Over on the GoSpeak ministry site, the latest report devotes a few paragraphs to training men to preach. Not much is said about how that was done. Below are a few thoughts on that process.
My title for this post may sound provocative. Or intriguing. Many of our folk think — and I’ve heard it said and read affirmations to the effect — that a successful mission work depends on having (1) a permanent church building, (2) a full-time preacher, and (3) a preacher-training school.
Seems a bit strange that 1 and 3 don’t appear anywhere in the New Testament. The second, only here and there.
So modern expectations in the church about what constitutes an established work differ enormously from biblical evidence.
Don’t misunderstand here: I’m not advocating that buildings and training programs are wrong. They are, in some instances, legitimate means. To many folk, however, they have become the endgame.
What have we done in the past few years to train men? Here are some thoughts.
First, in great measure, a part of the process is just getting out of the way. Making room for men to stretch their wings, get experience, try out their gifts. Missionaries, brimming with their biblical knowledge and practical wisdom, sometimes find it hard to let less-equipped men step in.
In the Jardim Esplanada congregation, we started a rotation of Sunday preaching and teaching. Earlier, most of the preaching and teaching was done by the full-time preacher who was here when I came, until he left, by the other Brazilian brother who helped him begin the work here, and myself. For a good while, the preacher preached on Sundays exclusively.
After the preacher left, and the other brother fell away, we extended the rotation to include the pulpit, and opened to all the faithful men who wanted to be included. Not all of them participated, but most did. After we left in January to start the new work, the rotation continued.
In Taubaté, also, from the beginning, the pulpit has been open to all the men, and at least three men have developed their first preaching skills in the congregation.
Second, home study groups during the week have also been helpful to develop the men’s teaching skills. When we came to São José dos Campos, there were no meetings occurring during the week, so we began a small group ministry. It’s had its ups and downs over the years, but still continues and has provided opportunity for men to grow in their public service as they led studies, fielded questions, evaluated needs, and guided groups.
Third, good training literature has been a blessing. We published a book by the preacher on how to conduct communion and offering meditations. Many of those guidelines also work in sermons and classes. We have shared books on preaching and other articles and ideas, as well as the “Truth for Today” material available in Portuguese.
Our monthly Christian magazine (Edification) and the training journal (Ministry & Mission) haven’t focused as much on teaching and preaching specifically, but what issues we’ve gotten out have served to help them think more solidly and deeply on biblical subjects. Missionary Bryan Bost wrote a series in the former on preparing sermons.
We plan to publish Bryan’s series in a book, along with other helps, that complements the communion meditations book, and explains how to conduct church meetings, including sermons and classes.
Also, Lord willing, we hope sometime to publish (in Portuguese) a small volume on the new type of work we’re doing, called From City to City. This book will provide biblical and practical material as it focuses on personal evangelism, discipleship, and working and worshiping in homes.
Fourth, special classes and intensive courses have helped the men to develop their skills. There’s no organized school, no diplomas or certificates, but we take advantage of Saturdays and some special holidays to provide moments for training. The Brazilian brother mentioned earlier taught a weekly course on preaching and publicly speaking. I’ve held monthly advanced classes on a variety of topics, among them biblical interpretation and a three-month series on the patterns of the New Testament. (The latter is being worked on for a book, called In All the Churches.)
We’ve invited a few teachers, both Brazilian and Americans, to come and teach as well. They’ve enriched the perspectives of the men with their insights and special areas of interest and study.
All told, through a combination of instruction via literature and classes, as well as hands-on experience both on Sundays and during the week, a significant number of the men have learned how to teach and preach. This approach is not innovative, but it has been adapted to our situation and it is purposeful, seeking to allow the Lord to use everyone according to their opportunities and gifts.
Sometime this year or next, some of these ideas will appear in my book, Effective Missions (working title), to be published by Forthright Press. Do watch for it.