Jason Pilchard, Pastor and Administrator at Beth Eden Baptist
Jason continues our series on "Preparing for Ministry" by focusing on the basics that can be learned during the teenage years. Click here for the first, second, and third posts in this series.
Four years ago, we registered our now eleven year old son to play on the local recreational league baseball team. In Colorado, the baseball season begins in early April. For his team, however, that meant practice began in late December. December!
Not having grown up playing baseball, I was skeptical of how much could really be accomplished practicing in an elementary school gymnasium while it was snowing outside. What I learned was that even youth baseball teams drill every aspect of the game – turning a double play, making a proper turn at first base, setting up to make a throw to the cut-off man after catching a fly ball. The goal of (December!) practices was to prepare the team for as many real-game experiences as possible.
A late-high school or early-college student who longs to be used by God in Christian ministry might benefit from a similar approach to preparing for ministry. Intentionally “drill” the basic components of Christian ministry now.
A short article can’t be comprehensive, but let me suggest five areas of practical preparation that will equip you well for Christian ministry in almost any context – local or international, vocational or volunteer, etc.
Don’t forsake the assembling of the body.
Gather faithfully with your local church, and get good at gathering. Warmly greet visitors. Enthusiastically participate in congregational singing. Humbly listen to God’s Word with a heart that genuinely longs to be transformed by it (James 1:22). Encourage someone who is hurting, and rejoice with someone who is blessed (Rom. 12:15). Ask someone to share with you what God is doing in their life. All of this (and more) happens when the body assembles. In fact, the writer of Hebrews says that this is why the body assembles (Heb. 10:24-25). Christian ministry is more than faithful and purposeful church attendance, but it is not less!
Avoid unhealthy patterns of age segregation.
That’s a fancy way of saying, “Purposefully hang out with the older people in your church!” Don’t attend all of the college gatherings and skip the all-church, after-church watermelon feasts! That’s where ministry preparation kicks into high gear! Paul taught Titus to strive to create a culture within the church of older saints mentoring the younger saints (Titus 2). Purposefully draw out your older fellow church members on their ministry experiences. A rookie who is serious about improving his game doesn’t spend valuable hours playing clubhouse games with the other rookies; he picks the brains of the veterans.
Learn how to have natural spiritual conversations.
When was the last time you initiated a spiritual conversation with a new acquaintance, a long-time friend or a family member? Spiritual conversations are the tracks on which the trains of discipleship travel. Simple questions like “How did you become a Christian?”, “What is God teaching you from His Word right now?”, “What attribute of God is especially dear to you right now?” and “How can I pray for you?” should be normal and natural in the church, especially for those in spiritual leadership.
Develop a dirty-towel mentality toward ministry.
Jesus washed His disciple’s feet and instructed them to do the same (John 13:1-17). Paul taught the Philippian believers to regard others as more important than themselves and to look out for the interests of others (Phil. 2:3-4). John said genuine Christian love wears work boots (I John 3:17-18). So much of Christian ministry is just plain dirty, hard work. This is true of actual disciple-making ministry – taking late night emergency calls from a friend who is struggling with a life-dominating sin or driving 20 minutes out of your way to pick up a senior who can no longer drive to church. And this dirty-towel mentality is also necessary to sustain infrastructures that support disciple-making ministry – putting away chairs after a fellowship, cleaning church bathrooms, changing dirty diapers in the nursery. If God chooses to expand your personal ministry platform, the dirty-towel duties may look different, but they will not go away. In fact, they will probably be harder and dirtier. Learn to willingly accept and delight in faithfully accomplishing dirty-towel opportunities now!
Learn to suffer well.
A simple survey of the ministry development of many of our Bible heroes of the faith reveals this simple truth: God shapes spiritual difference-makers through suffering (Gen. 37-50, James 1:2-8). Even more, God is pleased to use the suffering of His most faithful servants as a platform to display His sovereignty, goodness and love (II Cor.12:1-10, I Pt. 4:12-14). A.W. Tozer famously said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” This will likely be part of your ministry preparation path as well. The Seminary of Suffering is designed to yield a graduate that is broken, humble and dependent on God – exactly the profile of a faithful Christian servant. In one short verse, Peter explains exactly what it means to suffer well: I Peter 4:19 – Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
Back to my son’s baseball team. Some of the early drills in the elementary gymnasium (in December – while it was snowing outside) were brutal. Most of the first-time baseball players were, frankly, awful. But, four years later, all of the players have improved and the team is competitive and a lot of fun to watch. You will always be preparing for ministry while serving in ministry. So embrace the process and don’t quit! God delights in using humble, willing and diligent servants to fulfill the ministry of helping others follow His Son.
Bruce McAllister, Director of Pastor Relations
We have already discussed "Preparing for Ministry When you Don't Know Your Calling" and "Preparing for Ministry Overseas." This post, written by Bruce McAllister, is geared towards providing helpful guidelines in preparation for church planting.
Ellen and I were only in our mid-twenties when we were asked to consider planting a new church about sixty miles from Greenville in North Carolina. We were working at BJU, enjoying the early years of marriage and serving the Lord here. God blessed us with a new baby boy. I had the growing desire to pastor a church, in addition to my teaching and administrative responsibilities here at BJU. The Lord opened an exciting door for church planting on the weekends and we were soon doing visitation in preparation for our opening services.
I would have never dreamed where this open door would lead. God blessed us with fine people to help us, and the church began to grow. We met in an American Legion building for about three years, built our first church building, and then the church called its first full-time pastor while I continued with my full-time ministry here at BJU. The church continues to this day and has an excellent pastor. In addition, our growing family helped to plant another church in a nearby county back in the 1990’s. Since that time, each of our four children have helped to plant churches in various locations around the USA. Praise the Lord!
Planting the church in North Carolina opened the door for me to begin teaching church planting at BJU. I taught church planting for twenty-five years or more at BJU, teaching an estimated 1000 men how to plant churches. I also wrote my doctoral dissertation on church planting. It has been a thrill to see many men and their wives go out and plant churches and to watch those ministries mature over time. I have prayed for them, worked with them, and preached for them over the years, seeing firsthand what God has done through their adventure of faith.
Perhaps you are curious about how God could use you and your family and friends to plant a sound biblical church in a needy community. You are probably wondering how you could prepare to plant or assist in planting a church. Much could be said, but let me give some basic pointers about how you can prepare to plant a church.
Church planting is an intensely spiritual undertaking. You need God’s gracious help. Ask God to show you where and with whom He would have you to start a new church. Prayerfully dream dreams together with your family and friends. Ponder the plight of those who have never heard the Gospel and where they will be in eternity without Christ. Consider the privilege of discipling new believers and establishing them in the faith. Pray the God will show you the need. Pray for target areas. Ask God to provide the wisdom and means to plant a new ministry. He loves to answer prayers like that!
Prepare Your Life
Finish your formal education. Get some seminary training, especially if you will be handling the Word of God regularly as the lead pastor of the church plant. Members of the church planting team profit from having a variety of gifts, educational training, and experiences. All should use and develop their gifts now. The pastor almost always needs to be a married man. His wife should have a heart for ministry. Their young marriage should be progressing and maturing, focused upon serving the Lord. The blessing of having children will be an asset in pastoral ministry. Singles also make very significant contributions to a new church through dedicated sacrificial service. Get your personal finances in great shape, especially with regard to shedding burdensome debt. Get in top spiritual shape and get ready to go.
Learn to Love Ministering to People
Biblical ministry in church planting is full of evangelism and discipleship. Church planting is God-focused, gospel-centered, and people-oriented. Loving people genuinely is a big key for successful church planting. Be very engaging with new people. Learn the art of tactful, compassionate conversation. Love every age group, from the cute babies to those struggling with old age. If you will be doing the bulk of the preaching, then certainly learn to preach the Word of God accurately and practically in a clear, simple, and understandable way. Be very committed to your ministry of the Word by adequate weekly message preparation. But understand you must be very engaging with people personally, and that takes much time as well. People naturally bring their problems with them to church. Some will be hurting and suffering. Some will be sick of the consequences of sinful choices. Be ready to offer Christ-like compassion and biblical counsel.
Learn Church Ministry and Church Planting
You should develop a biblical theology and philosophy of local church ministry. Know your doctrinal position. Be ready to articulate and teach your core values. It is helpful to have a mission and vision statement for your new ministry. Take a church planting course and read church planting literature. Understand the basic legal, financial,and budgetary issues and practices in church ministry. Investigate locales of interest to determine if a sound, biblical church is truly needed. Know the practical timetable of things to accomplish progressively throughout the church planting process. Learn from seasoned pastors and especially from seasoned church planter. Learn to navigate conflict resolution. Learn to lead like a shepherd as well as to follow pastoral leadership. Pastors should listen to others and love receiving their input and ideas. Get ready for occasional interpersonal conflicts, and be ready to apologize or forgive for there will be plenty of opportunities! Thankfully, church planting’s rewards far outweigh the risks.
I recommend that you get familiar with the Yes But How Handbook of Church Planting by Ken Davis and Roger McNamara. It is the most thorough book on the details of church planting that I have seen.
Let me know if I can be of any help to you as well. I would be glad to talk with you on campus or by phone. I immensely enjoy building new ministry relationships and connecting others with ministry opportunities through BJU’s church staffing services or through church planting efforts. My e-mail address is email@example.com and my office phone number is 864.241.1662.
Paul Seger, Biblical Ministries Worldwide
Our last post covered “Preparing for Ministry When You are Unsure of Your Calling.” Paul Seger continues our series, “Preparing for the Ministry,” by focusing on overseas work. He is part of a global mission agency that is “dedicated to advancing the glory of God through the gospel by enabling North American churches to send out their finest to establish reproducing churches around the world.”
Do you have what it takes?
Jesus said that you should not build a tower or go to war unless you first figure out whether you have what it takes (Luke 14). Therefore, before considering missions, it is important to ask the question: “Do I have what it takes.” The answer to that question should be answered in 3 different ways: (1) who you are, (2) what you know, (3) what you can do?
Who You Are
The qualifications of a missionary are the same as an elder (1 Timothy 3). These are all internal character qualities of godliness. This means that the missionary must have a level of spiritual maturity that is above and beyond the average Christian. In addition to this, there are also some other heart issues that are important.
Resilience: You must be able to bounce back. Being a missionary is a tough job.
Flexibility: Things will not be the same on a mission field as they are at home. You will not be able to control your environment or circumstances.
Tenacity: This is simply the ability to stay the course and endure difficult situations. The biblical word is “patience.”
Passion: You should have an enthusiasm that is obvious to others when it comes to both serving God and being a missionary.
Spousal Commitment: Do not consider becoming a missionary if your spouse does not have your devotion to missions.
Focus: You must have a clear understanding of your purpose or mission in life and then be able to stay focused on that calling.
Internally Motivated: Missionaries must be self-starters. There is no one looking over your shoulder telling you what to do hour-by-hour.
Humility: Missionaries are not empire builders, they are coaches who need a true spirit of humility to help others to succeed.
What You Know
It is critical that missionaries understand and have a clear grasp of theology. Unless you clearly understand the message, don’t try to deliver it. During Candidate Orientation you’ll take an exhaustive written exam to help evaluate your biblical and theological knowledge on all of the major doctrines.
What You Can Do
It is critical to be able to do ministry, not just know about it. The following 16 areas are important:
Evangelism: Can you relate to non-Christians, building relationships and explain the path to salvation?
Discipleship: Do you have experience in helping a new believer grow to spiritual maturity?
Exegetical Skills: Do you have the ability to apply hermeneutics and understand the text?
People Skills: Can you relate well to people on a personal level?
Counseling: Can you help people solve personal problems using the Bible?
Administration: Can you organize your life, prioritize your time, and manage the workload of ministry?
Strategic Planning: Can you chart a course and get “there?”
Writing Skills: Communication with supporters is your lifeline for prayer and finances.
Speaking: Can you to stand in front of a group and explain to others God’s calling in your life and teach scripture?
Time Management: Can you prioritize time, manage a daily schedule, and stay on track with the day-by-day commitments without supervision?
Financial Skills: Missionaries must manage their own finances well.
Language Learning: While a low aptitude for language learning does not disqualify anyone, most missionaries need to learn a language.
Cultural Awareness: Good missionaries are sensitive to the culture in which they work and can adapt to the positive sides of those cultures.
Computer Skills: It is the world we live in.
Conflict Resolution: Missionaries must have the skill of being able to manage difficult relationships and come to a biblical resolution of conflicts.
Teamwork: A missionary should have demonstrated the ability to work in a team and provide leadership for others.
At first glance it may appear very intimidating to think that you have to qualify in all of the areas above, but a mission agency can help you gain the adequate experience, knowledge, and character that is needed to succeed as a missionary. Even if you are not presently ready to meet all the qualifications, we can begin walking with you on this journey.
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.