Theological Training is not a mere hobby

Why am I passionate about what we are trying to do with the TrainBC bit of ActBC? Why am I excited about what we are doing with Union in developing a Learning Community in the Urban West Midlands? Why am I not yet satisfied that we are there yet?

The answer is within the phrase “the TrainBC bit of ActBC.” I’m passionate about training for Gospel ministry because it serves the purpose of Gospel ministry. We didn’t just get involved in training as a hobby. To be sure, I enjoy training and mentoring people but it’s not just for the intellectual pleasure.

We want to train people because we want to see churches planted or revitalised across the West midlands.  Where churches exist, we want them to be healthy, well taught, outward focused, serving the Gospel. Where churches don’t exist, we want to see churches planted into communities, not to recycle Christians around but to see people coming to faith in Christ and being discipled. 

And for all that to happen, we want to see people equipped as evangelists, church planters, Bible teachers, elders, pastors.  So, that’s why we started thinking about how we could see more people equipped for Gospel ministry in urban contexts, far more than could be supported through traditional Bible College routes.

So training is not a mere hobby either for the trainers or the trainees. That’s important because although there are so many people getting trained out of a great desire to serve the Gospel and often at great personal cost, it is easy to slip into a wrong type of thinking.

This type of thinking sees the church as essentially static.  There are stable churches of a certain size who need pastors to look after them.  On the other side of the coin there are people who would like to be pastors because they see it as an opportunity to do something they like. In other words, if I enjoy study and particularly Bible study, like reading academic books and at least don’t mind spending time with people 1-1 then maybe Theological training for me. Then the third factor kicks in and theological colleges see themselves as in competition with each other so they have to demonstrate that they provide the best course, best faculty and best facilities in the best location at the best price for the individual student.

I hope we don’t fall into that trap but sometimes I do see occasional hints of that type of thinking creeping in. I guess it is a perennial danger for us. It’s why I think the biggest obstacle to getting the church focused on urban ministry is not classism but simply complacency and comfort.

So one of my hearts desires is to spend time helping to train people who want to be trained because they are passionate about sharing the Gospel and making disciples. I hope that they will be sent and supported by churches that share that passion.