Lam became a Christian when he was 17. He moved to the town looking for a job and joined a house church there. The best educated among them, he quickly ended up leading the group. Lam didn’t think he could take on the job, but who else was there?
Each year in Ho Ch Minh City more than 2000 students attend Buddhist universities and colleges, many with the goal of becoming monks and teachers of Buddhism. The single Bible college in Vietnam was shut from 1976 until 2003. Finally reopened in Ho Chi Minh City, around 50 students graduate each year. However, the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN) is estimated to be short of over 1000 pastors; a city church of 2000 people will have only one pastor, while many rural churches have none. Elderly pastors continue as leaders and lecturers, but their own theological training was limited and any limitations in their understanding are perpetuated.
The ECVN was allowed to launch another Bible class in 2009, but the training needs are beyond their resources and capacity. A theological distance learning programme for pastors is now available and several denominations have also established their own underground seminaries. Though these provide essential training, they often reinforce the denominational divides across the Vietnamese Church.
As Vietnam develops, the salaries of young professionals have dramatically increased. For talented and well educated young people, Bible college is a big financial sacrifice and pastors’ salaries are only just subsistent. There is a socio-economic divide between the church and society. Influential and able people remain cut off from a Church that seems old fashioned and intellectually below them. How can the Vietnamese church connect with the growing population of well educated urban professionals?
- Pray for those recent graduates of Vietnamese Bible colleges as they begin ministries throughout Vietnam.
- Pray for new Bible college students, that they would be willing to make the necessary sacrifices to serve God in full time ministry.
- Pray for interdenominational colleges to be set up and for unity and cooperation to share resources and training.