I have been thinking a lot this weekend about how we train Pastors - this is partly because I have been away at Assembly, and also because Dave-Our-Student is moving on soon into his first pastorate. I am concerned that men and women are leaving College inadequately prepared for the task ahead. That is NOT meant to be a criticism of the Colleges in any way - it is just that the system doesn't seem to work properly sometimes. Back in the last millennium when Bob went to Spurgeon's College, it was for four years. Three years of degree study, followed by one year Pastoral Studies. [That's not counting the year he worked full-time as an assistant in a Church in Kent.] During term-time, he preached twice almost every Sunday and was student pastor in one of the local London churches. Meanwhile I had babies and typed up his essays for him [no PCs in those days so it was a long and laborious occupation. No cut-n-paste or spellcheck to help] Furthermore he had to pass an entrance exam in New Testament Greek before he started.
Now the students get it all done in three years - and some things have, of necessity, been dropped from the course to fit it all in. The preaching requirement particularly has been cut down - Dave only does two services a month here at KMFC. This is, I am told 'because they cannot possibly do all the other stuff AND prepare 2 sermons each week'. What bothers me is that for many of the students leaving College this summer, they will be going from delivering two sermons every month to delivering two every Sunday - a four-fold increase overnight. It seems so unfair on the new pastors to throw them in at the deep end like this. Nobody would send a teacher on final teaching practice and say 'Just do Monday and Tuesday mornings - but come September, we will want you to deliver lessons five days a week' I keep encountering Ministers who are really struggling to prepare their sermons - and churches who are concerned that 'they don't seem to be able to do 2 sermons a Sunday anymore'
I don't really have any answers to this little rant - I suppose the thing that really saddens me is when the ministers end up telling me that they don't really enjoy the preaching any more and the preparation is such a chore. Perhaps we should encourage [insist on?] more lay-preaching before they even consider College - if you can't hold down a regular 9-5 job and still turn out a passable message for a Sunday, maybe you don't have the stamina for what is a very demanding calling. Pause for a quick burst of 'Jesus the Name high over all' to be sung by any preachers reading this!
And then I went to the Ladies Meeting this afternoon, we had a talk from Gwen Hall, who, with her husband John, founded the Romans One Eleven Trust working with the church in Uganda. The Churches there are desperate for Pastors, and John has worked tirelessly for a number of years to develop theological training - and now they have a 2 year 'Biblical studies and Christian Ministry' Course up and running. So many of the Ugandan Pastors have little or no formal theological education - and many work for the Lord with no stipends whatsoever, they just have faith that God will provide for their needs. These folk are grateful for any and every opportunity to share the good news of Jesus.
Gwen told us the story of Samson, a Ugandan Pastor who has been working closely with John. He came to the UK with him in February - and commented that the facilities at our local High School were better than those at Kampala University!
She also had some craftwork made by the Ugandan ladies to sell on behalf of the Trust.I bought a little doll - all carefully handsewn. She is really sweet, and carries a little baby doll strapped on her back. She will be useful if I do any teaching about Africa - but more than that will serve as a reminder to pray for John and Gwen and the Pastors they are working with.
I haven't decided on a name for her yet - at first I thought 'Gwen', but that didn't sound very Ugandan. Maybe I should call her Delilah to remind me to pray for Samson too!
We at KMFC are about to take on two new link missionaries - Scott and Anjanette Williamson. Here is a picture of us talking to them at Blackpool on Saturday! More details about them will inevitably come later.