Each week we’re introducing you to different people supported by the Bonar Trust. This week Jonny Gilmour tells us about his experience as a second-year Minister in Training at Chalmers Church Edinburgh.
What led you into training for gospel ministry?
I became a Christian when I was quite young and was very fortunate to be around a gospel teaching church throughout my youth, as well as having Christian parents who told me about Jesus from a very young age. When I went to university, I began to teach and preach the Bible and found that I had an aptitude and a real love for doing so. I was encouraged by the (hugely supportive) elders of the church I attended as a student to carry out some further training, so I completed the Cornhill training course in Glasgow whilst working as a youth worker for that church.
During that year, my convictions about the importance of the good news of Jesus, the importance of his word being taught clearly, and my love for his people grew. I therefore felt drawn towards vocational gospel ministry in the future, but thought that I would benefit from a few years of working in a different environment first. I trained as a litigation solicitor and worked in law for a few years, all whilst continuing to teach the Bible and becoming an elder in my local church, Chalmers. The opportunity to pursue further vocational ministry training then arose in Chalmers, and it felt as though it was the right time and definitely the right place to begin further training, with a view to moving into vocational gospel ministry.
What training had you done prior to your current role, if any?
Prior to commencing my current role, I had completed the Cornhill course in Glasgow and worked for another church as a youth worker for a year. I was then a non-vocational elder with Chalmers for 3 years before beginning full time training in the summer of 2018.
What does training look like day to day?
My Minister in Training role is an example of partnership training, which means that my training input comes both from a local church, in my case Chalmers, and from an external training provider, in my case Edinburgh Theological Seminary (ETS). Locating training in a local church was important for me. The primary reason for that is that that’s where training is located in the New Testament. Local churches have a responsibility for identifying and discipling elders and leaders for the future, whether those leaders are vocational or not, and the partnership training model means that at least part of ministry training input comes from a local church.
For me, a significant part of that has involved teaching the Bible regularly and receiving feedback on that teaching. It has also included regular training seminars in practical ministry and Bible handling from more senior ministry staff. Perhaps the most important aspect of locating training in a local church doesn’t actually relate to competencies, however. Giftedness to teach the Bible is a key qualification for any church leader, and a key part of my training is in how to teach the Bible better. Other key qualifications for any church leader are a love for the Lord Jesus and godliness, so locating training in a local church family means that training is part of a bigger picture of discipleship and accountability.
In addition to training with a local church, I also have training from an external training provider in ETS. At ETS, we are able to spend time on elements of training that a local church like Chalmers just can’t realistically cover, like learning biblical languages. ETS provide all of that input in a really robust way and, wonderfully, the teaching comes from lecturers who love the Lord Jesus, love his word, and love his church.
Those two elements of training input – ETS and Chalmers – are physically separate, but each aspect bleeds into the other. What I learn at ETS is therefore shaping the way I approach what I do with Chalmers, not least how I preach and teach the Bible, and what I see in church life in Chalmers makes me reflect differently on what I’m studying at ETS. They are a really good complement to one another.
What have you learned over the course of your training? What have been the highlights?
I have learned a huge amount over the course of my training so far. The biggest learning point has not been new, however, but has been a deepening conviction in something I was already conscious of: that God is a speaking God, and that his word is powerful. The highlight of my training so far has therefore been personally witnessing the impact of God’s word on people’s lives. Seeing Christians growing in their faith as they study the Bible, particularly with other Christians, and witnessing people who aren’t yet Christians really engaging with Jesus in the pages of the Bible, is a genuine privilege.
What do you hope to do when you’ve finished training? What stage are you at with these plans?
When I finish training, I hope to lead a local church somewhere in Scotland as a Minister/Pastor. My sense is that I am more likely to lead an already existing church rather than planting a new one, as many of my peers have done. I have been wrong many times before though, and I’d very happily be proven wrong again!
What role has the Bonar Trust played in your training?
The Bonar Trust has already played a significant role in my training. The trustees organise conferences, where groups of people involved in training roles in churches gather from across Scotland to study the Bible together, to teach it to each other and receive constructive feedback from more experienced Bible teachers. This is tremendously helpful, not only in sharpening each others’ teaching and preaching, but also in growing a network of likeminded church leaders across the country.
Additionally, I receive financial support from the Trust. I have a young family, so taking a step out of a secure job in law and into training for vocational ministry on a part time church salary was not without risk. Without the financial support of the Bonar Trust, there is no way I would have been able to do what I am doing, so I am very thankful for the work of the trust, and for those who contribute that work.
If you would like to give to the work for the Bonar Trust and support more individuals like Jonny, you can find all the information here.