As of now, various expert-observers studying Christianity and its relationship with China have noted an unprecedented growth in seminary developments in the past decades. Last month, for example, the Nanjing Theological Seminary laid the foundation for a new campus to facilitate the increasing rise in pastoral candidates requesting admittance into the prestigious seminary.
Though most observers agree that seminaries are growing in size and numbers in China, and that much biblical studies resources are available in unprecedented amounts, some have said that such material do not entirely address the current needs of China’s Christian community in both registered and unregistered church circles.
According to China Horizon President, Dr. Samuel Ling, the younger generation of seminary professors who go abroad for further training, and return to China to teach at seminaries affiliated with registered churches, “receive academic training available in secular universities in Europe and North America.”
In an interview with the Gospel Post, Dr. Ling was quoted to say, “The average pastoral-studies students in registered and unregistered churches want to learn biblical preparation, sermon preparation, and ways to confront ethical and moral issues in China.”
“What they need,” he added, “is [learning] the biblically-sound interpretation of the Bible, and strong doctrinal ethics and spirituality.”
Erik Burklin, president of China Partner, said that many of those newly coming to faith in China’s churches lack proper biblical foundations, and are thus susceptible to being “led astray.” Emphasizing this point, Burklin said that future pastors must receive proper practical training in order to be properly lead and disciple their congregants. He said that “[proper] practical training is the forefront due to lack in theological training.”
Since 1980, biblical and theological study resources have been flooding into China at an unprecedented rate. In an Amity Press report in January, over 5 million Bibles were printed last year alone. Both the China Partner and Amity Press have over the decades worked closely in the interests of providing sufficient theological and biblical resources to China.
China Partner, Burklin added, has also played its part in providing such resources. Nonetheless, Burklin emphasized, more has to be done besides simply providing seminary students with reading material.
He shared that in the past years, pastoral-training teams sent abroad had reported seeing seminary students in China lack guidance in “pastoral care, discipleship, evangelistic-training, and biblical leadership.” The teams, he said, were responsible for ensuring pastoral-studies students would receive this kind of training.
Nonetheless, Burklin remains positive that the situation would improve over time. In an interview with the Gospel Post, Burklin said that he was encourage in seeing great efforts being made by churches he visited in addressing this situation. In light of current efforts in China, Burklin said, time and patience is the perhaps the best way to address the current lack in sufficient resources needed to train future pastors.
Burklin also talked about a comment a professor from the Shanghai Theological Seminary made in 1999. The professor said that seminary teachers throughout China need to advance their education by persuing doctorate degrees in order to raise the level of education in seminaries.
Burklin also shared that seminaries in China have even begun training and graduating their own domestic pastors and professors. He said that in the 1970s, this would not have been possible. He said, “We [China Partner],” are excited to see development in China…[in] building additional schools to improve seminaries in China.” Last year, Burklin was present for the dedication of the Jiangxi Provincial Bible School.