There has been some renewed discussion on twitter about how we identify and train church leaders for urban working-class mission.
I have already written previously that I believe we need to give the same rigorous quality of training to people from for estate and inner- city contexts as you would expect in our top seminaries. However, I don’t believe that seminary is always the best place to train people.
So, what exactly is the type of training that our future leaders need (including planters, pastors, elders, deacons etc)? Here are some further thoughts:
1. We need to start by thinking in terms of what is it that we should be looking for in those leaders? Two good starting places are first, 1 Timothy 3 where we find the characteristics and gifts that church leaders should have and secondly Matthew 18 where the mission of the church is described. We are reminded that our responsibility is to make disciples who are obedient to Christ in everything. The qualities we need in our leaders include ability to teach, self-control, faithfulness and hospitality (a practical mark of love). Training needs to include information and formation. It is right to assess any ministry training scheme or course by whether it leads to leaders who match the descriptions here of what they should be like and what they should be doing.
2. Chris Green used to remind us that a church mission was Matthew 28 with a post-code. In other words, we have to think about context. It’s the same with ministry training. The next step is to apply Matthew 28 and 1 Timothy 2 to the leader’s context. So, good training will think about the types of pastoral situations they will face. It will also help them to understand the culture they will be living and working in. This is true whether the person comes in from outside crossing cultural boundaries or is indigenous to that culture. Often our worst cultural blind spots are within our own cultures. Cultural awareness includes awareness of idolatry. I believe that a key component in urban training will be an “Urban Subversive Fulfillment.”
3. We will then want to identify the form of assessment required to ensure that the training is effective. I am suggesting that the key things we need to assess are
Can the person teach God’s Word? Assessment will include can they preach, lead bible studies, write articles, produce pod-casts etc that effectively communicate God’s Word.
Can they share the Gospel? We might test this by observing Gospel presentations or setting and apologetics task however I think the real proof of the pudding will be to observe the person as they seek to grow a Gospel community.
Can they provide pastoral care? This will include setting specific scenarios and asking them to apply theology to the scenarios. How do they bring God’s Word to the recovering addict, the abuse victim, the broken family, the racist confrontation etc? Again, we will want to see how they cope in real life situations.
Can they lead as part of a team? Again, we will want to set hypothetical examples and see how they apply God’s Word in order to make wise decisions. Observing how someone does as part of a plural leadership team is important too.
4. Once we know the desired outcomes we can talk about the “curriculum.” This should include teaching and reading but also lots of opportunities to learn practically through hands on experience.