A former professor that I once dismissed as a bitter, cynical, and just plain wrong and angry old man actually turned into one of my favorite teachers. What changed wasn’t him. It was me.
This has taught me a few things about ministry: one thing is that If they are “bored” maybe they aren’t doing missions. One other thing it has taught me is that Maybe missions should go before (or simultaneously with) training.
I was once of the opinion that people should very cautiously engage in missions/ministry until they have spent a good amount of time being “fed”. (E.g. people should attend evangelism seminar’s and such to get a good grasp on the gospel before they go out and share it).
My thinking in this was that the last thing we want is for our people to go out and “botch” the gospel message. Furthermore, why would we want new believers to get “eaten up” by ministry to broken and sinful people? Wouldn’t it be more wise to have them take about a year worth of training and classes before sending them out to the wolves? Maybe we can let them hang out in the preschool department for awhile, or be a trustee, or run the sound…you know something they can’t screw up too majorly.
I’ve changed my opinion.
Instead of people sitting on the sidelines they should be actively engaged in missions/ministry the second they become followers of Jesus. There are so many good reasons for this but here are my top 3:
1. Missions creates hunger
What drove me to Scripture early on in my walk with Jesus were teenagers that asked difficult questions. The more I did missions/ministry the more I realized how vital prayer is to the Christian life. As the pressure of being an example tended to increase in my life I became more desperate and hungry for Jesus.
I was no longer bored in sermons, classes, or lectures because I was hungry for information that I could pass on to others. Rather than sitting in a chair being “fed” to the point of being fat, I was engaged in the field and pouring out so much that I was making myself hungry. THEN when I came to sit under the Word I was starving and needed fed. Missions has a way of creating hunger. Hunger creates desperate Bible students, prayer warriors, etc.
2. Web of Relationships
As believers grow more in their relationship with Jesus and other believers we have a tendency to know less and less lost people. Our friendships begin to change. And as our hearts change we find that some relationships are more difficult to sustain given our new found love for Jesus. This is both a good thing and a bad thing.
It is good that our love for believers is increasing. But it is bad that often we make ourselves into bubble communities that shield ourselves from sinners. Though this is bad it seems to be a painful reality. So, why not take advantage of this web of relationships early on—by encouraging new believers to engaged in ministry/missions with those in their web of relationships?
This is going to sound really arrogant and jerky of me, so I’ll warn you in advance. Forgive me.
I get really bothered sometimes in my seminary classes. You can usually tell the guys that are actively engaged in missions/ministry and those that are using this as a time of being “fed”. The guys that are using this as a season of getting fat on truth and knowledge tend to be the ones in class that see gray issues as only black and white.
I sit in class many times and just shake my head; knowing that some of these guys are going to get chewed up once they get into a church. They have various ideas or way that they say things that I know from experience will probably not work in a local church. They may be doctrinally sound but they haven’t been seasoned. (And I say this as a 30 year old that has only been doing ministry for about 10 years—I’m sure wiser people than me say the same thing about my ideas, etc.)
Seminary is a weird culture and if it is not tempered by missions/ministry then we spend a good amount of our time arguing about secondary issues. I’m convinced that the church culture can sometimes be the exact same way. A church that fights about carpet, clocks, and church signs is probably not actively involved in missions.
Missions/Ministry has a way of displaying what is really important. It also has a way of making the theoretical reality. And those theories, doctrines, etc. either get blown up quickly or they are wisely and deeply embraced for a lifetime.
I am all for training people while they are doing missions. But I’m beginning to think it may not be wise to have seasons where we are simply getting fat on knowledge.
The fatter the people get at the beginning the harder it will be later to get them to move.