Saturday, January 27, 2007

Church Trained or Institution Trained

I saw a video in my seminary class which showed how the gospel spread among a tribal people. The people were taught the Bible and leaders were raised up. Then these tribal people became a sending people. I was reminded how leaders are raised up in the church. The American church culture by and large see the pastor as a professional whose job is to run the church, visit the sick and preach sermons. The pastor is viewed as a person who is a professional. This model of the clergy has him trained by an institution, the seminary.

While seminaries are great places to aid in training pastors, counselors, and missionaries, I see this as a deviation from the New Testament model for training for the ministry. Practically speaking the institution trained model keeps people from doing ministry that they should be doing. Ephesians 2:11-13 tells us that the ministry of the body is to be done by the members of the body and the pastor is a part of a team of equipers.

"11 It was he (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (NIV)

Even if a Christian is convinced that ministry is supposed to happen primarily in the body by the members of the body then you still may think that pastors are supposed to come from the seminary. I would propose a different model for raising up pastors. It is not unique but I feel compelled to write about it any way.

First of all, those who have ministry potential should be identified by the leaders of the congregation. That means elders and pastors need to be constantly observing who has gifts in the congregation.

The second step would be for one of those leader to start giving ministry assignments where the performance there of would either confirm that the person has the right gifts or guide the person away from that sort of ministry. The leader giving the assignment should explain what is to be done, watch it be done, and give feedback on the performance of the assignment. As with the instructions on hair shampoo, 'repeat if necessary'. This process should be as natural to leadership development as breathing. It must be a part of the fabric of a church seeking to train leaders.

The second step done over many tasks and diverse situations constitutes an internship. Most people in a congregation should experience a part of this process. Church leaders, Ruling Elders and Deacons, should all go through an internship with the pastor.

If that person shows potential to be a pastor or missionary, then he should be advised to go to seminary. Most of the time people are directed to go to seminary and then they go through the steps of an internship. This is reverse of what is advisable in my humble opinion.

The only part of this model that would have to be adopted to different cultural situations is the last step of seminary training. The availability of seminary training and the education level at which this is done is dependent upon the culture.

If any of you know of pastors who successfully model this I would greatly appreciate you blogging about it and letting me link to it. Just leave a comment here so I will know to link to it.
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