Paul’s Example of Training Preachers
Praying for Laborers
A Training College
Training Methods and Materials
Teaching Children/Discipling Youth
Building up the Families
The training of preachers should be a major emphasis of every church, because they are so necessary for God’s work.
This is one of the greatest needs in every nation. We cannot have good churches without good preachers and teachers. While we must give training for all of the saints, we must have special training for preachers and this must be a special focus.
Prominent men of the First Great Awakening saw the training of God-called, biblically qualified preachers as one of the pre-eminent needs of that hour.
Consider the following plea from Gilbert Tennent in his 1740 sermon “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry.” He warned that a large number of preachers were unconverted. In the boldest language he called them swarms of locusts and crowds of Pharisees “that have as covetously as cruelly, crept into the Ministry, in this adulterous Generation!”
The situation is similar today. Large numbers of preachers even in “Bible-believing churches” aren’t what they should be to lead, build up, and protect the Lord’s flocks in this day.
“And indeed, my Brethren, we should join our Endeavours to our Prayers. The most likely Method to stock the Church with a faithful Ministry, in the present Situation of Things, the public Academies being so much corrupted and abused generally, is, To encourage private Schools, or Seminaries of Learning, which are under the Care of skilful and experienced Christians; in which those only should be admitted, who upon strict Examination, have in the Judgment of a reasonable Charity, the plain Evidences of experimental Religion. Pious and experienced Youths, who have a good natural Capacity, and great Desires after the Ministerial Work, from good Motives, might be sought for, and found up and down in the Country, and put to Private Schools of the Prophets; especially in such Places, where the Public ones are not. This Method, in my Opinion, has a noble Tendency, to build up the Church of God.”
In referring to the “public Academies,” Tennent was referring particularly to Harvard and Yale, which had deteriorated in spiritual character.
Tennent called for private schools of the prophets to train men for the ministry. That is exactly the need today. But these schools must reject every tradition that has weakened and corrupted the churches, including shallow evangelism techniques, hastiness in receiving members, weak discipleship that doesn’t rise above spiritual infancy, a shallow ministry of God’s Word that doesn’t produce strong Bible students, an entertainment-oriented youth ministry, and weak discipline.
We need schools of the prophets that will prepare church leaders who can build true discipling churches.
Paul’s Example of Training Preachers
This was one of the things that Paul emphasized. Paul trained many preachers, who in turn trained others. In this way he multiplied his ministry in a wonderful way.
He taught this in 2 Timothy 2:2.
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
We see Paul’s emphasis on high standards for leaders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
We see Paul’s own training of the preachers at Ephesus in Acts 20:26-27 and of the preachers in Crete in Titus. We see his training of Timothy in the epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy.
Consider some lessons from 2 Timothy 2:1-2:
1. The strength for God’s work comes from God (2 Ti. 2:1). We cannot do any spiritual work in our own power and wisdom. We must constantly cast ourselves upon God and call out to God and trust God. The strength comes by understanding God’s grace in Christ. The more you know of God’s grace, the more effectively you can serve Him.
Our weekly men’s discipleship meetings focus on helping the men to understand God’s marvelous character and the riches they have in Christ. We teach them to see Christ everywhere in Scripture and everywhere in their daily lives.
2. A church must train preachers for the sake of the future. Paul’s preacher’s training program looks to the future. It is training men who train other men, generation after generation. Well-trained men of good Christian character and sound doctrine will keep the churches on the right track.
3. The training requires teaching the Bible. Paul taught God’s Word, not his own opinions and traditions.
4. The training requires faithful men. Faithfulness is a major requirement for any position of ministry in the church. Compare 1 Co. 4:2; Mt. 25:21; Lu. 16:10; 19:17.
Scriptural examples of faithful saints are Lydia (Acts 16:15), Timothy (1 Co. 4:17), Epaphras (Col. 1:7), Tychicus (Col. 4:7), Onesimus (Col. 4:9), and Silvanus or Silas (1 Pe. 5:12).
Faithfulness is our requirement for students we receive into our Bible college. Unfaithful people are welcome to attend our church services and sit under the preaching and teaching, and our prayer is that they will receive the Word of God and become faithful disciples of Christ. But I am not going to pour myself into training unfaithful men and women in special training programs like a Bible college, because they don’t have the spiritual character to receive the training and to teach others.
Consider the characteristics of a faithful man:
Faithful means dependable, diligent, having a good testimony (e.g., the brother chosen to carry the offering, 2 Co. 8:18, 22). Contrast Proverbs 10:26 and 29:15. If you say you will do something, do it. Have a heart to do what you are asked to do without grudging (2 Co. 9:7; 1 Pe. 4:9). If you accept a job, do it with all your heart; do it right; try to do it better and better. If you can’t be available, inform someone in leadership and try to find a replacement. A faithful man is responsible and dependable.
A faithful man is a teachable man. He is not a know-it-all (Pr. 26:16). He is not content to learn just a little, just enough to get by. He wants to continue learning more and more. He isn’t a person that considers himself an expert when he is no such thing.
A faithful man is a man who serves the Lord from the heart (Eph. 6:6-7). A faithful man serves the Lord from his innermost being, not to please or impress man and not only when someone is watching.
A faithful man keeps the teaching (2 Ti. 2:2). The teaching is committed to him as a solemn obligation, and he is responsible before God to keep it. A faithful man doesn’t change it (e.g., Seventh-day Adventists change the definition of grace to grace plus works). A faithful man doesn’t add to it (e.g., heretics in early centuries adding infant baptism, etc; SDA adding Ellen White prophecies; charismatics adding gibberish tongues, falling down, worldly dancing, women preachers). A faithful man doesn’t take away from it (e.g., failing to reprove and rebuke; avoiding preaching on unpopular subjects). Many men have a bad habit of changing things because they think they know better, even when they don’t.
A faithful man is faithful in little things (Lu. 16:10; 19:17). An individual’s character is seen in how he handles “small” responsibilities. This is how the saints are proven (1 Ti. 3:10). They are not proven by being given large responsibilities and ministries, but by being given small ones and proving themselves in the small ones.
Even unbelievers can do great things when they follow the principles of faithfulness. We see this in the Apollo program that landed 12 men on the moon between 1969 and 1972. All of the hundreds of thousands of scientists, engineers, and technicians who worked on that massive project were faithful. Everything had to be exact. Every object, large or small, had to be designed, engineered, fashioned, and installed in the most exacting manner. One small error could doom the Apollo missions.
A faithful man teaches others (2 Ti. 2:2). He doesn’t hide what he learns. Every believer is to become a teacher at some level (Heb. 5:12-14). The child of God should be eager to learn and then he should teach this to others. The faithful man is ready to teach. He looks for opportunities. He accepts invitations.
Faithfulness must begin when you are a new Christian (Acts 2:42). It means learning to honor the Lord by doing His pleasure rather than your own pleasure. We see this in Isaiah 58:13-14. The sabbath and the temple were for Israel, but we have the house of the Lord which is the church (1 Ti. 3:15). The principle of honoring the Lord is the same. The believer honors God by not doing his business when he should be doing God’s business. We teach our people that when the church assembles, that is time for God’s business, and it is therefore time for you to forget your own business. The believer honors God by delighting in His holy business, which means serving Him from the heart.
A faithful man continues in the teaching even when he is no longer under his teacher’s authority. I have seen many men veer away from sound teaching and practice when they got away from their teachers. Consider the fearful example of Ahaziah (2 Ch. 24:1-2, 15-22).
Every church leader should seek to continually raise up faithful men. This is not man’s natural way. In his natural self, man tends to be jealous of his position and authority. He wants other men to be his servants, not his equals. But the Word of God shows a different example (Mt. 20:25-28).
Consider Barnabas, who knew that he needed help and did not hesitate to invite Paul to join him in the ministry, knowing that Paul had a greater calling (Acts 11:21-26). Soon Paul exceeded Barnabas, but humble, godly Barnabas was not concerned about such things.
The Advantage of Ministry Teams
The early churches were established and led by teams of ministry-gifted men, and we have practiced this from the beginning of our church planting work.
(The Baptist practice of pastors and associate pastors is a leadership/ministry team.)
This is something I pray much for and it is something I would urge young preachers to pray for as a priority. Pray for help. Pray that God would raise up a ministry team. Since we see this in Scripture, we can pray in confidence that it is God’s will.
When we started our first church in the early 1980s, I prayed for this. I said, “Lord, I am not able to do this by myself. My wife is a great help, but we can’t do this alone. We need a ministry team like we see in the Bible.” The Lord answered that earnest prayer and brought two other men alongside, one from India and one from Switzerland, and we worked in harmony for several years in founding that church. The three of us together were much stronger and more effectual than any one of us would have been alone. I was the senior leader, but we functioned as a team. We made plans together and made decisions together. Together we trained “national” men who rose up to leadership positions.
We see this in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:6).
We see this in the church at Antioch, which is set before us as the preeminent missionary church.
- Paul and Barnabas worked together to establish this congregation (Acts 11:22-26).
- Soon there were many other preachers at Antioch (Acts 13:1).
- Then Paul and Barnabas were sent out as a missionary team to plant churches across the Roman Empire (Acts 13-14).
- When they had laid the foundation for a new church, they ordained a team of pastor/elders to rule it (Acts 14:23).
Consider some of the advantages to ministry teams:
More gifts (Eph. 4:11; Ro. 12:6-8). When men minister as teams, many different gifts are available. We see this in our church planting ministry. Presently, four of us are functioning as a leadership team. There is an American, a Korean, and two Nepalis. We are different ages. We have different spiritual gifts, personalities, training, and backgrounds, and these differences are an advantage in the ministry.
For example, we have monthly youth meetings, and each month a different leader plans and leads the meeting. As a result, each meeting is different and the youth benefit from the difference.
More eyes. When you have a multiplicity of ministers, you have more eyes to see spiritual danger and error (Acts 20:28-31). You have more eyes to discern hypocrites, deceivers, and false teachers.
More mouths (1 Pe. 4:10-11). When there is a multiplicity of ministers, there is greater variety in preaching and teaching. This is a great benefit to the people.
In our church planting ministry, not only do the leaders share preaching and teaching duties, but we also give many opportunities for younger preachers in training to minister God’s Word. The churches benefit greatly from the multiplicity of voices. Currently we have 13 preachers in addition to the four leaders.
More hearts. When there is a multiplicity of ministers, there are more hearts. Different men have different grace. Christ has all grace, but we only have grace in part (John 1:16). When men minister together as a team, their differences in personalities and approaches and gifts make the work stronger. Some are encouragers like Barnabas, while others are reprovers like James. I think of a preacher friend who says he can’t preach as hard as me in the matter of reproof and rebuke, but he supports my reproof and believes it is a blessing. Ministry teams make it possible for all types of men to minister together in harmony.
More hands. When there is a multiplicity of ministers, there are more hands to work.
Because we have many ministers in our team, we can have more ministries, more Bible studies, more house fellowships, more children’s ministries, more personal visits, etc.
More feet. When there is a multiplicity of ministers, there are more feet to carry the gospel to more people.
Our ministry teams make dozens of outreaches each month to carry the gospel to various parts of our city and to many other towns and villages.
More equality. When there is a multiplicity of ministers, there is more potential for equality in the church. God does not show preference, and we are taught to follow God (1 Ti. 5:21), but the temptation to show preference is very strong in fallen sinners. We have relatives and friends. We have favorites. Multiple leaders can help one another not to show preference.
When it comes to team leadership, in a practical sense we believe there will always be a senior leader or a head pastor. I believe we see James in this role in Acts 15:13-22. After the others had their say about the issue at hand, James summarized the matter and made a practical suggestion about how they should proceed. The other leaders and the church members agreed, and the matter was settled.
Whether complete unanimity is required in every decision is something that each church must decide before the Lord.
Praying for Laborers
We can’t train faithful men until God raises them up. We can train a faithful man, but only God can create a faithful heart.
The Lord has specifically instructed us to pray for this.
“Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).
In our main services every week, we have one of our young men lead the congregation in prayer for God to raise up laborers for His harvest. We pray this prayer believing that God would not instruct us to do it unless He was ready to answer.
We began this practice many years ago, and the Lord has answered these prayers in a marvelous way, and we are busy training those He gives us. The first ones the Lord called were the very young men who were appointed to lead in this prayer.
The need for earnest prayer for the Lord for laborers was mentioned by Gilbert Tennent in his 1740 sermon “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry” -
“And more especially, my Brethren, we should pray to the LORD of the Harvest, to send forth faithful Labourers into his Harvest; seeing that the Harvest truly is plenteous, but the Labourers are few. And O Sirs! how humble, believing, and importunate should we be in this Petition! O! let us follow the LORD, Day and Night, with Cries, Tears, Pleadings and Groanings upon this Account! For GOD knows there is great Necessity of it. O! thou Fountain of Mercy, and Father of Pity, pour forth upon thy poor Children a Spirit of Prayer, for the Obtaining this important Mercy! Help, help, O Eternal GOD and Father, for Christ’s sake!”
A Training College
We operate a full-time Bible college for the purpose of training preachers. It is a difficult ministry, but it has been one of the most important and fruitful things we have ever done.
We only accept students from our own church and a couple of seriously likeminded churches. The requirement is that the individual be a true disciple of Christ who is earnestly seeking God’s will. The individual must have a good testimony in the home, at school, at work, and in the church. We are not looking for quantity, but for spiritual quality. If we accept anything less than serious disciples, it will bring down the spiritual atmosphere of the training.
The discipline is serious. One of the major goals of the Bible college is to teach discipline. We teach honesty, punctuality, dependability, and hard work. We teach about the importance of correction and how to receive correction in a godly manner. The disciplinary atmosphere is strict, but also kind and gracious. We want our students to learn discipline so they can lead the churches in discipline, so they can discipline their own children, and to prepare them for Christ’s kingdom.
The Bible training is serious. We tell our new students, “You are going to work harder in the next three years than you have ever worked. If you aren’t ready to work like that, you are in the wrong place.”
The classroom work is serious. We have 12 hours of teaching per week plus a chapel.
We teach discipline in the classrooms by means such as the following:
- The students must be on time (and this is in a culture that does not value punctuality).
- If the student has a responsibility, he must be fully prepared. For example, if an individual is leading singing in chapel, he must have everything ready beforehand, including choosing a keyboard player.
- We require the students’ best effort. If they make low grades, I ask them if they have done their best, and if so, that is acceptable, but nothing less than their best is acceptable. They are training for the service of the King of kings.
- We challenge them to aim for excellence, not mediocrity.
- Tests are timed and when the teacher says, “Time’s up,” they must stop writing immediately.
- We give unannounced tests.
- We aim for understanding. We teach them to ask questions any time they don’t understand something. We don’t want to train parrots who merely repeat things back for a test.
- We train the students not to study just for a test only but to learn the material well for the future. The classroom study is just a beginning. They must go over the notes and read every Scripture and make sure that they understand everything that is taught.
And the classroom teaching is just part of the overall training of serving in the church.
The students preach regularly. We have many preaching opportunities that are geared to giving young preachers opportunities to exercise and grow, as well as to edify our people. For example, we have two messages in our main weekend services, a 20 minute gospel message geared to the visitors and a longer message geared to believers. The young preachers are assigned the gospel messages. On Wednesday evening, we usually have two 15 minute messages to give the young men further opportunities. The young men also preach at mid-week prayer services in other parts of the city. They preach in the village ministries. Sometimes they also preach at the school chapel.
The song leaders and preachers are critiqued by the leaders and by their fellow students, with the aim of constantly improving. This also helps the student learn how to receive correction in a right spirit.
The preachers in training attend and participate in our weekly church leaders meetings. They hear the things that we discuss, except some matters of a private nature, and they are encouraged to ask questions and share their thoughts, though they don’t make the final decisions.
Training Methods and Materials
The training must be thorough and extensive.
We publish a Bible training curriculum currently consisting of 32 courses that churches can use to educate and disciple preachers (and the congregation as a whole) and that preachers can use for self-study.
Baptist Music Wars
Believer’s Bible Dictionary
The Bible and Diet
The Bible and Islam
Bible Times & Ancient Kingdoms (illustrated with PowerPoints)
The Bible Version Issue
The Calvinism Debate
Defense of the Faith
The Discipling Church
Dressing for the Lord
Effectual Bible Student (book and video)
Effectual Prayer in Perilous Times (scheduled for late 2018)
The Four Gospels
Give Attendance to Doctrine
The History of the Churches from a Baptist Perspective (illustrated with PowerPoints)
Holiness: Pitfalls, Struggles, Victory
How to Study the Bible
Jews in Fighter Jets: Israel Past, Present, and Future (illustrated with PowerPoints)
Keeping the Kids: A Course in Child Training and Discipleship (book and video)
The Mobile Phone and the Christian Home and Church
Music for Good or Evil (video course)
New Evangelicalism: Its History, Characteristics, and Fruit
The New Testament Church
One Year Discipleship Course
The Pastoral Epistles
The Pastor’s Authority and the Church Member’s Responsibility
The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements
A Plea to Southern Gospel Music Fans
A Portrait of Christ: The Tabernacle, the Priesthood, and the Offerings
Sowing and Reaping: A Course in Evangelism (book and video)
Steps to a Stronger Church for the 21st Century (video)
Understanding Bible Prophecy
An Unshakeable Faith: A Course on Christian Apologetics (illustrated with PowerPoints)
Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity
What Every Christian Should Know about Rock Music
What Is the Emerging Church?
Woman and Her Service to the Lord
These courses contain about 10,000 pages of material plus 150 PowerPoint presentations with roughly 15,000 slides.
The courses can be used in every type of forum, including preaching, Sunday School, home Bible studies, private study, husbands and wives studying together, Bible Institutes, and home schooling.
We train our preachers to preach expositorily, to deal with the context, to define words, to preach with substance, to apply the Scripture to daily life, to be real students.
Training Children/Discipling Youth
A major way that we train faithful men is to train children and disciple the youth.
These are our potential faithful men of the future. The children and youth are the future of the church, together with those we win to Christ from outside and bring into the membership.
Our goal is not to lose one young person to the world. We don’t always succeed, but this is our goal and this is our focus and passion. We do everything possible to win every child to Christ and present him as a true disciple of Christ. We have had the blessing of seeing a large percentage of our young people grow up to serve Christ.
We deal with this extensively in the chapter of this book “A Discipling Church Disciples Youth” and even more extensively in the course The Mobile Phone and the Christian Home and Church.
Building the Families
To prepare children and youth to be disciples of Christ and faithful men in the Lord’s harvest requires building spiritual families. God’s will for each family with children is that it raise a godly seed for His glory (Malachi 2:15).
The home and the church are both ordained of God, and these two institutions should work together for the glory of Jesus Christ. The church should build the home, and the home should build the church.
This must be a major and continual focus. It must permeate every aspect of the church’s ministry. The leaders must have a clear plan about how to build strong families.
We deal with this in the chapter in this book “A Discipling Church Builds Godly Homes.”
The book Keeping the Kids also goes into all aspects of this important work even more extensively. It deals with such things as the husband wife relationship, fathers as the spiritual leaders of the home, mothers as keepers of the home, child discipline, protecting the home from the influence of the world, leading children to Christ, family devotions, and prayer and fasting. It also deals with the kind of churches that are necessary to build spiritual families.
The previous material is excerpted from THE DISCIPLING CHURCH: THE CHURCH THAT WILL STAND UNTIL JESUS COMES, 550 pages. Available in print or as a free eBook from www.wayoflife.org.
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Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials