Preaching takes place in all churches, as part of the weekly worship service. Additionally, most churches have programmes such as Bible Classes and special seminars to teach their members the Bible, doctrines of the Christian faith and principles of Christian living. However, not as many churches have regular programmes to train their members for Christian service. From what I have observed, “training” is one of the factors that marks out a church that is doing better from a church that is not doing so well.
Preaching, teaching and training have different functions. Preaching is largely to inspire; teaching is to instruct; training is to equip. Preaching is directed at the heart; teaching shapes the mind; training empowers the hands. All three are important. The church cannot stop at preaching and teaching; it cannot afford to neglect to train its members for ministry if it wants to develop the church and advance the Kingdom of God.
In many cases, members are enlisted but not empowered. Someone (anyone) is conscripted simply because there is a need to be met. He is not shown what to do and how to do the job. He is, very likely, not told why he has been asked to serve in a particular ministry, which is important to motivate him. This is unfortunately true for even such basic ministries like teaching in the Sunday School and leading a Cell Group. Training for “simple” jobs like greeting and ushering are usually glossed over. Inevitably, if none or inadequate training is provided, the workers will not be able to do a good job with passion and skill.
Preaching may inspire, but without the complementary training, members may know what they ought to do but they will not be empowered to do it. This often leads to guilt. For example, in the area of personal evangelism, sermons are often filled with exhortations to evangelise the lost; with Bible quotes, statistics and stories of the eternal destiny of unsaved loved ones. However, there is no follow-up to help the average Christian overcome his fear of sharing his faith, nor to empower him with tools for witnessing. He is not paired-up with a more experienced member for on-the-job training. And even before all that, to pray for him to be filled with the Spirit (Acts 1:8).
The pastor who does not equip his members ends up doing everything by himself. Sometimes it is the fault of the church. Tradition expects the pastor to do everything; preaching, counselling, visitation, intercession, printing the bulletin, and the list goes on. Sometimes it is the fault of the pastor himself; he wants to do all the ministry himself. He may focus on his strongest ministry like preaching or prophesying or ministering to people in prayer, but he does not train others to do these ministries.
Ephesians 4:11-12 makes it clear that the primary job of the apostle, prophet, evangelist and pastor-teacher is to equip God’s people for service. Does the evangelist preach the Gospel? Yes. But his primary job is to raise up more evangelists who can in turn reach more people with the Gospel. Does the pastor-teacher provide pastoral care and teaching? Yes. But his primary job is to multiply himself via the people in his church so that more can provide spiritual nurture. When this happens the capacity of the church increases and more can be reached and discipled.
Churches need to correct this bottle-neck syndrome; and training is a critical part of the solution. When the “specially gifted man of God” and the “ordinary people of God” carry out their respective Ephesian 4-prescribed roles the church will grow.