Hearts, Minds and Hands

Preparing first-generation Mongolian leaders


Arioka, 21, graduated from the local college in 2008. She leads the youth fellowship and is a member of the preaching team. She loves studying God’s Word, has a natural gift for teaching, a passion for ministry and a burning desire to lead people to Christ. She has no training for ministry but desires to learn.

Naraa, in her thirties, is married with three children. Due to the economic crisis, her husband is unemployed. Naraa has a passionate call to serve the church. While struggling to keep her family alive, she spends around 20 hours a week leading the prayer fellowship and a house church, teaching the Abundant Life course and preaching once a month. Being poor herself, her heart burns to show God’s love to others living in poverty. She has little training for ministry and uses every opportunity to learn.

Arioka and Naraa are only two of many first-generation church leaders in Mongolia with little or no knowledge of the Bible or Christian doctrine. With this limited understanding, they need training. All are bivocational since Alliance churches in Mongolia are unable to pay pastoral workers. In addition, many of them are poor and struggle to survive while they fulfill their church responsibilities.

The Christian Leadership Training Center (CLTC) in Darhan, Mongolia, will soon implement the Theological Education and Leadership Development Program to equip Christian leaders for ministry. This includes their lifestyle witness in the world so they can lead within in their communities in the same way Jesus did—as servant leaders.

Stony Ground

These new Christians serve in a cultural context that, for 70 years, was overwhelmed by communism and isolation. With the collapse of the Communist party in 1991, sudden freedom and exposure to modern society created turmoil for the Mongolian people.

Materialism and greed control the lives of many, while others live in poverty. The majority of Mongolian men—but increasingly also the women—struggle with alcohol abuse. Mongolian worldview, beliefs and values seem to swing randomly between atheism, pragmatism, materialism and a unique, developing folk religion that is a syncretism of Tibetan Buddhism and traditional shamanism.

In this situation, Christian leaders must know and love God, while at the same time encouraging their church members to do the same. They must help their parishioners to understand their identity as the people of God and equip them to live that out in the world. As missional leaders they must enable their churches to engage the world to make God known and to proclaim and illustrate His Kingdom.

What’s the Right Balance?

How should we equip and develop Mongolian leaders who are able to guide their churches through the many challenges found in this environment?

If we focus only on the head, we may produce good scholars and thinkers. But they could end up being ivory-tower theologians. They may not be able to apply the wonderful knowledge they have to their lives and ministries and remain unaware of or unable to deal with the issues and questions of the people.

If we prepare only the hands, we may graduate skilled professionals and effective church managers. However, we may fall into the trap of “leadership worship,” focusing on ministry skills and organization but not people. This results in leaders with very little compassion. Spirituality—truly knowing and loving God—may be sacrificed for cold numbers, methods and strategies. However, with the head lacking or underdeveloped there may be an uncritical borrowing of methods without an understanding of the underlying theories, principles and biblical foundations.

When we focus only on the heart—spirituality—we may become an “angel factory.” This produces leaders who only pray, worship and study the Bible but divorce spirituality from the rest of life. Also, they may not be able to relate prayer and the Bible to the concrete, day-to-day struggles of the people and ministry.

Learn by Being

Because traditional models of theological education are not sustainable or effective in Mongolia, our approach builds on the strengths of those models but deals with the Mongolian context creatively. All our activities and courses at the CLTC integrate the development of the heart (spirituality), head (knowledge) and hands (skills and practice). This is easier said than done, and we are in a continuous process of learning.

Our training program is Christ-centered and church-focused with the ultimate purpose of glorifying God. The Great Commandment of love (Matt. 22:37) and the Great Commission to make disciples (Matt. 28:19) form the pillars of our curriculum. These are rooted in the Word of God, the Bible being our first and most important textbook. Our goal is to develop spiritual, missional, servant leaders who will equip their churches to fulfill these two great commandments.

Therefore, our curriculum is organized around these values as well as the needs, issues and challenges arising in Mongolia. We also espouse the value of learning in and through community. Our courses are organized as learning circles facilitated by a team of teachers. Learners gather around a specific topic and study it from the perspectives of the Bible, theology, Christian history and tradition, along with other areas that may be relevant. Thus, teachers and students do not just teach and learn theology, but they do and live theology. Throughout, these learning activities are undergirded, encircled and informed by prayer and worship.

Since we don’t operate full-time, the ministries of the teachers and students become part of the course. Sometimes their ministry experiences are brought into the classroom. On other occasions the students may join the instructor’s work. They may do house visitations together, observe and assist the teacher in leading a Bible study, be involved in an evangelistic outreach or help to plant a church. Teachers use these opportunities to mentor, coach, demonstrate skills, apply biblical principles and model what they teach, especially prayer and a personal relationship with God.

Mentoring, modeling and coaching are essential to our training program. A mentor will work closely with a group of students throughout their training. Coaches for specific ministry areas or skills will minister together with students for extended periods of time.

We pray that through these and other approaches we will integrate the heart, head and hands to develop true, humble servant leaders like Jesus Christ—placing the needs of others first and willing to die to themselves. They will be leaders who are ready to wrap towels around their waists (John 13:5) and put on their sandals, willing to go anywhere to serve and make disciples of everyone.

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