A confession – I got this wrong in the past. Language of ‘finishing the race’ and images of batons being passed lead me to read 2 Timothy 2:2 individualistically, as if Paul wrote ‘And the things you have heard from me pass on to someone faithful, just as I have with you, and so the relay race goes on.’
But there are no relays, no single baton. Notice the plurals in the verse: ‘Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others’ (New Living Translation). I have met the idea that if a minister has raised up one more person into ministry then that’s the job done – a replacement has been found. The pulpit has been filled. But that is to misread our verse.
This is about the multiplication and spread of ministry – all the areas we have seen will need more people able to do them as the kingdom grows. It is a key part of the pastor’s task that we are consistently raising up more and more people able to do them. It’s a habit of mind that takes risks with younger Christians, and allows them to develop and grow.
For that reason, I’m delighted to see the pattern of apprenticeships happening in churches, and for the training that happens there.
Become a church which has this as its main focus, of course, and we become distorted. We become concerned with works not grace, and we value people more for what they can do than their place in Christ. We value the intelligent, the gifted and the quick, with little time for the weak, the slow, the ones who aren’t good with words. We become Corinthian.
Become a church which has too narrow a focus on this and something else weird happens. All of the aspects of Word ministry we have looked at need training, but Word ministry does not just produce more Word ministry, it produces more of every kind of ministry: hospitality, and generosity, and mercy and a whole range of other aspects of church. And above all, we must remember that its key partner is prayer. If our view of training is locked into ‘Word ministry produces Word ministry’ then, as Paul might say, where is the sense of hearing or the sense of smell? Word ministry equips everybody; it doesn’t just value the people who share that gift.
- Who are the people you intend to spend time with, attending to their training? Can you see them this Sunday?
- How willing are you to take risks with using younger Christians?
- Would your church be willing to stretch its budget to include a ministry apprentice?
- How will you train those whose ministry is not based on teaching?