Koinonia College of Theology (KCOT) in Pune prepares young men and women to answer God’s call on their life to ministry. We provide the tools, by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, in their preparation towards that call. 28 students are currently enrolled, 18 men and 10 women.
Ministry is a calling, not a job
Different vocations require different levels of expertise and training. A person who intends to be a brain surgeon needs longer and more intensive training than one who wishes to be a cabinetmaker. Is one job innately superior to another? Not necessarily. But as the degree of difficulty and specialization varies, so too does the training required.
Perhaps there is no job that requires a greater collection of skills than the ministry. Scriptures dedicate a great deal of attention to providing God’s requirements for those who will labor in the Gospel ministry.
The ministry is a special vocation that requires a unique combination of talents, gifts and abilities. It is only for people of upstanding character and ability. We affirm the importance of this vocation when we speak of the “call” to ministry. Those who are set apart by God for the ministry of the gospel are given a special calling by God; they labor under direct orders from God.
Preachers are born, not made. Desire and training alone cannot produce a preacher, for the office is dependent upon particular gifts that are given by God only to some. Charles Spurgeon insisted that his college for pastors “receives no man in order to make him a preacher.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones was as emphatic, stating that “no college, or any other institution, can ever produce a preacher.”
Why do people think that pastoral training is not vitally important?
God makes preachers; but people train them. Despite the difficulties of pastoral ministry, we live in a time when pastoral training is regarded by many as being optional. There are some who proclaim that seminary training is a waste of time and effort, time that could be dedicated to preaching the gospel. There may not have been a time in the history of the church when adequate preparation for gospel ministry has been valued less.
Why is this? Is it because we have sat under so many poorly-trained pastors that we are blind to what a good shepherd should be? I think that many in the church minimize the importance of thorough, deep, lengthy, intensive ministry training because they have lost sight of the “set-apartness” of the calling of pastor. When we believe in and affirm the distinctive calling to the ministry of the gospel, we will also understand the importance of preparation.
There are, of course, many preachers who have had long and fruitful ministries without first attending seminary. Yet these men, like Charles Spurgeon, realized they were the exception not the rule. They devoted themselves to building schools and preparing other men for the ministry. I don’t know of any notable Christian leaders who were both untrained and who advocated lack of serious preparation in others.
What are the consequences of undervaluing ministry training?
When calling and training are minimized, the consequence is that we have too much confidence in men. With the church planting craze today, young men often do not have to go through the the denominational channels and processes that past generations did. The idea of paying your dues is now a foreign concept to many.
22-year-olds who are one month graduated from college believe they are ready to be a church planter and senior pastor. Online seminary education can provide some theological training but no practical experience in church leadership. The desire to preach immediately rather than sit under a preacher has created an attitude of impatience, entitlement, and the belief that one knows better and can do better than the current leader of the local church.
The truth is, leading a local church at the top is much different than sitting around theorizing about how church should actually function. Preaching a sermon and hearing positive feedback from a proud and encouraging group of friends and family is much different than having to prepare a message every week, regardless of any other circumstances happening in one’s life. These young guys have never led a ministry in the church, yet believe they are ready to be in the first chair. This would be equivalent to the assistant JV football coach thinking he is ready to be the head coach of the New England Patriots!
Not every church plant is a megachurch, and that’s OK
Most church plants never grow to more than 100 people, but that in no way, shape, or form indicates that the church isn’t successful. Nobody wants to talk about how size is for the churches that are considered successful. Big churches with famous preachers get the attention of many young ministry students and this can create unrealistic expectations. Growing a church by reaching the lost in your city is a process. It may take a lifetime to even see a dent in the work. Maintaining a church full of broken people is even more difficult. I pity anyone who is naïve enough to think he’s going to start a church tomorrow and become the pastor of a megachurch overnight, or ever.
When mentoring students I believe we have to ask questions about hearts and motives on a regular basis. We should not apologize for working to maintain realistic expectations without discouraging vision and ambition. I want to see young people excited and dreaming big dreams about the local church in their cities, but we set them up for discouragement if we allow them to operate within false realities based on the successes of their favorite podcast preacher.
I am thrilled about the current movement to plant churches and the opportunities it gives to younger pastors. I see God’s grace in my life and church despite my inexperience, inadequacies, and deficiencies. I hope that in the name of soul care and healthy church planting we will coach the young and ambitious to prepare themselves for ministry rather than simply for a stage. We don’t need more celebrities; we need more healthy churches.
Ministry is not glamorous
The glamour of Christian celebrity ministry can be a problem. Younger guys often mimic the preachers they’re exposed to, and are more in touch with what is happening at a church five states away than they are the churches in their own town. This has become very complicated in a world of instant online access. A particular local church in another region of the country becomes some sort of utopia for church leaders because there’s no realization that the same struggles and conflicts one sees in his own church are also occurring in this more notable church.
“Ministry lust” and covetousness creeps in, developing into a lack of appreciation for one’s own local church. In the same way that someone can look at a friend’s Instagram and, seeing only the surface images, believe he wants the same life, a pastor-wannabe who is overexposed to Christian celebrity culture can be a dangerous thing. These young men are very vulnerable to the “grass is greener” mentality, which often produces much shorter tenures of serving.
How is one to coach a young man who believes he is ready to take on this level of responsibility and leadership before he has any other real life experience? It begins by being honest about the real life of a pastor. Pastors should let a younger leader follow you around, seeing the things you do, the decisions you make, the people you meet, and the long hours you put in. Pastoring is much harder than a delivering a podcast sermon or debating theology. Don’t be afraid to tell a young person they needs to pump the brakes in their life, sit under your teaching for a season, and lead ministries in the church without being the first chair. It is also helpful to lay out a mentoring plan for young leaders, to show them the commitment you are going to make to their development.
God is on the move
Over the last 14 years at the Koinonia College of Theology in India we have seen God move tremendously among the young men and women He has called to ministerial training and service. We are seeing the fruit of this training as men and women have gone out, planted churches, and are pastoring churches across India.
The need for leadership is great. A vacuum in this area is detrimental to the progress of the Gospel. It is a well known fact that many are leaving ministry throughout the church, and it is my personal belief that in more than just some cases, it is “calling” that was minimized or over-looked. But KCOT currently has 28 students who are ready to die for the sake of the Gospel. Praying and supporting the training and preparation of young men and women is neither as glamorous nor as exciting as supporting orphans, women, or addiction-related ministries. These ministries are needed, of course, but we also need to get excited about training young men and women to share the life-changing, eternal Gospel of Christ.
Would you please consider praying for these young men and women at KCOT every time you sit down for a meal? Would you consider supporting KCOT financially? You would be investing in preparing the next generation of leaders who will take the Gospel and contagiously give the Gospel “virus” to every person they come in contact with.
I am thankful for all of you who pray and support India Connection. It would not be possible to do what we do without your prayers and support. We love you and pray for you and your ministries and families. Thank you! May the Lord continue to bless you abundantly and cover your needs according to His riches in glory.
In His Service
Matt Thompson and Dana Colbert teach Practical Trades and mentor the students of KCOT.