Thursday, August 03, 2006

Things I Learned at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (#12 - Train Others)

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2).

The apostle Paul's instruction to young Timothy is straight forward enough. Timothy is to entrust to reliable or faithful men the things he has learned from Paul. Teach what you learn to others, and charge them with teaching others as well. Here's the divinely-inspired gospel pyramid scheme if you will, multi-level marketing for those zealous for God.

While the apostle's instruction is pretty straight-forward, prior to joining CHBC I'd never really seen this done in an organized, scaled way. In most churches I'd been a part of, training faithful men was seen as the province of the local seminary. Occassionally a really promising young man with obvious gifts for public ministry would come to a pastor's attention, and that man would be heralded as the new prodigy, but never did I see a pastor take 2 Tim. 2:2 as a charge to proactively multiply the spread of the gospel by building into the lives of other men who would go and do likewise. The idea that it's the church that trains men for ministry seems to have fallen on hard times. In my experience, pastors are overwhelmed with so many other duties and tasks (some important, some secondary) that the slow work of cultivating leadership seems to go undone.

I remember well my membership interview at CHBC. Mark was gathering all the background information and testimony he usually gathers. We were moving at the brisk pace with which he seems to do everything. Then somehow he uncovered the fact that I'd been an elder at a previous church and felt called to preach the gospel full time. He had been speaking with me all this time. Then, he looked at my wife, Kristie, and asked, "Is he gifted to preach?" as though I had left the room. First thought: what in the world? Second thought: hmmm, I wonder what Kristie will say? Kristie looked at Mark and smiled a big smile, "Oh definitely." Whew....

Mark jotted a few things down on the interview sheet and then said with a twinkling enthusiasm, "You should call the office and let's arrange a time to start meeting for lunch regularly."

I was encouraged at my wife's answer and taken aback at Mark's instant interest and generosity. He didn't know me much at all. And yet, I think in view of 2 Tim. 2:2, he was quick to extend himself to me in an effort to teach me and have me teach others.

We met for lunch from time to time. Not as much I would have liked, but that was completely my fault. I honestly think Mark would have given me all the time I could have requested and his schedule could afford. When I did prompt a lunch, he never refused. And his study was always open to me. In fact, it was always open to any young man interested in, trying to discern, committed to, or already involved in ministry in the local church.

And not only was his lunch calendar and his study open, so too was the church. CHBC makes it a habit to invest in young men training for the minsitry.

First, there are the opportunities afforded to young men to publicly preach in the Sunday evening services. Elders and staff get first dibs, then come those men pursuing ministry and those trying to discern public teaching gifts. The congregation listens and encourages actively, being blessed by and celebrating the gifts the Lord has given the churuch.

Second, there are the growing number of men who have participated in the internship program. Two classes of six interns come to the church for a five-month "ecclessiology boot camp," where they intensively study church history, theology and the operation of the local church. The church provides housing, a small stipend, and significant small group and one-on-one time with the pastoral staff, all in an effort to multiply the number of faithful men who will teach others. With a steady faithfulness, the "alumni" of the program is now close to three dozen or so.

Third, there is the investment in 9Marks/CHBC Weekenders, a four-day look "under the hood" of CHBC offered to pastors, church leaders, and seminarians. Attendees sit in on an elders' meeting and a members' meeting, observe membership classes, discuss preaching, church discipline and other topics, attend Sunday services, and meet with staff. The aim: by God's grace provide a working, though imperfect, model of biblical faithfulness that other faithful men may adapt and improve.

Fourth, there are the number of men who benefit from the church's generosity in supporting their seminary education.

And the training seems never to stop. The teaching offered in Core Seminars (CHBC's version of Sunday school) is a "seminary lite" immersion experience. Both Michael and Mark are models of expositional preaching and theology set ablaze in the pulpit. And the elders are capable disciple makers who invest generously in training others in the deep truths of the faith.

I've learned that one of my chief responsibilities as a pastor is to train faithful men who will faithfully train others in handling the word of truth. I've learned that I need to keep my eyes open for men the Lord may be raising up in the body as elders, teachers and leaders, and to invest strategically in these men. I've learned that that investment multiplies itself as they go about the glorious task of training others also. And I've learned that such training is incredibly doable. From steps as simple as regularly meeting with a brother over lunch to discuss a book, to using the Sunday evening pulpit to help men discern their giftedness, there are immediate things I can do to be faithful to 2 Tim. 2:2. And Lord willing, establising an intern program to invest in the future leadership of the Church is not too far beyond our ability either.

I've learned that leadership is not some special thing that belongs to me alone, some thing I'm to jealously guard against the encroachment of others. Leadership is a discipline and desire I'm to intentionally cultivate in others. So, the end-game for me at FBC Grand Cayman is to pray and work for a cadre of leaders raised up from within the body and deployed to train others.

FBC Grand Cayman went three years without a senior pastor. They were led during much of that time by a faithful group of elders, men who put their shoulder to the plow when things were very difficult. Now I join them to identify and train other men to take up the mantle of leadership, and to groom future pastoral leadership to succeed us all and prevent any more three-year lags between senior pastors.

1 comment:

Shawn Abigail said...

I once talked to the President of a major corporation. He said too many Managers spend all their time trying to help poorly performing employees become "solid citizens" when they should be spending their time helping "solid citizens" become "stars".

You can take any experiences from the business world with a grain of salt, and you can take this concept too far. Church leadership should be spending time helping the weak and failing, but this cannot take all your time. You must reserve some time for developing young men with potential.

Challenge them to study for themselves. Ask them questions. When they ask you questions, don't give them the answers (instead point them where they can find the answers). Give them good books to read. Give them ministry experience. If they get an opportunity to preach, make sure they know you are going to give them honest feedback after the sermon. Run courses on homiletics. Encourage them. Pray for them. Don't give them too much responsibility right away. Don't be afraid to give them some responsibility. Mentor them one on one, and make sure they have a group of like minded friends.

God bless you as you seek to build up strong Christians in this new church.