Ministry Training from the Book of Faith and Order:
“Grace Covenant Church commits itself to equipping its members through education in the Scriptures. This training is intended to enable members to serve and edify fellow believers through the employment of their spiritual gifts.”
It is a joy to be in a covenant community of believers who takes this commitment seriously! A love for the Scriptures and a desire to build up others through the stewardship of God’s gifts is a sign of spiritual life and health in the church. This is a part of our DNA as a church and is instrumental in our desire to see us grow in Unity to Maturity in Christ!
We didn’t just make up this commitment. The Scriptures give us the mandate:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Eph. 4:11 – 14 (ESV)
This training begins with the ministry of the Word. Expositional preaching, Sunday School, Catekidz, weekly Discipleship Groups, private ministry of the Word, Biblical Counseling, and a host of informal gatherings taking place all throughout the week centered around times in the Word are all means for education in the Scriptures. This education is not intended to just make us smarter – but to provide the framework in our thinking to carry out the priorities of God’s Kingdom with discernment (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:14) and wisdom (Col. 3:16). I hope you rejoice as you see how rich, deep, wide, extensive our commitment is to the Word of God!
The framework provided by Scripture for our thinking impacts the stewardship of our giftedness. Because the Gospel transforms our thinking (compare Rom. 1:21 to Rom. 12:2 for instance) it transforms how we think about how God has gifted us. Before we go further however I want to push back against a phrase I heard often earlier in ministry – “you are saved to serve.” That’s not really true – we are saved to worship. Service is one of the means by which we worship. We use our gifts as a stewardship to serve the one that we worship – for the sake of worship (or his glory, Eph. 1:6,12,14). This is important to understand, otherwise our service becomes utilitarian and earthy instead of focused on Christ and his fullness and ministry to others so that others too “may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” We’ll define success as our effort and numbers instead of faithfulness and bringing our Lord joy.
So we joyfully serve as a response to all that God is. We serve according to his Kingdom priorities found in his Word. And we train ourselves by his Word to serve well so that we are built up in Unity to Maturity in Christ. This then percolates into how we do things both formally and informally.
Having been informed by the Word, here are two highly organized ways we are training:
Pre-track Elders – presently we have two men (Adam Shaeffer and Joey Parker) in our “Pre-track” program that allows men who have the desire for the office of bishop to get their feet wet in ministry. This is an intentionally open ended approach to training with the goal of seeing men enter the eldership who are qualified. This is a priority of the church seen throughout the ages – we want to take this Kingdom priority very seriously as we not only see the results of poor ecclesiology but more significantly have all experienced the blessings of good ecclesiology overseen by qualified elders (II Tim. 2:2, I Tim. 3:1-7).
Biblical Counseling Training – the ministry of the Word in counseling is a priority ministry of the church to one another. Training in discipling people through the crises of our lives is the business of the church. The Wise Counselor calls us to such a ministry (Rom 15:4, 14).
Beyond these two specific areas there is training taking place both formally and informally. From the age identified programs to the specific ministries of music, diaconal (I Tim 3:8 – 13), and outreach you will find that training is taking place with the priorities of the Word informing our decisions and choices all along the way.
I want to close by returning to Ephesians 4:11&12
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry…
Notice that the shepherds and teachers … the elders … are given to the church and tasked with equipping the saints for the work of ministry. This is a helpful statement for defining the duties of the elders. As we serve the body we want to have this Kingdom priority in mind.
This does not mean we have it all figured out though! Which brings us back to the Word – reformed and always reforming. As we continue to develop ministry training, whether formal or informal – the text book for effective ministry training won’t be a program or new bestseller – it will be the Word of God. If you have questions about Ministry Training, want to investigate serving in a particular area, or see an area where training is needed please be sure to contact an elder without delay!