Very interesting post from Phil Newton today writing on the idea of the local church being the place to learn the work of ministry:Founders Ministries Blog: The Local Church: The Training Ground for Ministry. Phil is a sharp guy and I have always enjoyed reading and listening to him.
I liked a lot of what he had to say in this piece. In places I think he elevates or overemphasizes the "local church" organization but much of what he wrote is spot on. This was my favorite:
The typical church’s approach with someone that expresses a call to gospel ministry has been to immediately send him to a seminary for training. While every local church may not be able to replace a theological seminary education (and I am not advocating such replacement), churches must realize that seminaries cannot replace the shaping influence of the local church community for future ministry. Instead, churches must not relegate to seminaries what local churches do best: preparing the next generation for gospel-centered ministry by mentoring young ministers in the context of church community.
Spot on. The church has been given the task and responsibility to equip the saints for the work of ministry. That is why we have elders, men who lead by example and teaching of others so that they in turn may reach spiritual maturity (Eph 4:11-16). It makes no sense to have elders in your local church only to send young men from that local church away to be trained rather than staying put where the men that Christ has charge with equipping them already are!
There is a place for the seminary in the church but not as a subcontractor for the work properly done by the elders in the local assembly of the church. In a post-Christendom America we won't have the "luxury" to send men off to get an expensive degree, we will need to carry out that task right where they are. This is another one of those areas where we need to radically change our thinking and get back to the Biblical example. Great article, give it a read!