Friday, February 06, 2009

Raising the next generation

The latest 9Marks ejournal has some interesting stuff on raising the next generation of pastoral workers as the church's job, including a very stimulating interview with Mark Dever. One excerpt:
9M: When you talk about the importance of a church having a 360 degree view of person's life, you are relying on a certain philosophy of ministry. What assumptions are you making about how ministry and Christian growth work? Why not just train me in Greek and homiletics and put me behind a pulpit, like a seminary can do?

Dever: That's a great question. I'm assuming that ministry is more than simple proclamation. Simple proclamation is essential to ministry—it's a non-negotiable. But then that proclamation takes place in the context of a community of people who know each other. They're geographically in the same place; they assemble regularly together; and, as a consequence, they know each other.
There seems to be the presumption in the New Testament of pastoral authority accompanying pastoral relationships, as in Hebrews 13, where the members are told to consider the lives of the leaders (in verse 7) before they are told to obey those leaders (in verse 17).

The importance of knowing one another also fits with what we hear the Lord say in John 13 about our witness: that the world will know we are his disciples by the love we have for one another.
I in no way want to denigrate the centrality of preaching the word. But if we just preach the Word without having this relational web or context for ministry, which is the local church, then we don't know how to do membership, how to do discipline, how to disciple; we're not going to be a very good witness either (or if we are, it's accidental)...
Read the whole thing.

The other interesting section was the profiles of various church-affiliated training programmes, and particularly the one on Ministry Training Course (MTS) in Australia, as that's the one which provided the template for church apprenticeships here in the UK. A few of their reflections on the benefits of these apprenticeships:
Apprentices learn to integrate Word, life and ministry practice.

Apprentices are tested in character.

Apprentices learn that ministry is about people, not programs...They learn that ministry is about prayerfully proclaiming Christ to people, not administrating endless programs.

...Another problem with the academic training model is that it suits certain personalities. But our best evangelists and church planters might be those who struggle to learn in the passive context of the classroom. These people thrive in a context where they were talking and preaching and building ministries and being tutored along the way. In academia they would be deemed failures.

And on seminaries:
"...An apprentice model has the advantage of on-the-job training, but the disadvantage of training with only one man's perspective and capacity. Seminaries have the great blessing of "the multiplier effect," preparing many students under the best minds in their fields of study. And the best seminaries do this with field-service requirements that will also involve students in the real life of the church.

No system is perfect, but the blessings of a good seminary education are seen both in the ministry retention rates of well trained graduates as well as in the increasing availability of first-rate seminary training in the developing world. Such training will do much to curb the destructive health-and-wealth gospel that passes for Christianity in too many nations.

...I believe the best ministry preparation takes place where there is a partnership between the seminary and the local church. Some things are well learned in a classroom. Some things are best learned in the dynamic of a local church..."

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