The Call To Ministry Is The Call To Prepare
The Call To Ministry Is The Call To Prepare
By Trevor Hoffman
I’ve noticed a shift in the sporting world recently. When I played recreation league football, it was just that – recreation. Sports were little more than extracurricular activities to keep me active and out of trouble. More recently, however, the trend of placing children in athletic training facilities has become remarkably commonplace. Whether boy, girl, quarterback, shortstop or goalie, parents have been increasingly proactive in exposing their children to focused tutelage from experienced, knowledgeable experts regarding the child’s golf swing, throwing motion or breaststroke. These parents seek to maximize their child’s potential through a life of dedication to development, presumably yielding the desired results.
Quite similarly, the church must take the initiative in providing focused tutelage for the development of prospective pastors and planters. As an influential professor of mine often repeated, “The call to ministry is the call to prepare.”
But how are young pastors to prepare? As is often the case in our attempts at being faithful to the scriptures, the church has oscillated between two extremes in the development of pastors and their “call to prepare.” One extreme places the students in the hands of trained “professionals,” providing theological education accompanied with little to no emphasis on loving Jesus and His church. This results in students skilled in nuanced theological reflection but remarkably unskilled in the practical matters of loving and pastoring. Perhaps even more damaging (and significantly more sneaky) is the subtle erosion of the local church’s authority, i.e. local pastors are not skilled enough to train you, you must be shipped away from local church ministry in order to truly understand local church ministry. In a manner of speaking, this extreme emphasizes the head at the expense of the heart and hands.
On the other hand, some have rejected the need for any formal theological training or association with convention-wide efforts in pastoral development, perpetuating rogue church leaders ungrounded in scripture and possessing an unhealthy perspective on church autonomy. Conversely, this extreme emphasizes the hands and heart at the expense of the head.
“More Zeal Than Sense”
Pastoral development must be about developing the young man holistically. The picture in the New Testament is that of young men developed as entire people, being taught the ways in which theology meets real life and real people. All throughout Acts, the role of the church is to identify, raise up, develop and send young men to the nations.
My experience in ministry is characterized by a myriad of overemphases. As a young college student earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Studies, I had “more zeal than sense,” as my parents often reminded me. It didn’t take too many classes in systematic theology before I had “too much sense for my own good,” again, as my parents often reminded me.
I graduated, took a job as a student pastor and learned rather quickly that Wright and Piper’s debates on Paul’s usage of “the righteousness of God” had no immediate bearing on acne, JV football and prom. On a deeper level, I learned the local church had become a means to an end for me, a necessary evil only existing for self-promotion. Even more disturbing, I learned that loving the doctrine of Jesus was not the same as loving the person of Jesus.
I’m not alone in my experience as a young zealot in need of grooming, humbling and recalibration.
Reveal, Reflect, Represent
By God’s grace, He led my wife and I to Renewal Church in which we began a pastoral residency program focused around three concepts: Reveal, Reflect, Represent.
The goal of the residency is that we would be knowledgeable of the God revealed in the scriptures, that we would reflect Christ in our obedience to and love for God, and represent God in the way we serve and love the local church. All three of these are to be done in the context of the local church – the “trenches” – where real life, experience and opportunities are never lacking.
I will have been a part of this program for a year this December. I’ve grown in my love for the Lord and His church and in my confidence to lead. I’ve seen leadership done well, I’ve led myself and I’ve been affirmed in my ability to lead. The same goes for teaching, discipling and the other roles of a pastor/planter. I am entirely certain this is a result of God’s church functioning as the church ought to function in regards to pastoral development, not something inherent within Renewal Church.
Young men need coaching, and by God’s grace, He has provided our “athletic training facility” - the local church.