We understand the importance of training from many areas of life. In professions and trades, people accept the need to train the next generation, recognising that without this investment there will be no future. In vocations like medicine, teaching and law training in these rigorous, over many years, both in the classroom and on the job. The concept of apprenticeships in trades, on the job training with study alongside, is a tried, tested and successful format. There is a mind-set that training is important and people are willing to take responsibility.
Yet when it comes to the Church, training is often regarded as peripheral. There are a number of reasons for this. These include a model of ministry where a small number of people do everything. Other reasons might be a lack of awareness of people’s gifts, a defeatist mentality that things are really tough, simply not knowing what to do, or we have always done it this way. Often, it’s a lack of time and resources. Other reasons include a perception that training is the responsibility of colleges rather than local churches. It is the responsibility of both. In fact, the responsibility for training rests with the local church.
Looking at the Bible, the Gospels have a major emphasis on training as Jesus prepares his disciples for their ministry. Mark’s Gospel has a dual purpose, both as an explanation of the gospel to lead people to faith and as a training manual for ministry. Training is a consistent emphasis in the New Testament Letters, especially the Pastoral Letters. Paul ‘passes the baton’ to Timothy and Titus as the first church leaders in the post-Apostolic era. Reading the Pastorals, it is clear that Paul is mentoring or training the next generation. These three letters are rich in training material, not just training church leaders like Timothy and Titus, but Paul’s instruction that they in turn identify and train others and, beyond that, develop a wider training culture in their churches so that everyone is equipped and encouraged in ministry. Training is not a peripheral subject in the Bible. It is core.
Every generation of leaders has a responsibility to train the next. That is always the case, but the Church context we find ourselves in today impresses that on us with perhaps an unprecedented urgency.
Our prayer is, that alongside church planting, training will become normal.