27 February, 2014 Daf Meirion-Jones
I like to think of training as being an organic thing. When we use the word “organic” we generally mean disorganised and a bit haphazard! That’s the way we train at All Saints.
It’s not that we don’t have rotas and meetings and training courses (the North West Ministry Training Course led by Justin Mote and Andrew Evans is particularly hot). We also love planning and reviewing and all the other things that have become a standard part of church life. It’s just that we don’t really expect them to work perfectly. Partially that’s because they are overseen by me, but mainly that’s because we live in a world where even the work of the Gospel is tainted by sin.
So here are three principles of organic (messy) church training we try to work around.
1. People, not programmes
We all know that the church is the people, not the building or the denomination. But sometimes I suspect we might think of the church as being the programmes we run; whether that is the Sunday services, or the midweek Bible studies, or the evangelistic course. You can tell when you are seeing the church as the programmes because you get excited about how many people are involved and grumpy when people don’t turn up. Success becomes ‘getting people to our meetings’.
We can fall into the ‘programmes, not people’ attitude to training folk for ministry. So we have interns, apprentices or ministry trainees because they are good things to have and we need certain tasks to be completed – rather than having people because we have recognised that they have been gifted by Christ in His service, and we want to encourage and nurture them in their relationship with Him. I guess that means that our greatest desire for the people we’re training should be ‘...that they 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 fulness of Christ.’ (Ephesians 4:13)
Which brings me to...
2. Family, not business
Families are about relationships. Businesses are about products. Relationships are invariably messy and take time. Relationships don’t end when the working day ends. That means it will always be impossible to limit someone’s training to a class or even a slot in the diary. How are they going to learn from you what it is to love someone sacrificially, if they don’t feel able to ring you in a crisis? How are they going to learn what it is to battle with sin whilst rejoicing in God’s grace, if they don’t see you battling? How will they find about what a Pastor’s or Christian worker’s home looks like unless they spend time in one?
Now if you think that all this relational stuff will make life easier and mean you get on better, you’d be mistaken. The more time people spend with me, the more opportunity I have to sin against them and they against me. But, in the end, if those training at All Saints see just how dependent on Christ I am and that it is only by His grace that anything ever comes of my ministry, then that won’t be a bad thing. ‘But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9)
That means training is...
3. Pointing, not problem solving
Problem-solving ministry is when we give the impression that we’ve got the Christian life pretty well sorted and all people need is to follow our advice and then they will be as sorted as we are.
Pointing ministry is when we admit our weaknesses and therefore point others all the more clearly to Christ. For me, that means that I have had to apologise to my trainees and ask their forgiveness because of my grumpiness or my self-righteous attitude towards them. I’m not proud of that. But better that I admit my sin, than they think that it is an acceptable way for a pastor to behave.