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Why you should get formal training

June 12, 2016

There is a growing concern over the “amateurization of missions.” Sending untrained people to share the gospel in an uncontextualized way in a language that people barely understand has not proven to be largely beneficial towards planting lasting churches among the unreached.

In our hurry to reach the world, we often push people into ministry without training.

This can work, if they spend time working under trained people and commit to a lifestyle of learning. But when the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few, it’s not uncommon to see untrained laborers encouraged into the harvest field.

We also see that at home, with staff developed within the ministry. I encourage our staff to get formalized training through a seminary or online program alongside the specialized training they receive through our campus ministry and here are some of the biggest reasons why.

The leaders of the early church had extensive training.

Yes, I know Peter and John were seen as “unschooled, ordinary men.” This doesn’t mean that they had no training; it just means the school they came out of was unaccredited.

They didn’t come out of recognized traditional training, but since they spent three years with God in the flesh, we’ll give them a pass.

Paul, however was formally trained. Timothy learned the scriptures from his mother and grandmother and then spent years apprenticing under Paul.

Apollos was well trained and versed in the scriptures but still spent time with Priscilla and Aquilla for more training.

Today’s “hour a week at Starbucks” discipleship is nowhere near the intentional training and mentoring we see in the New Testament.

The Bible demands it.

In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul tells Timothy to “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

People in ministry who aren’t concerned about handling the Word of God with care will at best embarrass themselves and possibly propagate false or poor teaching within your movement.

The best training I’ve ever received in following Jesus and doing ministry came through the campus ministry I was involved in during college. The best training I received in rightly handling the Word came through seminary.

You need it.

When I see a new believer begin to read the Bible consistently and share their faith, I forget that they don’t have the biblical knowledge I do from years of growth.

We shouldn’t be caught off guard the first time they question their faith while they think about the problem of evil, the authority of Scripture, how we got the Bible, and what happens to their nice but unbelieving grandparents when they die.

You should be able to give an educated answer about the deity of Christ and the Council of Nicaea after that new believer watches the Da Vinci Code on Netflix.

A depth of knowledge developed through formal training will complement a depth of character, skill, and vision developed through ministry.

It is so easy to find.

Sure, you could learn most of these things on your own, but why not take advantage of directed training that would give you access to professors who are experts in these subjects.

These days you almost have to try to avoid formal training. Easy accessibility to quality training through online or summer classes leaves no minister with an excuse.

Anyone remaining ignorant in hermeneutics, basic theology, and church history has no place in vocational ministry.

I would argue these are categories every believer should systematically learn and grow in regardless of their profession. The minister should be held to higher standards not just in character, but also in knowledge. The total nature of loving God includes our minds.

Reflection questions:

Why are some people afraid of formal training?

What are ways to get solid training outside of traditional methods?

How can you encourage others in your ministry towards getting training that complements what they are currently learning?