Sausage factory or Kapooka?

On Thursday 2 September, Mikey Lynch emailed me, and three other mates, to point us to a blog. He said, “I thought you’d be interested in getting a feel for the kind of conversations [people] are having about secular work vs gospel work”. This thread was a reflection on the Katoomba Convention Centre Conference called Engage.

The five of us sent a series of emails to each other pondering the strengths and weaknesses of our own leadership and of the church at large. I thought I’d share with you the email I wrote. In the email I sort of just went ‘splat’. I guess it is a distillation of three and a half years of conversations with hundreds of people around Australia about full-time gospel work vs bi-vocational, MTS’s highlights and lowlights, the impact of Mark Driscoll’s 2008 visit, Gen Y’s view of church leadership … plus other stuff. Throw your two bobs worth in after you’ve read it.

Hi Al, Mikey, Heardy and Scott,

In the last three years that I’ve been in the MTS role, I’ve noticed a whole stack of different currents of public opinion re: full-time gospel work. I’ve briefly jotted a few of the currents I’ve observed.


In parts of the movement there’s been increasing resistance to full-time gospel work. I understand that, and often respect the reasons given. Some young blokes think, “If becoming a pastor means you do that much admin and that little evangelism, then I don’t want a bar of it”. People don’t want to follow in the footsteps of a bloke who looks like he has a daily root canal.

Many, many denominational leaders are so snowed under with edification that they never mobilize their troops to fight, and therefore no evangelism happens. Unfortunately, MTS has in the past failed to create alternate pathways, and people at our conferences have felt like we’re saying, “The only really servant-hearted people are the people signing up for full time ministry, either as an apprentice or as a leader of a denominational church”. That of course was not what we thought we were communicating, but it is what people heard.

I think MTS has at times been culpable of causing a second class citizen mentality, albeit unintentionally. That’s why we’ve developed the ‘MTS Unplugged Apprenticeship’, where people do the following:

  • M—engage in a ministry
  • T—find themselves a trainer
  • S—get immersed in the scriptures

When we launched this at SPUR in Sydney in May, it created a real buzz. People felt like MTS was coaching people into becoming a better equipped soldier of Christ in a real way. In the past it was Duntroon or nothin’; now we have Duntroon plus the Army Reserve, where ever you are.


In parts of the movement people have become even more committed to full-time gospel ministry. This is happening in ministries where they can see the reality of the situation in Australia. We are swimming in a sea of 21 million people, of which 19 million are going to hell. It is a huge task. It is a massive war effort. People in these churches know they’ve got to (i) fight themselves and (ii) train others to fight.

This is not a part-time task. I often ask people, “What would you do if Indonesia invaded from the north? Would you fight?” They usually say “Yes”. Then I ask, “Would you fight part-time?” Of course they wouldn’t, but the gospel war is way bigger than Indonesia invading. The joint is stuffed, and it is stuffed now!


Since Driscoll visited in September 2008, a lot has changed for the good. There’s been a resurgence of people taking gospel responsibility. What I’ve noticed is a genuine gospel-hearted confusion. There’s these young blokes thinking, “I want to fight on my part of the front, but the institutions and denominations have been telling me for years that I need to sit an exam in order to aim my rifle and shoot at the enemy”.

I thought apprenticeship would go down the gurgler after Driscoll’s visit, but I think the opposite has happened. People have revisited and re-discovered that ‘learning by doing’ is the way to go. So I’m running into people who four years ago talked about MTS like a ‘sausage factory’, but now can see that if a person trained right, it isn’t a sausage factory, the apprenticeship is like ‘Kapooka’.


Some people wondered whether I’d heard about some negative comments made about the MTS apprenticeship from the Engage platform in an interview. I said “Yes, but I’m not fussed by it at all. I want people to speak their mind.” I know KCC is pro-ministry training of all sorts, including apprenticeship.

If apprenticeships are a good way to train people, and we get it right, then they will win favour as a pathway with more people in the future.

I am so excited by what’s happening in our nation. Evangelism is back on the agenda. Gospel entrepreneurs are getting identified, supported and sent out. I am over the moon.

I want to bless the work of Geneva, Vision 100, Engage, Groundwork, the Timothy Partnership, Moore College, SMBC, BILD, Certainty for Eternity, City Bible Forum, Entrust, 121 Degrees, the CRCA … I could go on and on and on … we just need to make sure we all work tirelessly to serve the generations to come (inside and outside the kingdom).

Go hard gents,


P.S. I didn’t intend a big rant … I got a bit carried away!

8 thoughts on “Sausage factory or Kapooka?

  1. Thanks for your insights Ben! Looking forward to catching up at the Melbourne MTS challenge conference this weekend!

  2. G’day Ben,

    Great thoughts – thanks for letting us share in them.

    Its interesting reflecting on what you have said in the context (here) of not having any of the structures or ‘systems’ (I don’t mean that in a negative way at all) that you talk about. We don’t have conventions, apprenticeships, healthy seminaries, church planting coalitions, ministry ‘reservists’ or anything like that.

    The pastors here generally are good guys, often being held in a sleeper hold by their church traditions, congregational expectations and lack of resources.

    I haven’t seen young people being challenged for ministry, although in my experience when you offer resources or opportunities the hunger is great.

    I guess what I want to say is – don’t let the great choices and opportunities that are available in Australia breed a culture on unnecessary pickiness, while at the same time, remain discerning and appropriately critical.

  3. I do feel like Sydney Anglicans provided the start-up oomph for alot (but not all) of what’s going on – not just institutionally but theologically. Now, however, it is fashionable to run down ‘institutions’ and denominations as being restrictive of my freedom to shoot my gun (why do have to have so many military metaphors?!). My concern? Don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

  4. Hi Sandy,
    Thanks for your comment.

    Hi Matt,
    See in Melbourne on Sat (whilst the Grand Final reply occurs just 1000 metres away aaaggghhh)

    Hi Pete,
    Yep, I agree. We all need to reduce the nit-picking. I guess that’s why I’m trying to encourage us all to think ‘movement’ or “God’s Kingdom”. Australia has in it’s secular culture a sort of cynicism or parochialism which infects the church. You no doubt have heard the saying. In the USA if they run a Christian event and 99 things go badly and one thing goes well, they talk about the one thing that went well. In Aust, if 99 things go well and 1 thing goes badly we talk about the one things that goes badly. We can all find 1 or 2 things about every ministry we don’t like. The Aussie temptation is to then create our own version of that ministry. It is not a good trait, especially wehen it is done out of ignorance (i.e. not clarifying people’s views face to face) I confess to doing this myself. I sin in this area. I am trying to repent and live with a more generous spirit. I am trying to publicly and privately appreciate the ministry of all sorts of gospel friends (hence, in part,  the post above).

    Hi Burch26Jeanette,
    When I write my next essay, I’ll look up your website tee hee hee

    Hi Michael,
    Perhaps the most encouraging way for me to respond to your comment (which has loads of insinuations) is to state what I think:
    1. I think denominations are excellent and wonderful things, when they stick to the Scriptures as many do. Australia has numerous wonderful denominations. I think I mentioned at least one in the last sentence of my post i.e. the CRCA. Others are the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, FIEC and AFES … I could go on. I also agree that Sydney Anglicans were the genesis, the catalyst or the spark that ignited the fuse that started much of what we enjoy today. (Interestingly, back in Sydney in the 1980s these people were considered by Sydney Anglicansism to be at best a tad ‘radical’ … at worst ‘whack jobs’ … ironic!).
    2. I am not anti institutions. I (& MTS) encourage people to train (post apprenticeship) at institutions so that they can be better equipped to teach God’s Word. We especially encourage Team Leaders to train in this way. They need to be the snipers of God’s Army, the ones who can pick off error at 400 yards to clear the way for the rank and file foot soldiers of Christ. Having said that, foot soldiers can still shoot without being a sniper. There are stacks of fantatstic Christian leaders out there who have the conviction, character and competency to lead congregations of God’s people, but there is no pathway for them to receive ministry training that suits them. If they cannot cope with the ‘academy’ then we will not ‘rubber stamp’ them (by that I mean ordain). This must change, we must provide an additional (NOT a replacement) pathway. I want Aacademic Theological Colleges to thrive, I want to encouarge thousands of people to go through them (after doing an apprenticeship first) BUT I also want to create a Vocational Education and Training Pathway (TAFE Style Theol Education) and encourage thousands to go through that too.
    3. Why do I use so many military analogies? A few reasons (i) the Bible
    does (1 & 2 Timothy are littered) (ii) what other occupation has suffering as par for the course? Soldiering. (iii) the God of our day is the ‘c’ word. COMFORT. I use military analogies ALL the time to try and train people to expect to suffer. (In the church today you’d think Jesus said “take up your Chrysler and follow me”. It is rubbish).


  5. Benny,

    Sorry I wasn’t clear: I know very well you aren’t anti-institutions, but only supportive. There’s just a culture of the boundary-riding lone rebel out there, right?

  6. No dramas dude.
    Re: boundary-riding lone rebels.
    Yep there out there, and deep down, I love those kinds of people … I just counsel them to ask their pastor, their peers and their pupils what they each think of the rebels suitability for ‘particular’ ministry. And then once they’ve asked the question LISTEN to the answer. And then once they’ve listened HEED the advice.
    SAS soldiers are boundary riding lone rebels … the reason they’re the best soldiers in the world is that during selection they weed out the ones who think more highly of themselves than they ought … bring on Christian ‘selection’

  7. great post benny! i posted a comment yesterday, but it didnt work from some reason.

    ive been thinking alot lately about tafe and tradie ministry, and what is a way to reach out to tradies and encourage the ones that are already in church. i mean, even the way church is structured now makes it different for apprentices, as church services and weekly bible studies most of the time run late, which makes it hard to commit to things when you’re leaving bible study or church saying ‘Ive got to get up for work in 5-6 hours’. i know the guys at church find support hard, as they are surrounded by guys at work whos every second word is a swear word, and oogling is more like a sport (i know this sounds like a mass generalisation, but this is what the guys at church have told me).

    even the way the bible is taught, the sit down and listen style, isnt very tradie friendly. nothing to do with their intellectual capability, (one of my closest mates is a 3rd year sparky and did very well in 3unit maths in his HSC), but simply because they arent used to it, like uniersity/college people are.

    so far, i havent come up with any answers. what thoughts or ideas have you had that could start some sort of tafe and tradie ministry?

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