Test, Train, Affirm, & Send Into Ministry: Recovering the Local Church’s Responsibility in the External Call

Test, Train, Affirm, & Send Into Ministry: Recovering the Local Church’s Responsibility in the External Call
Test, Train, Affirm, & Send Into Ministry
John Palmer
John Palmer John Palmer lives in Ormskirk, Lancashire.
01 August, 2010 1 min read

This book is written against the author’s concern that students are enrolling at theological seminaries and entering the ministry without anyone adequately testing their calling or being responsible for sending them out.

He assumes here that ‘the ministry’ is the pastoral ministry, including preaching. He asserts that the model of the pastor is King David. He was called ‘a man after God’s own heart’ because he had the heart of a shepherd towards God’s flock. Jesus himself was fundamentally the Good Shepherd — sacrificing himself to gather, keep and feed his sheep. The apostles (1 Peter 5) conformed to this model — and church leaders are to be ‘pastors’ in the same way.

The book argues that ‘leadership’ in God’s church must be ‘pastoring’, that is, shepherding the flock. The author asks the question ‘…how, then, are these appointed shepherds from God to be recognized, affirmed and placed in a position to shepherd God’s people?’ (p. 29).

The answer has recently become, we are told through the action of ‘seminaries and Bible colleges’ (p. 31), whereas the correct answer is the local church. This problem seems to be much greater among evangelical churches in the USA than the UK.

The author is emphatic that churches should not just affirm anyone who subjectively ‘feels called’ to the ministry. Rather they must test the applicant according to the biblical qualifications of an elder, train and affirm him publicly, and then send him out. The model for such an approach is worked out in somewhat over-prescriptive detail (e.g. a ‘pastoral internship template’ and ‘service review evaluation’).

The body of this book is in fact only 68 pages, after deducting lengthy introductory material and three appendices. The main thesis is correct and needs stating, and there is useful material here. If your church is woolly on these matters, your elders need to read this.

John Palmer
John Palmer lives in Ormskirk, Lancashire.
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