Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Church Planting by Teams
The Local Church As a
Ministry Training Center

by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Summary:  In Part One we looked at the biblical and practical reasons for planting new churches. Today we will look at the local church as God’s primary tool for ministry training. Churches of all sizes can become equippers of men and women for effective ministry. And in today’s and the following bible studies, you will find that your church can not only train God’s people for ministry, but can also send them out on teams to plant churches elsewhere in the Lord’s harvest field.

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I.  The Biblical Basis for Ministry Training in the Local Church

The New Testament makes no mention of seminaries or Bible training centers apart from the local churches. Well-intentioned believers over the years have established such ministries with varying measures of fruitfulness. But I strongly maintain that the predominant New Testament pattern is to train the Lord’s people in the local churches, where believers will find the broadest God-given mix of ministries and spiritual gifts to equip them for the Lord’s work.

Acts 13:1  In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers.”  Notice that the bible teachers were “in the church.” A few years ago my daughter received her bachelor’s degree in theology from Portland Bible College. This excellent bible training school is an in-house, fully church-based ministry right on the grounds of City Bible Church. Members of the church ministry staff teach in the bible college. Spiritual oversight to the college is provided directly by the ministry staff and elders of that church.

I was a bible teacher for many years in a bible college in Anchorage, Alaska. That school too was a fully church-based ministry of Abbott Loop Community Church. Our church’s ministry staff and elders provided the spiritual oversight of the college, and the teaching staff for the college was drawn from among those church ministers. Both these churches, in Portland and in Anchorage, were able to develop dynamic church-planting ministries. The church-based ministry training provided the nucleus of many church-planting teams sent from those churches. This is the biblical pattern — train and send from the local church.

In Acts 19 we see the apostle Paul teaching the word of God extensively to the believers of the newly-established church in Ephesus. In verses 9-10 we see that Paul “…took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” What Paul did here in Ephesus was the equivalent of conducting a two-year bible school in the Ephesian church. Keep in mind that the “church” means the congregation, the believers, not a building. Archeologists have not found specific church buildings being used until the second century A.D. The early church met where it could, often in homes, and here in the “lecture hall of Tyrannus.”

Paul’s son in the faith, Timothy, later became the pastor of that same Ephesian church. The apostle exhorted Timothy to continue to train the saints there in the church that he pastored: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2, NASB). What a divine multiplication principle! Train and equip believers in the church, and they will pass that knowledge on to others, who will in turn “teach others also.” This is how the world is reached for the Lord! And notice how it begins by training the local church’s people for ministry.

Recall what we saw in Acts 19:9-10 above: Paul “…took the [Ephesian church’s] disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” It is clear that Paul himself stayed there in Ephesus for those two years, teaching God’s word “daily” to the Ephesian Christians. Since Paul obviously remained for those two years in Ephesus, how did all of the province of Asia hear God’s word? We can answer that from the biblical principle seen in 2 Timothy 2:2 above. Faithful saints were trained in the church (here, by Paul). They passed these truths on to other “faithful men,” who in turn taught yet others. The point? Train faithful believers in the local church. They will go forth with those truths and will pass them on to others, who will reach yet others. And before you know it, your entire “province of Asia” has heard the Lord’s life-giving word!

II.  Some Practical Reasons for Training Ministers in the Local Church

The local churches experience the loss of gifted believers by sending them away for training. Instead, these ministers-in-training can be a great help and strength to the churches if they stay there for their training.

The local churches can give much personal and pastoral oversight and encouragement to those in ministry training. This is generally not true in centralized bible schools and seminaries, which are usually detached from the broad-based, beneficial influence of the local church.

The churches have pastors, evangelists, teachers, elders, and sometime apostles and prophets in the local congregation. These multiple ministries (Ephesians 4:11-12, et al.) are given by the Lord to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (vs. 12, ESV). By contrast, bible schools and seminaries detached from the local church usually have instructors that are, for the most part, bible teachers. And speaking as one myself, I am acutely aware that we bible teachers by ourselves cannot provide the broad-based ministry training that can be found when training for ministry is done in the local church with its multiple and varied ministry gifts.

Ministers trained in the churches are personally and directly exposed to a broad array of Christian activities — worship, preaching and teaching, evangelism and follow-up, the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, counseling, and much more. The church is the only place where they will gain this valuable, broad-based, on-the-job training.

III.  Your Church Can Become a Ministry Training Center!

This is not a difficult task and does not require vast resources or large congregations. Even pastors of small- and medium-sizes churches can establish dynamic ministry-training programs in your churches.

The all-important starting point is a biblically sound local church, properly structured after the pattern of the churches in the bible, and firmly established upon the Savior Jesus Christ and God’s Word. Jesus Himself said, “On this rock I [Jesus] will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). And in the parable of the wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7:24-27), Jesus exhorts us to be among the wise builders who build upon the sure foundation of His word — taught, received, and put into practice.

Jesus gave to His church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Their divine calling includes training God’s people for the work of the ministry (vs. 12). For example, not only do teachers teach, they also equip others to minister God’s word. Not only do evangelists win souls, they train others to win souls. Identify these ministers. All churches should have at least one of these ministers, who is usually (but not always) a God-called Ephesians 4:11 pastor. For example, the Jerusalem church in its earliest stages was led by apostles. The point is: one or more of these ministries will be found in the local church. Oftentimes there are several. These will be your primary ministry trainers.

It is especially important to identify God-called bible teachers. They will bring into the mix their God-given ability to impart comprehensive, “A-to-Z,” line-upon-line truth from God’s word, the bible. Other fivefold ministers and elders will likewise bring their own God-given gifts and abilities into the training ministry.

It is very important that the local church have biblically qualified elders. These men will give personal care and spiritual oversight to the men and women in ministry training in the church.

Pastors must ensure that the entire congregation is well taught in the biblical truth of “body ministry” — that is, that each person is a unique member of Christ’s body, the church, and has a unique ministry to fulfill. The apostle Paul teaches us that “we have different gifts according to the grace given us” (Romans 12:6). The apostle Peter similarly exhorts: Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms(1 Peter 4:10).

In addition to the regular preaching, teaching, eldering, and on-the-job training that the local church provides, the church should aggressively plan to expand its bible teaching ministry. This can be done in a variety of ways:

• Add a special bible teaching night once a week. Teach books of the bible and bible themes that will put solid foundation and maturity into the hearers.
 
• Even smaller churches can begin their own bible school. I suggest a format with perhaps two or three classes on a Friday evening. If it seems feasible, you can add two or three classes on Saturday mornings. Or use whatever schedule will work best in your country and culture.
 
• Medium- to large-sized churches can begin a fulltime, daily bible school. For example, teach 4-5 classes each morning, 4 or 5 days a week. Use the gifted ministers of the local church as the teaching staff. I have written in detail about starting a church-based bible school at “Bible School in Your Church.” Some churches may also choose to offer evening classes for those who cannot attend during the daytime.

There are additional ministry training resources available to the local churches. Pastor should evaluate these carefully and recommend only those in which they have confidence. Here are a few of those resources:

• CDs and DVDs from highly reputable, broadly respected ministries.
 
• Online bible training ministries are springing up in our high-tech age. Again, church leaders, be very careful to screen these ministries to ensure that they are solidly bible-based.
 
• Seminars and conferences that often come to the cities. (Choose wisely)
 
• Extension study. Many reputable bible colleges and seminaries allow some of their courses to be taken by extension. I have personally benefited by this method. For example, several decades ago I took an outstanding Christian Theology course by extension study from Wheaton Graduate School’s distinguished theologian, Dr. Walter Elwell. The course was excellent, and I was able to take it without having to leave my work and my hometown.
 
• An intern pastor program in your church. The pastor and church staff can create an in-depth program in the local church to expose the more mature pastoral trainees to the many details of pastoral and church work — counseling, hospital visits, personal visitation, weddings and funerals, and much more.
 
• There is a comprehensive ministry training and church planting curriculum that can help any church immensely in the training and sending of its people to plant new churches. I recommend it very highly. It is the International School of Ministry (ISOM). As of 2015 ISOM had over 17,000 church-based training schools in 146 nations and in more than 75 languages. There are also Bachelor’s and Master’s degree tracks. Any portion or all of its extensive, bible-based curriculum is available for your church’s needs. Wherever you are in the world, ISOM can get ministry training materials to you. If interested, click on www.isom.org and click the appropriate “Request Info” button for a free information packet that may bring dynamic growth to your church’s ministry training efforts. [Full disclosure: I have no financial benefit from my relationship with ISOM. To the contrary, I consider it a privilege to freely recommend them to you as one of the few ministries today literally reaching the world for Jesus.]

Pastors and other church leaders, God has equipped you to train ministers right there in your local church. And you too, not just the “mega churches,” can get wonderfully involved in sending church-planting teams from your church.

We have now completed Part Two, “The Local Church As a Ministry Training Center.” Please continue on by clicking the next topic, Part Three below, in our series on Church Planting by Teams.

Part One — An Overview of Church Planting

Part Three — Counseling of Future Ministers in the Local Church

Part Four — Identifying Church-Planting Teams in the Local Church

Part Five — Preparing and Sending the Church-Planting Team from the Local Church

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©2016, James H. Feeney.
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Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.