‘If You Teach a Man to Fish’

The Global Seminary Initiative helps form international leaders for church bodies around the world.

The old adage is truer than ever when it comes to theological education and missions. In many places, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) is known as a storehouse of theological treasure, and partner churches are looking to the Synod to help them prepare future Lutheran pastors and leaders to shepherd their own church bodies.

Edward Kollie, a Liberian student at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, is working toward an advanced degree so that he might return to Liberia to teach other pastors in a local school or — hopefully someday — a seminary.

“In 1993, I was appointed to serve as a lay preacher in my hometown where there was a small congregation of about 150 members,” recalled Kollie. “I have served the church as pastor from 1993 up to present without a salary or stipend. Pastors in most mission-established churches are not paid.”

Due to a civil war in Liberia, Kollie traveled to Sierra Leone in 2002, where he met the Rev. David Londenberg, an LCMS missionary who established a school called the Coordinating Center for Theological Studies.

“I took advantage of this opportunity and attended the school,” explained Kollie. “I graduated from there as a cluster trainer in 2006, then returned to Liberia and started serving the four congregations and two preaching points as trainer of the lay pastors we had there at the time. I [also] had to work as a classroom teacher to sustain my family.”

Still, Kollie desired a deeper theological education. Unfortunately, his pay as a teacher was just enough to support his wife and four children. There wasn’t much left over for an advanced degree.

Kollie said almost 95 percent of pastors in his church body do not have formal theological education. “Most often people are not willing to become [a] pastor because pastors are not paid in our setting. I have noticed that much of the lack of support on the part of our members is due to pastors not having formal theological training.”

Through a partnership called the Global Seminary Initiative (GSI), however, Kollie found the opportunity to study theology at one of the LCMS’ two seminaries.

Behind the scenes, the Synod and both LCMS seminaries “work closely with generous contributors and other supporting entities who desire to make a difference through worldwide pastoral formation,” said the Rev. Dr. James Baneck, chairman of the GSI Steering Committee and executive director of the LCMS Office of Pastoral Education. “Edward Kollie, and others like him, desire the robust biblical and confessional theological education our two LCMS seminaries have to offer. GSI gives hope of grant-funding support to eligible international pastors as they prepare to become theologians, professors and leaders in their own country for the spread of the Gospel in making disciples of all nations.”

Thanks to several hundred contributors, GSI is supplying more than $400,000 this coming academic year in focused financial aid to 37 GSI-eligible graduate students like Kollie, who come from 19 foreign countries.

“I ended up at Concordia Seminary [through] my bishop/president,” shared Kollie. “The Global Seminary Initiative can make it possible for me to pursue this degree and achieve my goal … . I would be very glad if the GSI would help train more men from my church body who would also join me.”

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