Every leader needs to think and pray hard about the future of the institution or church that he is leading. The future should go far beyond his own days of leadership and even his own days on earth. In order
to secure that future, every leader must go beyond thinking and praying. There must be action as well. This is what the apostle Paul was doing when he wrote the now famous words to Timothy, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). It is clear that Paul had spent a lot of time instructing Timothy about the matters of faith and practice. He had instructed him in the presence of many witnesses. He was now about to die. He wanted to ensure that Timothy also prepared the next generation of leaders and preachers by faithfully passing on what he had heard from Paul. The men that Timothy was to choose for this special teaching had to be those who are able to teach others also. In this way, the baton would be passed on faithfully from one generation to another.
One way in which this is done is simply through the ongoing ministry
of the word to the congregation. Anyone whom God is preparing for the work of ministry will give special attention to what is being taught from the pulpit.
Thus, he will be scooping in kilograms what others are content to carry home in small containers that can only contain a few grams. He will write copious notes when sermons are being preached while those sitting next to him are dozing.
When he gets home, he will want to review those notes while his friends are watching Sunday football matches on the television. He will pull down good solid books from his shelf, which would have cost him a fortune, so that he could study further some of the issues raised in Bible studies and sermons. As a result of this, he will grow head and shoulders above his fellows. While his friends are still surviving on milk he will be chewing away on the hard meat of the word and doctrine.
However, there is still no substitute for a person who is preparing for a
lifetime of ministry to also come away from others and undergo specialised
training. The benefit of this type of study is incalculable and must be supervised by the seasons pastors to prepare for transition. This is for a number of reasons:
(1) You read books you do not normally read: There are a lot of
technical books that Christians do not normally read, but which are a great help when one is preparing for ministry. Literature, for instance, that gives you background information about books of the Bible or the entire Old Testament.
You understand better why the Bible says some of the things it says.
(2) You study subjects you do not normally study: Whereas every Christian who is a good reader will find himself or herself reading books on the Christian life, there are very few who will want to read books on Greek or
Hebrew grammar and syntax. Specialised Bible college training forces you to study such subjects and they come in handy in ministry when you have to go into the original languages to ascertain what God was really saying in the Bible.
(3) You discuss issues with similar challenging minds: When you are
among others who are also preparing for a lifetime of ministry, you end up being challenged to think more deeply by your peers—quite apart from the lecturers. In this “iron sharpening iron” context, you come out more deeply convinced of the things that you believe. This is a good process in your formative years.
This explains why it has been the tradition of the people of God to train
men for ministry as the older leaders prepared for transition. You see this from the “schools of the prophets” of the Old Testament to men like the apostle Paul asking Timothy to set apart such men for specialised training.
To do this costs a lot of time and money. Older pastors who have
garnered many years of experience must now invest the knowledge they have gained to train a new generation of pastors. These older pastors will need to be paid. There will be need to build extra facilities for lecture rooms, offices, sleeping quarters, dining rooms, and library facilities. There will be need for an extensive library that continues to be updated with all the latest theological books. Other pastors will need to be brought in to supplement the teaching of those who are full time. Their transport and accommodation costs will need to be covered. Churches need to invest considerable sums of money in training for transition if we are to raise a powerful team of younger preachers for the next generation to whom we can pass the baton with confidence.
This is an area in which we are doing very badly as Reformed Baptists
in Zambia. We have about 50 churches at the moment. About 40 of those 50
churches have pastors or missionary pastors. The shocking fact is that not a
single one of our churches have paid a single coin in the formal training of the men they have subsequently called to be their pastors. Not even one! Other people and churches have invested huge sums of money to train those men in preparing them for ministry and then we have reaped where we did not sow.
The tendency is to wait until the pastors are already trained by others and then we simply call them to pastor our churches. Whereas this is not wrong,
the whole argument of this issue of Reformation Zambia is that we must be more strategic about leadership transition. Instead of waiting until we lose our current pastors we must start investing in the process of leadership transition. I am suggesting that in this strategic thinking we must invest financially in the nursery bed where pastors are prepared in an academic way.
In Zambia, we have at least five tertiary institutions that are unashamedly and conspicuously Reformed Baptist—African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, Covenant College Zambia, Lusaka Ministerial College, and Mongu Ministerial College. The total number of men being trained in these institutions at any one time is about 150. It costs about K25,000 per year to train one man adequately. In short, it is in reality costing these institutions a total of almost K4 million per year to prepare the next generation of preachers. Currently, the churches that are future beneficiaries of these men are not participating in raising that K4 million per year. Other individuals and churches are the ones doing so. That needs to change.
As I come to the close of this article, I could use a guilt trap or shame
tactic to get our churches to start participating in training for transition, but I know that guilt traps are not effective in the long haul. Rather, I want to use an appeal to our collective love for the church, the bride of Christ. Churches can never rise higher than their pulpits in more ways than one. If we are going to have very strong churches in the next generation, we need to include pastoral training in our church budgets. Let brethren and churches in other countries simply supplement our efforts. If we all started in a small way, we shall find that in due season we will finance all the training for transition. Thus, we will together be laying a stronger pastoral foundation for the bride of Christ.