Recently someone challenged me on the reason high quality ministry training is free at Christian Leaders Institute. This person was very impressed with the curriculum. He thought the quality of our accredited professors would be a quality line up in many accredited Seminaries. He believed that students should be paying seminary tuition for these courses.
I mentioned that generous supporters give almost $700,000 annually. Included in these numbers are the donations of students. I told him that in December of 2013 over 200 students gave nearly $10,000. I really thought that this would impress him. It certainly impressed me. He responded by challenging me with more questions.
The Challenges to Pastoral Ministry Training Free of Charge
The questions he asked included: “Why are you doing this? Why are you keeping it free? What don’t you make the students pay a fair price? You have a great business model. You could monetize your assets. You could get a higher end student base, and you could sell them books and classes.”
I responded, “Jesus did not charge his disciples and Paul did not charge Timothy.” I really think that the Kingdom should give everyone the opportunity to be trained with the highest quality possible ministry training free of charge.
“You can’t save the world with your good intentions. If you make your students pay, you will get better students you do not have to strive to get donors to give,” He said. “You do all this work to try to get me and others to give so that you give this away for free.”
Why Ministry Training Should be Available Free of Charge
This discussion made me consider again the question of free. Why do I think the Kingdom of God should give every potential leader the opportunity for high quality ministry training, whether they are poor or rich?
I prayed and searched the scriptures seeking to identify my motivation. Is my calling to raise up leaders? Yes, clearly. Is it possible to do because we can use technology to keep cost low? Yes, that too. Did God gift me to do this and give to me the disposition to serve Christ this way. Yes, I believe that. Do I love big challenges, which include solving big problems including giving everyone the best possible ministry training for free. Yes. I love big challenges. Do I like systems where motivated leaders raise to the top? Yes. Do I think we need to raise up thousands of leaders to bring revival? Yes. Do I think that God will use pretty rough people who have no money or opportunity to be the future church leaders? Yes! Do I think that the “Accreditation” system is just simple unjust because it keeps high quality ministry training out of the reach of most called leaders? Yes, with no offense to my friends in the world of accredited academia. I believe that for the majority of called leaders this is true.
But the answer came to me when I was talking to one of our thousand of students. She is a widow with teenage children from Gary, Indiana. She lost her husband over a decade ago leaving her with no money. As I heard her story, I felt a deep and Godly love for her. I wanted her to have everything we offered free of charge. She told me of her calling to minister to other women who faced great harm and loss.
Honestly, I don’t want her to pay for anything. I really love her as a sister in the Lord. It is not just about calling to train leaders. I want to bring all my calling, passion and gifts to the table so that this woman warrior gets what she needs.
I believe she is a high quality student. The highest quality student is the one who is passionate to serve God with her life. It’s not money and resources that determines quality. Does God call people because they’re upper middle class citizens? No! God calls people because He has plans for them. If God calls me to offer free training for these called leaders, who am I to stand in the way of God?
1 John 3:17 But whoso has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him?
So when someone asks me why do you offer advance ministry training free of charge? I know that in my heart I love our brothers and sister in Christ who are called into Christian Leadership. I want to give them what ever I have! I have been given so much. I want to give them what they need!
And honestly, I feel like our students understand this at a level I many never know.
And when God calls somebody to preach the word, there is no choice for them! It doesn’t matter whether they have the money and resources to relocate to a seminary. The apostle Paul tells us, “ For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” If God calls people to Ministry in His kingdom, they will preach His word. They will seek training, because every called leader recognizes their need for training. But if they can’t afford training how can they continue in their calling? But how can they not continue in their calling? Who are we to deny the poor of this world, who God has chosen to be rich in faith, the opportunity to be trained for ministry in His kingdom?
And you know what? I have seen an amazing response from students to this gift. Students who have barely enough to survive have given 50 cents for the month because that was all they had in the bank. They were so grateful for the opportunity to increase in the knowledge of God and of His word that they gave everything they had to give to Him! How can I, in my abundance, look at this incredible spirit of giving and thankfulness to God and want to deny these called leaders ministry training?
God loves this world so much that he sent his only son. God loved me to bring me to salvation. I am called to love our brothers and sisters in need. The need for free ministry training is pressing! I want every called leader to not only be an “evangelist” but a “trained evangelist”. The love of Christ compels me and my love for my brothers and sisters inspires everything we do at CLI. I want to give it all away.