Trained & Called or Training The Called?

Trained & Called or Training The Called?

At Niddrie we place a great premium on training and developing people for a life of Christian service, whether that is a secretary, a bike engineer or a pastor. Our recruitment process may be considered, by many, to be a bit haphazard. We have people on our Ministry Team who have degrees in theology and others who have no formal training. We have people who have been Christians for a long time and those who have been Christians for a very short time.

Back in the day, if a young person showed an interest in Christian ministry they were shipped off to Bible College. Their local church, largely, lost their potential and gifting and they almost certainly moved on to other pastures. This is neither good nor bad. It was just the way of it. This is now changing with the proliferation of online courses, part-time theology modules and programmes such as Porterbrook. The ball is bouncing firmly back into the hands of the local church leadership! The question is: do we send young people to Bible college to test their calling and be trained or does the local church train them to test their calling and then send them to Bible College if they need more specific training? In Niddrie we believe it is the latter (where have control in the matter – some Bible Colleges are now recruiting without local eldership approval or are finding novel ways around the problem should a church deny an individual a ‘good’ reference).

In Niddrie, we are taking some risks on calling very young (and very uneducated) young believers and helping them to see that God has got a specific task and gift set for them. We are encouraging them that they can do ‘in-house’ Bible training which is just as good as any Bible College and probably more helpful for our local church. So, for instance, a young man approaches me and says: “I want to be a pastor or a full-time youth worker”. My response is not: “Let’s see what Bible College we can fit you into.” But, “Work with me for a couple of years, study this theological material and let’ s see what God has called you to along the way.” Sending a novice off to Bible College is going to fill his mind but it is not going to guarantee that he is somehow called just because he holds a piece of paper from some theological institution. His calling will be tested in the ‘field of battle’ so to speak and not in the classroom. Again, to reiterate, if a person needs specialised training that we can’t offer, then we would help him/her to go to Bible College – but only as an elder approved “called” person. We would want anybody going for more formal theological training to know that they have already been called and see further theological training as a top up. 

For instance, I want to see how a man takes up the mantle of responsibility in my church and in our area before I would even consider any sort of formal training. Does he, for example, show some entrepreneurial flair and get up and go? Is he pestering me with ideas for ministry in the church and/or the area? Is he leading others in Bible study and discipleship? Nor is it a male only domain. We have a young lady in our church who has been saved less than 6 months. Already she is bringing in her friends and talking to people about Christ. Young girls are drawn to her because she has a charismatic personality. She is a local girl with local knowledge and a truly indigenous insight. They are all things that I can’t teach. She is also an avid reader and devours everything given to her. She loves doctrine and theology, even at this young age. These are things that I can teach.

Currently, we need a young woman to come in and help us develop the female side of our youth and children’s work. We have been canvassing ‘outsiders’ and Bible college students for some time to no avail. Then, this young lady is saved. It changed our thinking for a number of reasons. We saw her potential. As good Calvinists we firmly believe that she was chosen and called for a specific purpose. She has shown an aptitude and a willingness. She has shown some raw ability. She has latent gifts noticeable even at this early stage. At Niddrie, we can provide the theological part in partnership with the Holy Spirit as she grows and is sanctified. I think it is exciting to watch where God takes this young woman and to walk with her as she uses here latent gifts and abilities for the good of the kingdom. If we went with a ‘trained‘ outsider they would know the theology (apparently) but not the area, the people, the culture or the mindset. Arguably, these can be learned but trust me when I tell you that street smarts and intuition are either in you or they’re not. Both people would be a risk and would come with advantages and disadvantages.

The middle classes reading this are plumping for the trained girl. Why? She’s the safer bet. Also, we shouldn’t be foolish or precipitous in promoting young believers too soon. That’s biblical (so they say). What will we do? Do we go with the (so-called) “trained and called” or do we “train the called?” We might even do both and see where that gets us!