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!