How theological education equips disciples to serve in hard places

Tea being served in a country where Christians are persecuted.
A meal in Esther’s country.

Because of persecution in the countries mentioned in this article, names of people and places have been changed or omitted to protect their identity.

More than 1,000 believers attend the church in Esther’s* hometown, which doesn’t have a full-time pastor. Every Sunday, they have to ask volunteers or preachers from other areas to bring the Word.

It’s a common problem in some Asian countries where believers face enormous pressure. There aren’t enough pastors to minister to the growing, vibrant church, and those who are pastors face financial, social, emotional and academic challenges. Many have never had formal training and often work two jobs to make ends meet.

Around the world, persecution of Christians is growing. At least 312 million believers face pressure around the world, according to the World Watch List.

Reaching the growing and vibrant church

Esther, who received her PhD in New Testament Studies with Langham’s support, felt God calling her to respond. “We need lots of pastors in my big area. So that’s why I finally decided to teach in a seminary. I really wanted to do theological education to support training pastors.”

43 current Langham Scholars come from countries where Christians face intense pressure and persecution.

Her PhD prepared her for a seminary position in a neighboring region, where she writes books and equips more pastors to serve her country. It’s not an easy task. Church leaders have to jump through hoops to get training because permission is hard to come by.

Esther teaches intensive, two-week courses, allowing pastors to visit on short-term tourist visas. They fill that time with as much theological education as possible. She also makes trips to her home country to teach seminary courses, where students and professors will meet for special training.

‘He worked through all of this’

Pastors are hungry for this kind of training and theological education — to understand how to go deeper in the Word of God and to fellowship with each other. It’s easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed trying to meet so many needs without much support, Esther says.


Yet, even in the midst of these difficult circumstances, she witnesses pastors living out their faith and finding joy. “We’ve gone through a lot of different kinds of obstacles and pressure, but in the end, we can see how powerful God is, how He worked through all this,” Esther says. “So sometimes, we find it quite amazing.”

Her hope is to empower future and current pastors with the tools they need to lead their congregations with wisdom and balance, multiplying the impact of her training. Other Langham Scholars in this strategic region, including Peter* and Lara*, are studying to join Esther in this mission.

A global family

Esther is one of more than 330 theological leaders, equipped with a PhD through Langham’s financial support, who are serving in hard places. Each Langham Scholar will go on to teach thousands of students over their careers in ministry, doing Kingdom work that often requires huge risk and sacrifice.

As Esther puts it, “God, His work is always there, He’s always been with us, and whatever situation we are going through, we are not alone.”