We’re on the home stretch with our ten propositions about Christian ministry. The first eight were as follows:
- Our goal is to make disciples not church members.
- Churches tend towards institutionalism as sparks fly upward.
- The heart of disciple-making is prayerful speaking of God’s word.
- All ministry has the goal of nurturing disciples, not just one-to-one discipling or mentoring.
- To be a disciple is to be a disciple-maker.
- Disciple-makers need to be trained and equipped in conviction, character and competence.
- There is only one class of disciples, regardless of different roles or responsibilities.
- The disciple-making imperative of the Great Commission needs to drive fresh thinking about our Sunday meetings, and the place of training in congregational life.
The ninth is another counterintuitive thought: if you want to train people, don’t run a training event.
9. Training almost always starts small, and grows by multiplying workers.
The temptation with training is always to start a new program—to run a multitude of training courses and whack as many of the congregation through them as possible. We bring our structural, event-based, managerial mindset to the task of training, and try to work out how to do it in bulk and how to do it efficiently. But you can’t really train people this way any more than you can parent this way. Training is personal and relational, and it takes time. It means sharing not just skills, but knowledge and character. It involves imitation and modelling. Training courses and other resources are very useful tools to help us with this task. They can save enormous amounts of time (in not having to devise and refine training content ourselves), and they provide excellent frameworks within which the personal, relational work of training can take place. But it must start with people, and focus on people—not programs.
In other words, if we want to start training disciples to be disciple-makers, we need to build a network of personal ministry, in which people train people. And this can only begin if we choose a bunch of likely candidates and begin to train them as coworkers. This group will work alongside you, and in time, will themselves become trainers of other coworkers. Some of your coworkers will fulfill their potential and become fruitful fellow labourers and disciple-makers. Others will not. But there is no avoiding this. Building a ministry based on people rather than programs is inevitably time-consuming and messy.