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Gaining Experience and Training is part of the Take Your Next Step into Ministry series that helps a person discover the needed experience, knowledge and skills that are needed for an effective full-time or tentmaking ministry.
This first category of experience and training includes all the skills and knowledge one needs to begin a ministry.
I just heard a missionary share how after seminary and being on the field for about seven years, that he still didn’t know how to disciple and start churches. I would venture to guess that this is not a rare problem.
I faced it too. I remember ever so clearly wondering how I was going to train the new believers in a Taiwan church plant. That was no time to begin to think about these issues!
The training that we need is not often what we receive. Do not assume that a seminary degree provides the graduate all the needed attitudes, moral qualities, skills and insights into God’s Word that he might need to start an effective ministry. Instead we take another approach which asks what a person needs in a certain ministry situation to be effective.
If a person will be a church planter, for example, what does he need to know to properly start and grow a church? A whole list of skills will present themselves including evangelizing and discipling. This is a good beginning but it still remains superficial.
Here is a series of slides showing what our church planting ministry in Taiwan was like.
Evangelism must be thought of in personal and public settings, with children and adults, with hostile people and cults. ￼Acknowledging these specific contexts enables us to better evaluate whether we have had sufficient experiences and skill building opportunities to take on the challenges that we will meet up with in a different context. For example, taking a course or two on evangelism without the experience of personal evangelism is quite unsatisfactory.
Let me provide another example. We all know that we need a good knowledge of God’s Word. However, we end up studying books about the Bible rather than studying the Word of God itself. God’s people need to be convinced of the importance of communing with God through His Word and know how to do that.
The Lord speaks through His Word to our hearts. This is the way He strengthens and prepares us. If we have not learned this before ministry, why are so sure it will develop later?
Jesus’ ministry was greatly influenced by God’s Word. We need the same. The practice of meditating on God’s Word is critical for spiritual growth and effective service. Of course, different denominations or mission agencies still have their set of qualifications, and we are wise to consider them. But we must remember the Lord’s qualifications for effective ministry.
Get a piece of paper and write down at the top what ministry you think the Lord might be leading you to. Be as specific as you can but don’t be concerned if it is general like “cross-cultural missions.” As you go through this exercise, you will begin to discern areas that you need more information.
On that paper write down all the skills, knowledge, attitudes and spiritual disciplines one needs to be effective in carrying on that ministry. This is a great exercise for those who are in seminary. Many students take expensive courses without ever thinking what special training they need. The list might be long. Don’t let that stop you. Some of the suggestions might have to do with the area of one’s personal character. That is fine. This is fine. Just jot them down in that category.
The list will continually be updated and adjusted. We should read and talk to others to increase our understanding of what a certain position might require. For example, we might request an hour with a cross-cultural missionary to learn more about what things he or she feels is important for effective overseas ministry. Do not just accept general answers.
Ask how well prepared they were for a certain task and how they could have been better prepared. Carefully interweave that knowledge into your own list. We will discover that we are fairly well prepared in some areas but needing much more training in other areas.
This list will help you focus on and prioritize what training you need. It will also be your list of prayer requests. “God if you want me to serve those people, I need You to help me replace my anger with your kindness and patience.” Think of this list as God’s training list for you. Below are a number of categories each with their own questions. They can help you better discern what areas in which we need further training. Add other questions to suit your situation.
What ministry skills will you need in your first four years of service?
What ministry skills have you gained through past experience?
What ministry skills are you now lacking?
What practical steps have you taken to acquire such skills?
Do you know of anyone who has such skills or experience that you could learn from?
How many times have you read through the Bible?
Have you learned and used the inductive Bible study method?
What Bible books have you spent more than 10 hours studying and meditating on?
About how many Bible verses have you memorized?
Mediation is a key to successful ministry (Joshua 1, Ro 12:1-2). In what ways have you brought meditation to be part of your own spiritual life?
What qualifications do you have to serve?
Are they accepted and esteemed by your possible host country?
Are there special programs that might enhance your effectiveness?
Have you figured a way to maximize your ‘free’ time to serve?
What have you learned from others who are now doing what you hope to do?
Have you discipled individuals at different levels of maturity?