Once upon a time Christian ministers were viewed with respect. Ministry was considered among the more trustworthy of professions. Not so much anymore! The appallingly bad behaviour of some has damaged the reputations of many.
The solution is simple. People serving in ministry must first be Christians—born again by the Spirit of God. Genuine ministry isn’t something you can fake. There’s no place for bluffing your way as a leader in God’s church. Leaders must first be followers—followers of Jesus. Pastors (or shepherds) of the flock need to understand that first of all, they are sheep and they will always remain sheep, guided by the Chief Shepherd.
Ministry is about God and people and life. It’s about change and transformation, character and integrity, truth and love. Such things are not learnt in the lecture room. You can’t download them from the internet or glean them from books. These lessons are taught by God in the business of life. They come through practice, experience, application, devotion, heartache, weakness, and failure.
Those who would lead God’s people are exhorted in Scripture to watch their lives and doctrine carefully (1 Timothy 4:16). Of course, this means hard work in studying the Word of God, but not in academic isolation. It is not simply the head, but also the heart and the hands that need to be changed.
It’s for these reasons, and more, that I personally worry when people are in a hurry to go to theological college in preparation for a life of ministry. I worry when people dismiss the idea of growing into their ministry now, to work out if they are suited for more ministry later. I’ve observed impatient men and women dismissing the idea of practical training and jumping quickly into academic training.
Don’t get me wrong—theological education is so important for training in Christian ministry. However, training must also be personal, practical, relational and communal.
For this reason, apprenticeships can be an excellent format for helping people to assess their suitability for Christian ministry. Spending time with a trainer and growing in life and ministry together can offer an excellent opportunity to work out what it means to serve and lead others in the ways of God. You can focus on ministry competencies while growing in theological conviction and building Christian character in the company of older and more experienced Christian leaders.
If you are serious about preparing for a life time of ministry, then let me encourage you to consider a ministry apprenticeship.