Last time I checked it was the local church

Recently I have been reading a book that has captured my attention and really helped to mold and change my thinking about the role of the local church in sending men out into ministry.

As you know, I have been praying, looking and searching for a place to serve the Lord in full-time vocational ministry since January of 2010.  Recently, I had the opportunity to pick up a copy of the book Test, train, affirm & send into ministry.  I had the opportunity to speak with the author recently regarding my situation and I had been reading his blog.  I am not writing a book review per se (although I might take on that task at a later date), but I want to share with you some quotations from this book along with my thoughts that will hopefully align your thinking regarding ministry and the local church.

Most of us probably thought that once we completed our training (Bible college or seminary) that it was incumbent upon either of these institutions to place us in ministry.  It seems very logical, but yet it is unscriptural.  “God has not ultimately commissioned these institutions to fulfill this responsibility” (Croft, pg. 31) Churches have abdicated their responsibilities because of the plethora of institutions that exist to provide training and education for future ministry.  The churches should take the position that they need to partner with these institutions rather than give up what rightly belongs to the church.  I am not against seminaries or colleges, I graduated from two such institutions. What I am against is the local church exempting itself from the testing, training and affirming of men who are called to ministry.  It is easy just to send someone to a Bible college or seminary and hope that they turn out right, but why not take an active approach in that training?

It is the local church that God has appointed to be the agent to test, train, affirm, and send those who are called.  Because of this truth, the local church must embrace this enormous responsibility (Croft, pg. 33)

What does the Bible say about this?  Look at Acts 13:1-3

Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers:  Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. (NKJV)

By reading this passage, we see that the local church was the sending agent and instrument of affirmation of Barnabas and Saul.  The local church cannot shirk away or deny this crucial responsibility.

Here are some quotations that really impacted my thinking in this area:

No church, therefore, which neglects the proper education of her ministers, can be considered as faithful, either to her own most vital interests, or to the honour of her divine Head and Lord” (Croft, pg. 52)

Without the proper instruction of God’s Word in the church, not only will those called into ministry be confused and the church lost in its responsibility in the external call, but spiritual life will also be lacking in the church.” (Croft, pg.53)

The situation I am currently in is a bit unique.  I graduated from Bible College in 1992 and was ordained shortly after graduation (If I had it to do over, I would have not been ordained so soon) I spent 7 years in the secular workforce wondering where I would end up.  I ended up at a mission agency for 3.5 years (1999-2002) and then came to seminary in 2002.  I have been a member of the same local church for almost 10 years now.  I currently serve as a deacon.  I cannot go back to the church that ordained me and expect any help because there are some doctrinal and philosophical differences that exist between us.  We have a great and a cordial relationship,  I go back to visit when I can and the people are always kind and gracious.  At the same time, I recognize that there are differences.

In order to test, train, & affirm a man for ministry it requires tangible involvement on the part of the pastors or elders of that particular congregation and the members of that congregation as well.  How will a local church send a man off to ministry if he has not been given opportunities to exhibit his internal calling within that church?



8 responses to “Last time I checked it was the local church

  1. I understand your frustration. So if I understand your situation, your own church has not provided you the opportunity to serve.

    • Craig,

      I did not say anything in particular regarding the church I currently serve in. I did state that I have a unique situation regarding ministry in that I am dependent upon my current church to affirm and send me out even though they did not ordain me.

      When I use the term church it is not in reference to any particular local church, but the NT church in a general or generic sense.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.


  2. So your desire is to be a missionary?

    • No, I would like to serve in some form of pastoral ministry, whether it be a senior pastor or associate pastor of some sort. Too old to be a youth pastor and I have no musical skills.

  3. Thanks for your willingness to interact with me. Sorry for a late response – been studying.

    So I was thrown for a loop about the Acts 13 reference and I confused your situation.

    If I understand the Acts section correctly, S & B were basically elders in the church of Antioch. You’ve got 5 elders there (a nice plurality of elders passage by the way) and the Holy Spirit took 2 (S & B) and indicated that they should be the first missionaries.

    As an aside it seems to me that very few of the candidates that go out to the mission field have prior eldership experience. But that’s another conversation.

    So if you are not desiring to be a missionary, how does the Acts 13 passage fit your situation?

    Put another way … so what specifically would you expect your church to do to get you from point A (a guy with a lot of education) to point B (the pastorate).

    I know that this is a difficult issue for those of us who are (or have) preparing for vocational ministry.

    • I appreciate the interaction.

      Acts 13 is a passage that reinforces the centrality and importance of the local church. It is a picture of how God calls men out of the context of a local church for ministry. In this case it was Saul and Barnabas for missionary service. I believe and I have seen where God calls people to ministry while they are serving in a local church.

      What I expect of the church I am currently a member of and what will actually happen will probably be two different things. I would expect the church and its leadership to either affirm my gifts for ministry or take me aside privately and tell me why they are not willing to affirm me. How can I expect a recommendation from the church leadership if I am never given opportunities to have my gifts tested? How can they give an accurate and truthful recommendation if I am only permitted to do some things and never given opportunities to do others (preaching, teaching, etc). This is not a new situation for the church because they provide space for the seminary that I graduated from, so there is a very close relationship between the church and the seminary (most of the professors are members and there are a few students who are members as well) It is easy for institutions like Bible Colleges and Seminaries to take a very active role in the placement of graduates and students, but these institutions must remember that their role is not a primary role, but rather a secondary one. Too many churches have abdicated their responsibility in this area and most do nothing when it comes to the area of sending a man out into ministry. When I did address my particular situation with a pastoral staff member, he said “We are affirming you, but not in the way you think” My situation is different in that I was ordained prior to being in seminary, whereas, most of the guys I went to school with, were not ordained, but they would be seeking ordination once a church extended a call to them and then that process would start in their local church. This would be a strong affirmation to ordain and send out a man in response to a call received from another church.

      For right now, I am staying put waiting and praying for God to open up an opportunity for full-time vocational ministry. If I sense in the days ahead that my current church is not on board in supporting me in that endeavor, then I will have a decision to make whether to stay or whether to find another church that would be willing to assist me in finding a place to serve. I have been here for 10 years and have been heavily involved. I would hate to leave and have to go somewhere else to “start all over again” but at the same time, I am committed to the local church and its responsibility to test, train, affirm, and ultimately send a man out into gospel ministry. I would highly recommend Brian Croft’s book: Test, train, affirm & send into ministry. That book has done a great deal to improve my thinking and position regarding the local church and its role in ministry.

  4. Have you checked out Village Missions ? They are looking for full time pastors to serve in rural America.

    The church provides housing and utilities; and the mission pays for the health care costs PLUS $ 1700 per month.

    I’ve heard good things about them.

    • Not sure that I am necessarily wired to live in a rural community since I have lived in large cities all of my life. Thanks for the suggestion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s