9Marks wants to see more churches and pastors taking responsibility for raising up the next generation of pastors. To help our readers catch a vision for what that might look like, we asked several organizations closely tied to one or several local churches how they fulfill this mission. With one exception, each of the following organization answers the same 18 questions.
Unlike the other programs listed here, this presentation of Australia’s Ministry Training Strategy, authored by Colin Marshall, does not follow the
18 question format.
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Ministry Training Strategy (MTS) grew out of the ministry of Phillip Jensen
in his role as Anglican Chaplain to the University of New South Wales in
Sydney, Australia. In 1979 he began employing University graduates for two
years to work and train with him in the student and local church ministry.
His aim was to prepare these apprentices for formal theological education.
Ever since, the vision of MTS has been to train ministers of the gospel to
declare the saving work of Christ to the world and so build his church. It
is not a quick-fix program, or a silver bullet for the struggles and pressures
of ministry. It’s a long term multiplying strategy—challenging
Christians to make gospel work their life’s passion.
MTS specifically involves local churches in a number of ways. It equips pastors
through a series of workshops, conferences, and ongoing coaching by MTS staff.
It provides training resources for churches through its website. The MTS Challenge
Conferences, held for pastors and their potential apprentices, challenges
men from the Word of God to make gospel preaching their life’s work and
to consider their suitability for this calling. MTS also conducts regional
training intensives for apprentices that focus on the godly life of the pastor
as well as their theological, exegetical, and preaching skills.
A TWO-YEAR APPRENTICESHIP
At the heart of MTS is the invitation to potential gospel workers to participate
in a two-year apprenticeship before entering theological education. Apprentices
are paid a training scholarship to enable them to experience what it is like
to be in full-time ministry. They minister alongside older, wiser gospel workers
to learn what it means to preach the truth and live for Christ.
Since 1979, over 1200 apprentices have been trained in churches and campus
ministries throughout Australia. Of these, 197 are currently engaged in theological
study in various colleges, and another 366 men and women have completed their
formal studies and are now serving as full-time ministry workers worldwide.
WHAT APPRENTICES LEARN
One of the big questions we are often asked is “Why bother with the
apprenticeship?” Given that we send our apprentices on to formal theological
study, why is the apprenticeship needed? It’s a big sacrifice for ministry
candidates to spend an extra two years training and it’s a big task for
pastors and churches to provide mentoring and remuneration for apprentices
who are often raw and untested. What benefits have we seen for those who do
a ministry apprenticeship? Here are a few reflections.
- Apprentices learn to integrate Word, life and ministry practice.
This is difficult in the classroom where much of the time is spent imparting
information. Especially for apprentices who have not grown up in the church,
it is not immediately obvious how to shape the whole of life by the Word.
By studying the Scriptures together and wrestling with their application
to pastoral issues, theological fashions and ministry plans, the apprentice
learns to think theologically about everything.
- Apprentices are tested in character.
A pastor working closely with an apprentice can see what might be well
hidden in the classroom context. The gap between image and reality is exposed
in the pressures and hassles of ministry life. The real person is known—the
true motivations, the capacity for love and forgiveness, the scars and
pain from the past. And a wise trainer can build the godly character of
the young minister through the Word, prayer, accountability and modeling.
- Apprentices learn that ministry is about people, not programs.
We know that ministry is about transforming people and building godly communities
through the gospel. The apprenticeship is two years of working with people:
meeting with unbelievers, discipling young Christians, training youth leaders,
leading a small group, or praying with those who are struggling. Our
goal is that apprentices spend 20 hours of their week in face-to-face ministry
with people, prayerfully teaching the truth in love. They learn that ministry
is about prayerfully proclaiming Christ to people, not administrating endless
- Apprentices are well prepared for formal theological study.
During the two years of ministry involvement, lots of biblical and theological
issues are raised and apprentices are eager for rigorous study. Theological
study is placed in the proper context of evangelism and church building.
The motivation for further study becomes life and ministry preparation rather
than passing exams.
- Apprentices learn ministry in the real world.
One of the problems with the classroom is that the student does not need
to own the ideas in the same way as he would in the pulpit. The learning
is abstracted from everyday life and ministry to others. We learn ten views
of the atonement to pass exams and not because anything hangs on it. Teaching
the truth to others helps the apprentice to understand the importance of
their theological training.
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.
- Apprentices learn to train others so that ministry is multiplied.
apprentices have had the experience of being personally mentored in life
and ministry, they imbibe what we call “the training mindset.” When
they are leading a ministry in the future, they instinctively equip co-workers
and build ministry teams. Those who only learn ministry in the classroom
often do not catch the vision of entrusting the ministry to others. Those
who are trained as apprentices, immediately look for their own apprentices
when they are leading a church.
- Apprentices learn evangelism and entrepreneurial ministry.
provide an opportunity to think strategically and creatively about ministry.
In our post-Christian, pluralistic, multi-cultural missionary context, many
pastors no longer have a flock sitting in the pews waiting for the Sunday
sermon. Apprentices can experiment with new ways of reaching people and take
the initiative to start new groups and programs.
NOT LIKE A PROGRAM, BUT LIKE A PARENT
The apprenticeship is not a formal program or curriculum. The paradigm is
not an educational method but rather a parent raising a child. Paul, with great
warmth and affection, repeatedly describes Timothy as his son. “But you
know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has
served with me in the work of the Gospel” (Phil. 2:22).
Paul was a model for Timothy not only in his teaching, but also in the whole
of life, especially in suffering. “You, however, have closely followed
my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance,
persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch,
Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from
all of them” (2 Tim. 3:10-11).
Apprentices need to see into the heart of their pastor-trainers—the
sins and confession, the fears and faith, the visions and realities, the successes
and failures. Trainers need the humility to honestly share their lives. This
happens as they serve together in the work of the gospel, but also in the home,
where they are no longer the public preacher and ministry leader, and the professional
persona has dropped away.
MTS is all about passing on the gospel baton to the next generation of runners.
In God’s kindness he has raised up many runners who will pass the baton
on to many more. We give him thanks and praise.
Colin Marshall is the national director of Ministry Training Strategy. For
more on the Ministry Training Strategy, read Colin Marshall’s book,
the Baton, or go to www.mts.com.au.
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