Basics Convictions of Biblical Training
- “Training” is a biblical word & concept (not just a term or concept used in the world of sports, business, education, military etc.). It is a synonym for “equipping” and “nurturing” which is God-given mandate to the leaders of God’s people. See separate sheets with Bible verses and Greek words including such verses as Acts 22:3; 1 Cor.9:25; 1 Tim.4:7,8; 2 Tim.3:17; Heb.5:14; 12:11.
- Bible characters were given specific training in preparation for their God-given ministries:
- OT: Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel.
- NT: Jesus: through submission to His earthly parents (Luke 2:51,52), through His study of the Scriptures (observe how Jesus was able to discuss the Scriptures with the Jewish elders and also quote freely from the OT at different times in His ministry), through the various sufferings the Father brought into His life (Heb.5:8). Also the apostle Paul, cf. Acts 22:3; Gal.2:1; Acts 17:28.
- Our need for training is rooted in a sound biblical theology of man:
- The Bible states categorically that all people are by nature sinful (bent on doing our own thing, on going our own way, failing to hit the target etc.), incomplete, imperfect, prone to error, prone to fail, “vessels still in the making”.
- A successful, effective life is rooted in a genuine openness to learn and to grow through studying, proving or testing one’s knowledge in real-life situations, making mistakes, overcoming one’s failures and sins.
- If left to themselves without any preparation and ongoing training for the work God calls us to, as normal human beings God’s servants will unconsciously allow self-centred and sinful patterns to keep them from producing abundant fruit that honours God’s holy name. Cf. a worldly view of man easily leads man to feel himself to be sufficiently skilled to carry out whatever he sets his hand to. Hence the key words to describe such people include: self-assurance, self-confidence, self-assertion, self-fulfillment, etc. If they feel any need for training, it is generally limited to the area of learning new skills for a particular task or work, not so evidently in the area of character qualities, values and attitudes.
- Consequently, it is necessary as a part of developing a Christian training program (e.g. for missionaries) to confront and cut through such sins as pride (“I-know-it-all”, “perfectionism” etc.) as they will hinder the person from benefitting from any training experience. Also to help God’s servants to embrace wholeheartedly, without shame or false guilt, the truths related to their humanity and the freedom this brings, thus paving the way for them to be open to help, counsel, correction, and any other element involved in training.
- Training God’s servants is related directly to God’s plan/goal for growth.
- Training focuses on “learning”, “growing” and “maturing”. (Note all the -ing words which indicate a process rather than a state or condition.) To see His children growing up in Christ is clearly the desire of our heavenly Father. His desire and delight is to see His children becoming stronger and healthier in their whole Christian experience — that is, more like His Son, Jesus. This delights His heart because in it He sees the fruit of the sacrifice of His Son (cf. 2 Cor.3:17-18).
- It cannot be disputed — God wills that His people mature in their faith, that they walk in the Spirit and live lives that are glorifying to God (see Col.1:28-29; Eph.4:14-16) and that His work through them bear abundant fruit (see 2 Thess.3:3).
- God wills both the qualitative personal and “body” (group/corporate) growth of His people, as well as quantitative growth through adding new believers to the church.
- In Paul’s writings and ministry we cannot miss how he was primarily concerned for the honour of Christ in the lives and fellowship of His people. He didn’t just talk about all that the different ministries they needed to commit themselves to (outside of the body), how they needed to evangelise the lost etc. Obviously a fundamental concern on Paul’s heart was that all of these early churches would bear a clear and faithful witness to the unbelieving world, just as he desired their prayer support for the same evangelistic ministries (see Eph.6:19-20; Col.4:3-4). However, it is more than obvious that Paul’s heart was filled with a deep passion that these believers would grow in their walk of faith, fight against the evil one and all his wicked wiles, stand together in love and unity, and all the other concerns he expressed to them through his epistles for their spiritual well-being. And to this end he laboured hard among the churches to teach and train the believers in God’s truths and ways so that God’s purposes would be achieved.
- OM is an evangelistic and mission organisation with a primary thrust in the evangelisation of the world. However, God’s priority for our workers should also be considered our high priority also. We need to confront the reality that some of us may have an unbalanced and unbiblical view of our ministry — making evangelism the one and only focus of our existence as a mission. This may have its roots in a two-tiered view of priorities in ministry: a “higher” priority in proclaiming the Gospel to the unsaved, and the “lower” priority in nurturing the labourers. If these two priorities are examined in the light of the overall biblical evidence, it becomes clear that God’s priority for the nurturing and building up and equipping of His people is a higher priority over even the work of evangelism. The greatest concern on God’s heart is to see His children walking in holiness, living lives to the honour of His name, obeying His will (cf. John 13:34,35; 14:21) and manifesting the brightness of His light amid the darkness of this world (cf. Matt.5:16; Eph.5:6-10; Phil.2:14-16a).
- God trains through “trainers”.
- God is the One who causes growth to take place (see Acts 2:47; John 15 — the teaching of the vine).
- However, God also invites His servants to be His co-labourers to help stir up and encourage growth within the body of Christ — just as a gardener tends and cares for his garden. See 1 Cor.3:5-10.
- Training, therefore, is a vital part of the work of God’s kingdom. “Trainers” are God’s co-labourers — builders working together with God. Building truths into the lives of their fellow-workers. Building God’s people up in their knowledge of His will for their lives. Building strong foundations for faith and life and ministry rooted in God’s truths. Building God’s servants up so that they serve God together in love and unity. Building God’s people up so that they are strong in faith to face the dangers and the difficulties of life and ministry in a mature and godly way. Building into God’s servants a strong and growing desire to have a fruitful, effective ministry.
- Training others is rooted in the trainers’ own personal openness to continual growth.
- If we are to work with God towards the accomplishment of His will (as stated above), then growth must be seen to be the passion for the lives of His servants, that is, all those to whom God commits the tasks of equipping and training His servants.
- One of the prerequisites for training others towards growth and maturity is that we ourselves are desire growth in every aspect of our Christian walk (growth in the intimacy of our personal relationship with our Father, growth in our faith/trust in God, growth in the effectiveness of our ministry to others, growth in the love we share with one another, growth in our knowledge and understanding and application of God’s truths in life’s multitudinous situations, growth in our personal relationships (i.e. in marriage & family life), et al.
- God wills that for the entirety of our Christian lives, we His servants will never stop seeking to grow in each of these above-mentioned categories. As growth becomes increasingly evident in our lives and ministries, so we can help others to grow and train them in how this happens.
- Quality training produces qualitative growth.
- Analogy: If a garden is left unkempt, weeds take over. If Christians — if a church or a mission team — is just left to fend for themselves without quality preparation, care and oversight in ministry, then spiritual thorns and thistles and other obstacles to real growth take over the garden. For example, people’s natural bent is towards taking care of “number one”.
- Christians and mission teams left to themselves without a clear initiative directed towards increasing the quality of their life and ministries will move “downwards” or “backwards”, towards internal chaos faced with the real possibility for complete breakdown or disintegration. Though there may be not a few activities or “ministries” planned and carried out, nevertheless there will be precious little achieved for the glory of God and the growth of His kingdom. In the long term, such a work will suffer.
- This means: we have a biblical imperative to follow, viz. to take seriously our responsibilities to train our fellow-workers, based on a careful appraisal of their personal needs and the needs of their work, followed by a strategy that provides clear answers for the “what” and the “how” questions of training in order that the work of God’s kingdom will flourish.
- Training is at the heart of apostolic / missionary endeavours.
- This fact is clearly seen in the ministry of Jesus to His disciples. It was one of His focal ministries. (See separate paper/article entitled “Busyness for Him — or His Business?” Relay, Vol.2, No.3, 3rd Quarter 1997.)
- From the lives of Jesus and the early apostles, we learn how “training others” is in truth one of our primary responsibilities and ministries as missionaries. The natural man within us wants to be in the spot-light so that we are seen to be doing the work. In this way, we feel as if we are doing something and the money being invested by our supporters in our work is not being wasted.
- Naturally we like to be heavily involved in an upfront form of ministry as this helps us feel good especially when we can report on some direct results. We don’t feel like failures. However, our focus needs to be upon training and equipping the national believers to do the work of the ministry. They need an example to follow, but when we concentrate on training them and giving plenty of encouragement, guidance and loving advice as they learn more about serving their own people, this can only mean many positive results for years to come. Whereas if we focus on OUR work, when we leave, then the chapter of useful ministry may be closed right there. As we invest our lives in them, we may not see such astounding and immediate fruit but we are building for the future of this people and this nation.
- Training God’s servants is a partnership ministry between the mission organisation and the local church.
- Note how the great mission leader and trainer/pastor, Paul, showed intense care and concern for his fellow-workers, as well as for all the believers in the early churches that he related with.
- Note the following facts:
- he kept in good communication with them through writing pastoral epistles (especially Timothy, Titus & Philemon);
- he continued to instruct and guide them through the struggles of their ministries (versus leaving them to fend for themselves or make the best of a difficult situation);
- he expressed openly his commitment to and deep love for these fellow-workers (e.g. Titus, Timothy, Epaphroditus etc.).
- The fruit of all Paul’s hard labours to train and encourage his co-workers is clear: churches founded, Christians built up in the faith, the enemy’s works thwarted, the honour of Christ’s name planted in pagan societies etc.
- Thus we cannot receive God’s people sent out from their home churches and entrusted into our spiritual care but then be careless about our responsibility to ensure that they keep growing up in Christ and do the work effectively that they have been sent to do.
Notes prepared by Graham Roberts
OM’s Train the Trainers’ Seminar,