follows.

The criteria for choosing students should be carefully reexamined. Young men must not be selected because they are handsome, get good grades in school, are talented speakers, or possess similar qualities. Maturity is more important. The greatest tragedy of the traditional training program is that it excludes the mature men who most need the training.

3. Education. Most Bible schools abroad teach in English (which is generally a second language for those who attend). And entrance requirements demand that students have at least an eighth grade education. Yet over 70 per cent of the brethren in other countries have less than eight years of schooling. The real leaders are again left out.

Cultural Dislocation Of Students. The most common complaint leveled at resident schools is their lack of indigeneity. These institutions perpetuate a western pattern of leadership. And, in an age of increasing nationalism, this is like begging for trouble. A "solution" is often sought in replacing the missionaries with a national faculty. Nevertheless, the cultural dislocation continues because the latter are most often trained in institutions using western educational concepts.

A similar cultural problem may occur when students come from a rural setting to study on an urban campus. They have difficulty readjusting to their former way of living. And, even if they return to their people, they will probably not be able to minister effectively to them. Their training has separated them from their kinsmen. They think differently. Their values have changed. They are no longer the same. Their understanding of the Gospel was developed in isolation from their people. They attended a middle (or upper) class, urban school in order to work with poor, semi-literate, rural people. Consequently, their problems in planting and nurturing indigenous churches are legion.


The extension philosophy requires a change in approach for those who are involved in traditional institutions. It demands a student-centered rather than a school-centered mentality. It first asks "whom?" before it asks "how?" Or it first determines function before it decides on the form of training.

Heretofore, entrance requirements were drawn up first. Those who could meet these stipulations were admitted (while the others were turned away). In other words, the person to be trained had to conform to the institution.

The extension concept reverses the process. It starts with the student. Every possible alteration in the structure of the school is made in order to train those who are ALREADY recognized by their own people as leaders. The school must not attempt to make leaders. It is to train the leaders that already exist.8

The term "extension" suggests schools which operate where and when working people have free time, namely, older men with families who must make a living.9 It is a method that reaches the student in his own culture. "Extension" suggests adapting the machinery of education to the life style of the trainee. It is a new way for the living church to allow its real leadership to lead. The significance of extension training is its flexibility for doing a new thing in a challenging era of evangelistic opportunity.

The extension concept is not an attempted extermination of traditional institutions. It is not a case of "either-or," The two programs are complementary instead of contradictory. Many (though not all) resident schools are serving a worthwhile purpose. But few (or perhaps none) are doing all they can to extend their programs of training to those who need it most. A student-centered approach would lead these schools to extend themselves in five ways.

1. Geographically. The place (or places) where students are taught will be determined by the students. Many leaders are unable to leave their homes and move to an urban campus. And, for reasons already reiterated, probably none of them should. If they are to be trained, then, the school must go to the students.

2. Temporally. Classes will meet when the students can attend. This takes into consideration not only the time of day but also the season of the year. Farmers can study during the heat of the day. Factory workers must meet early in the morning or late at night. Farmers may not be in class at all during planting and harvesting. Factory workers will attend any season except holidays and vacation. A student-centered training program will adjust itself to the schedule of the trainee.

3. Culturally. Leadership training will be adapted to each culture or sub-culture. Students from one culture will not be required to take their training in another culture. This reduces the danger of frustration for both the students and the teacher. It helps the student avoid cultural dislocation during training (since he is never extracted from his own society in the process).10

4. Economically. Extension training will not require the construction of a campus. It will take less faculty to operate. The students-per-teacher ratio will be much higher. The trainees will keep their jobs. They will not be subsidized either during or after their training. And, since the students will pay for their study materials, an extension program can be financially self-perpetuating in a short time. This makes leadership training by extension a truly indigenous program.

5. Academically. A student-centered approach to training will develop ways of instructing both the literate and the illiterate. It will gear the processes of education to the level of the trainee. This will require a great amount of creativity. But can a school exclude a man from Christian nurture simply because circumstances have excluded him from academic accomplishments?

The missionary faces an enormous task, especially in a time when many see education as a traditional and inflexible institution that does not respond to the needs of the hour, a force that merely preserves the past. He must shake off whatever traditions that prevent him from training leaders in such a way that they will be able to effectively and responsibly guide their own people. The extension approach poses both a challenge to traditional practices and a viable option in the present dilemma of training Christian leaders.


The first extension work was done by the Presbyterians in Guatemala. In 1962, after 25 years of operation, their seminary in the capital had prepared only 10 pastors for the 200 churches in their denomination. This is typical of other groups throughout the world.

Many solutions were considered. They studied the possibilities of offering more scholarships, giving correspondence courses, of conducting night school classes, etc. But, finally, they realized that one of their major obstacles was the location of their seminary in Guatemala City. Most of their churches were among the Indians 100 miles away. These rural people could not come to the capital. So they moved the school closer to the people. This was a radical step. But it was not radical enough. The school was still culturally and academically isolated from the Indians.11

Therefore the resident school was decentralized. Those who could not come to the seminary were able to receive the same training where they lived. But this bold, new step required new educational material. Traditional textbooks were inadequate. And thus began the most difficult phase of the transition—the writing of programmed lessons. But it was soon learned that the semi-literate, rural Indians were getting better grades (in the same subjects) than the resident seminary students!12

The future was beginning to take shape. Extension training was coming of age.

This pioneering experiment had many shortcomings. But weaknesses were constantly corrected. And, eventually, it was realized that the good outweighed the bad. For the door of training had been opened to leaders who could not otherwise be trained. They could receive their training within the context of their sub-culture. Furthermore, extension methods proved economical.13 For example, in 1963, when the resident and extension systems operated simultaneously, 70 per cent of the faculty and 80 per cent of the budget was assigned to the training of 5 resident students while the rest of the resources of the seminary served the 65 extension students.

Much work is ahead. More experiments are needed. But the possibilities are almost unlimited in solving the countless training problems on the mission field. Extension training is no longer a theory.


The purpose of extension training is "to equip the saints ... to build up the Body of Christ," Ephesians 4:12. And, of course, the measurement of success in such a program is the souls saved and the churches planted. In other words, those who are already leaders are equipped to teach their own people to make disciples. It is an evangelistic tool that spreads the Kingdom and glorifies God.

Extension programs will take different forms in various places. For example, they may be added to resident schools.

Resident School Addition Model

Night classes may be held once or twice a week on campus for those who cannot attend during the day. And additional classes may meet in neighboring villages on Saturday.

But, where a resident school does not exist, extension training may appear as a chain of classes visited by an itinerant teacher.

Itinerant Teacher Extension Model

One of the first steps in the development of an extension program is announcing the idea to various churches. The need and purpose for such classes must be carefully explained in order to capture the interest of the people. Each congregation should be allowed to select those they consider to be their leaders.14 These leaders, then, will choose the best time and place for the extension classes to meet. When deciding such matters, the sociological factors, economic circumstances, and local customs of the trainee must be taken into account.15

It is easy to find students. Those who are depended on for leadership are always eager to get whatever training is available to them. Consequently, some missionaries are training from 50 to 300 leaders at a cost of less than $50 per student per year. And, when the local brethren teach the classes, the cost per student drops to virtually nothing.16

The students will study specially prepared (self-instructional) lessons during the week. The teacher will come once-a-week (or once every-other-week) for a couple of hours to help the trainees apply to their lives the truths they have learned. However, there are two requirements: (1) the students must faithfully prepare their lessons for each class and (2) they must teach what they have learned to their congregations during the following week. In other words, leadership training by extension is an in-service program which matures the whole church.17

The instructor must not dominate his classes. He must not lecture (or preach a sermon). The "palm tree meetings" must focus on leading the students to experience (that is, relate to their daily lives) what they have studied. The teacher is there to clarify and amplify the information. He should lead the trainees to live what they have learned. The emphasis is on both knowing and doing. This is achieved in three ways.

Participation. It would be a great loss if—in the intimate fellowship of small extension classes—the students (and teacher) did not develop an openness in discussing freely and sincerely the specific, personal applications of the lesson.

Purpose. The reason for the class must be evident at all times. No lesson should become an end in itself. Every prayer, discussion, and activity must point toward service in Christ and in His Church.

Progress. Important to the vitality of the program is a sense of achievement. Extension students have many hardships and handicaps to surmount. It is not easy for them. But when they share the news of souls saved and churches started it will all seem worthwhile. Very few will want to drop out. In fact, experience shows that less than 5 per cent do.

The students will NOT be working for a diploma. Instead, a graduate is a trainee who teaches others to convert the lost, plant a church, and nurture that congregation to the point where it will establish other churches. Then (and only then) will a student be considered a trained leader. This is measurable. And it is biblical.

Nevertheless, people have questions about the quality of teaching (and learning) that occurs in an extension program. These questions are to be expected and should be answered.

Does the extension student have as much time to study? No. He has considerably less time than a resident student for study each week. Yet he will have as much in the long run since he stretches his program over several years. The external pressures that surround the student in either system are what rob him of his study time. The learning depends chiefly on self-discipline (not on whether one is a resident or extension student).

Is the home an inferior atmosphere for learning? The extension student must study at home where he is interrupted by his family and friends. After completing the extension program, he will probably continue studying in the same surroundings. It seems better to learn to do so early. A resident institution usually provides a superior study atmosphere (as well as external discipline). However, the real test comes when the student leaves the campus. Will he remain mentally alive?

Can the extension student expect to be adequately trained? The person who gets all of his training before beginning his work with a church will not know what parts of the information that he learned is worthwhile. He may have concentrated on matters of little significance. On the other hand, an extension program provides constant in-service training whereby the student comes to know the relevant issues that beg for solutions. Therefore, he has an opportunity to learn more of what is useful than a resident student.

What are some problems in leadership training by extension? There are many. One of the major challenges to the extension philosophy is the "bandwagon" mentality. Any new idea can become the "in" thing. Every program—as long as it is given the name "extension"—could be hailed as the cure for the present leadership shortage in the church. Systems with poorly written materials and uninformed teachers should not be dignified by simply superimposing the word "extension" on them.

There are no shortcuts! Everyone should be well prepared before attempting to begin an extension program. The tools are available. The information is accessible to all. An ill-conceived training program is the fault of those who begin it. Any criticism must come to rest at their doorstep. The extension movement cannot be blamed for what it does not endorse.

Leadership training by extension is a promising aid to world evangelism. Although it alone is not the final solution, it suggests the proper direction. Jesus said to "make disciples" and "teach them," Matthew 28:19,20. Extension training relentlessly presses toward that goal. It will not be satisfied until a biblical leadership is found in every church throughout the world. It spares nothing (in the way of self examination and revision) in order to obey the Master. Secondary goals do not replace the primary objectives. For the means of measuring the difference is precise: "the things you have learned ... commit unto faithful men who will ... teach others also," II Timothy 2:2. Hence a particular form of training is justified only if it produces a functional leadership for each specific cultural context in which the church exists.


1Donald W. Kaller, "TEE: Brazil's Success Story," Christianity Today, February 13, 1976, p. 13.

2This movement is commonly referred to as Theological Education by Extension (TEE). However, the phrase Leadership Training by Extension (LTE) has been chosen for a special reason. The former concept usually emphasizes the training of preachers. And, although, there is considerable merit in this idea, the latter focuses on the training of leaders (who may or may not preach). In other words, LTE is a more comprehensive approach to the problem of stabilizing churches on the mission field.

3Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity (New York: Harper Brothers Publishers, 1970),I, p. 116.

4Robert Kelly, Theological Education in America (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1924), p. 25.

5Christopher Jencks and David Riesman, The Academic Revolution (New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1968), p. 28.

6Richard H. Niebuhr and Daniel D. Williams, The Ministry in Historical Perspective (New York: Harper and Row, 1956), pp. 274, 275.

7Jenks and Riesman, op. cit., p. 211.

8James H. Emery, "The Preparation of Leaders in a Ladino-Indian Church," Practical Anthropology, vol. 10, no. 3, 1963, pp. 127-134.

9James F. Hopewell, "Training a Tent-Making Ministry in Latin America," Theological Education by Extension, edited by Ralph D. Winter (South Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 1969), p. 75.

10This is one of the most difficult aspects of the extension concept to achieve. See William J. Kornfield, "The Challenge to Make Extension Education Culturally Relevant," Evangelical Missions Quarterly, vol. 12, no. 1, January 1976, pp. 13-22.

11Ralph D. Winter, "New Winds Blowing," Church Growth Bulletin, edited by Donald A. McGavran (South Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 1969), vols. J-V, p. 242.

12Ralph D. Winter, "This Seminary Goes to the Students," World Vision Magazine, July-August, 1966, pp. 10-12.

13Ralph Covell and C. Peter Wagner, An Extension Seminary Primer (South Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 1971), p. 75.

14This helps to eliminate the frustration of training the wrong people, namely, those who are not yet respected as leaders.

15Therefore, as much as possible, the teacher should allow his students to settle on the time and place (only making suggestions that are necessary in order to develop a workable itineration schedule). Whether under a tree, beside the path, in a home, whether early in the morning, in the heat of the day, or late at night, appointments properly staggered allow teachers to meet several times in one day, numerous classes on the same circuit and, hence, reach more students in fewer days at less cost than any other method known. This is simply good stewardship.

16The trainee should be learning to teach the courses from the beginning. That is, a missionary (or national instructor) should not teach the same subject in a particular area more than twice.

17This is why it is suggested that only the leaders be trained in the extension classes. Their congregations become their laboratories for applying what they have learned.


Covell, Ralph, and Wagner, C. Peter. An Extension Seminary Primer. South Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 1971.

Emery, James H. "The Preparation of Leaders in a Ladino-Indian Church." Practical Anthropology. vol. 10, no. 3, 1963, pp. 127-134.

Hopewell, James F. "Training a Tent-Making Ministry in Latin America." Theological Education By Extension. Edited by Ralph D. Winter. South Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 1969.

Jenks, Christopher, and Riesman, David. The Academic Revolution. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1968.

Kaller, Donald W. "TEE: Brazil's Success Story." Christianity Today (February 13, 1976) pp. 13, 14.

Kelly, Robert. Theological Education In America. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1924.

Kornfield, William J. "The Challenge to Make Extension Education Culturally Relevant." Evangelical Missions Quarterly. vol. 12, no. 1, January 1976, pp. 13-22.

Latourette, Kenneth Scott. A History of the Expansion of Christianity. New York: Harper Brothers Publishers, 1970.

Niebuhr, Richard H., and Williams, Daniel D. The Ministry in Historical Perspective. New York: Harper and Row, 1956.

Winter, Ralph D. "This Seminary Goes to the Students." World Vision Magazine (July-August 1966) pp. 10-12.

Winter, Ralph D. "New Winds Blowin2." Church Growth Bulletin. Edited by Donald A. McGarvan. South Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 1969. Volumes I-V.

Back to top | Next: 8 Mass Media in Missions

Return to Table of Contents   Return to OVU Missions Home Page   Return to OHIO VALLEY UNIVERSITY Home Page
Last Updated November 21, 2004
Page maintained by

Copyright © 1976 ACU Press. All rights reserved. Used by permission.