The Value of Training
I met a guy in Lifeway today at the bargain Bible aisle (I was trying to keep the baby happy while the wife shopped). He asked me about publishers and Bible versions and I helped him out. He continued to look, and since I was locked in with the stroller, I told him that I taught the Greek classes at Carolina College of Biblical Studies and offered any help in explaining the different translations and how they were written. Turns out that he has been thinking about taking classes at the college as he has sensed God has called him into ministry, but it is a “late in life call” and he had no idea what that would look like or how it would work. I truly enjoyed talking and helping him and he walked away firmly resolved to follow the call.
But what I really want to share that God struck me with is how we seem to have created this culture in church that one must FIRST be called to vocational ministry to THEN receive formal training. People take sewing classes to learn how to sew well. Others take shop classes to learn specific skills or art classes or music lessons or any number of other formal instructions to learn how to do well what they love. Why not get training in theology since we love God?!
I remember being THAT GUY fumbling through Lifeway choosing (almost at random) books to help me learn how to serve in my newly acquired ministry. What if someone had come along and said, “Let me show you how to do what you are trying to learn how to do. Let me teach you how to study the Bible, prepare a lesson, understand doctrine, learn the history of the church, and put all this information into a cohesive whole that you can pass onto others.” It wouldn’t be until the mid 2000’s before I ventured to seminary only after accepting the vocational call, and I remember the analysis of my first semester: “I learned more in 15 weeks than I’ve learned in my entire life about God and my faith.”
We pay lip service to “spiritual warfare.” The church is at war, and we are losing. We are losing our children. We are losing our families. We are losing our culture. What if Ft. Bragg never trained its soldiers? What if all the enlisted men and women sat around saying, “The officers are the ones who need the training. We just soldier the best we can.” We cannot sing “onward Christian soldiers” without first training the troops.
The Great Commission says to 1. Baptize, and 2. teach all that Jesus commanded. There is absolutely no way Christians can fulfill the Great Commission if they have not learned everything Jesus commanded first. It doesn’t mean they live it perfectly nor does it mean they have complete knowledge. A simple working knowledge would suffice.
So am I suggesting you should run out and sign up for classes? Not necessarily. You have to want it first. Being a soldier, as I am told, takes resolve, it takes persistence, it takes never giving up and pushing through till the end. If you don’t first want the deep truths of God and the skills of a fully equipped saint, putting your name on a class roster won’t change anything.
But if you have that hunger, that longing for more, the desire to pursue God and the courage to go deeper in your faith, start at the church. Who knows more or seems to have the type of faith that you wish you had, even if they are but “one level” above you? Disciples discipling disciples: it was Jesus’ plan all along. Start with the resources at your finger tips. Start with Lifeway! The single greatest gift God gave me is the ability to read.
Reading has changed my life, my faith, my marriage, my parenting, my finances, my spirit more than any single gifting or equipping provided by man or God.
Essentially, find your hunger and thirst for righteousness and the pure milk and the hearty meat of Scripture will fill you, because God has already placed the people all around you and littered the internet and book stores with all the resources you could ever want and MORE than you could ever use. All that’s missing is an insatiable desire in the heart for God’s word and to be equipped as his saint EVEN IF your vocation isn’t ministry.