Where do you learn that?
Where do you learn how to teach people about God’s Word? Where do you get trained to preach? Where do you learn how to pastorally care for people? How do you find out how to answer those difficult apologetic questions?
Theological colleges play their part of course. I personally cannot overstate how much I benefited from training at Oak Hill Theological College and recently we sent one of our young men to study at Union (formerly known as WEST).
However, there are two important things I want to say here. First of all, there are thousands of Christians who will never get to Theological College but have a vital part to play in counselling, leadership, Bible teaching, evangelism and apologetics. I mean this both in the sense that every Christian has a vital role to play in Gospel witness and building up the body but I also mean that there are people who will be set aside for leadership roles including as elders, pastors, missionaries and church planters who won’t get to go to college.
- They may not be able to afford it
- They simply won’t be wired for life in a more academic community environment. Which is not the same as saying that they can’t grasp, challenge and communicate stretching intellectual concepts. It’s about environment, learning styles etc.
- They will already be involved in looking after a fragile church plant somewhere.
Secondly, even when it is right to spend time away at theological college, there’s a lot that you can’t learnt here and you need to learn beforehand, or during your course but not through the course or afterwards.
So where does this learning happen? Well the answer is obvious and staring us in the face. It’s the very place where Christians have learnt for 2000 years. It’s in the context of the local church.
I think there are 3 aspects to this
A. Church leaders should constantly be looking out for opportunities to mentor, train and equip new leaders. It will mean taking some risks sometimes. It will mean giving up time.
We try to do this by
- Providing teaching resources on Faithroots for people to follow up on.
- Giving lots of 1-1 time to encourage people who want to learn
- Giving people the opportunity to teach God’s Word in our home groups and then in larger gatherings. Often they start of paired up with a more experienced teacher. They also receive feedback before and after they teach.
- Running different training workshops on topics including pastoral care, evangelism and bible teaching.
B. Many Churches run Ministry Trainee schemes
This is an opportunity to spend one to two years training with a church. It’s brilliant because you are constantly connecting real life pastoral and evangelistic experience to what you learn in the classroom. Usually you will have the opportunity to meet with trainees from other churches for a 1 or 2 day per week course learning about basic doctrine and Bible teaching skills
One of our members initially came to us as part of an OM team. They then chose to stay in Bearwood and split their time between part time paid work, volunteering with the church and gaining someone to one training and mentoring with us. They have now gone on to Bible College for further training
If you came to train with us, then you would also have the opportunity to attend the Midlands Training Course run by the Midlands Gospel Partnership.
Some Ministry Training Schemes provide paid work for the church whilst others ask you to raise your own finances. They may help with training bursary costs . In those cases any work you do with the church is on a voluntary basis.
C. We need to think increasingly creatively about people who cannot go to a traditional theological college
We have had the privilege of encouraging our Spanish congregation leaders to train with us. This includes attending Faithroots Live workshops plus a lot of additional tutorials and mentoring. This means that those involved can think about big theological questions which are firmly rooted in the day to day practical questions of discipleship. At the same time they are involved in the day to day life of congregation planting.
What if we were to see other people coming and partnering with a local church to plant new churches whilst at the same time receiving on the job training and mentoring?
I believe that this type of training will become more and more the norm. It will enable people to plant churches sometimes as bi-vocational/ tentmaker workers whilst being trained and equipped. It will mean that many more people will be equipped for Gospel ministry. To do this will involve churches partnering together to make this happen. It will also involve traditional Bible Colleges working with churches to think more creatively about training and equipping people for ministry. It is encouraging to see places like Union and Oak Hill being increasingly radical in their approach to training.
If you would be interested in training with us, find out more here.
If you would be interested in partnering with us to plant churches in the Black Country, have a look here.