Acts The Church and Ministerial Training

Kaitiaki's picture

Basically this is just a "what do we learn about the Church from Acts?" thread. As we watch Paul and Barnabas and then Paul and Silas building the Church in Acts, what can we learn about their concept of the Church as a whole? Robert suggested my original plan was too cumbersome so asked me to create new threads.

Thread Moderator: Kaitiaki

There are two aspects to this thread: the training of the local congregation (for the work of ministry - as in Ephesians) and the theological training of ministers (or pastors).

Acts shows us local congregations that trained young men (and women) for every appropriate aspect of Church work. That included the work of ministry and missions. Discuss this statement. Do you think it is valid? What implications (if any) are there for the present system in almost every denomination of sending young men to a seminary to be trained? How does your Church seek to apply those implications in the way they train ministers and missionaries?


a few comments

Doesn't your argument rely on a fair amount of hopeful assumption and semantic wrangling on your part? It appears as if you begin with an ideal model of church ministry--"I wish we had the nature of this discourse. But I'm convinced..."--and move towards specific interpretations of particular words which, by your own declaration, have wide varieties of connotation, settling on those connotations which with further semantic argumentation fit your ideal model of church function.

I'm with Dan that either/or thinking on this issue is fatal, and perhaps its because I'm biased. My father is the pastor of an institutional church. But it is a small country church, with a congregation ranging from 40 to 5 depending on the time of year and service. This church has small meetings, home studies, interactive Bible studies, testimony services, prayer meetings, and a lot of social activity on top of that.

You say that Jesus' way of speaking to the saints was usually family style, that he would often talk around a dinner table. You ridicule the idea of standing on a soap box and delivering a lecture at the dinner table. But you discount other modes of Christ's ministry, namely moments like the Sermon on the Mount, which is definitive instruction for Christian living, aimed specifically at his disciples. That is certainly not presented as an interactive dialogue.

In addition to full-time pastoring, my father teaches both Speech and Small Group communications classes for multiple colleges, and points out that there are moments when small group dynamics can be vital to the spiritual growth of individuals and of churches. Groups of up to about twelve people have a different psychological dynamic, for example, allowing for a unique range of interactions. Personalities otherwise dominated in large groups have a chance to emerge and socially encounter other Christians. Questions and sorrows come out in the small group because there is less sense of potential judgment, less threat. But get much larger than thirteen, and the small group dynamic vanishes. This isn't bad, of course--it allows for the uniform dissimination of broad ideas; a single teacher can reach many students and create positive uniformity.

And as Dan alluded to in a post elsewhere, there is nothing quite like merging with the Body of Christ en masse, in a large group that reminds you that your faith transcends even your own difficulties. Muslims making the hajj (I think that's the word for the mandatory trip to Mecca) speak of the overwhelming sense of brotherhood when they arrive at Mecca and join the throng of international pilgrims. For many Christians, "Megachurch" is as close as they'll ever get to that Mecca experience. Losing your identity in the Body of Christ can be a deeply spiritual moment.

But both large groups and small groups have detractions. Large groups can fail to meet the nuanced needs of the few, the minorities. Large groups can become doctrinally entrenched instead of sensitive to the Spirit. Conversely, small groups can be so dependent on the few, and so flexible and open doctrinally, that they are jostled and crushed with every social ripple in the fabric of the small group. A healthy small group requires stronger leadership than even a large group, or the small group will inevitably dissipate. On the other hand, the healthy large group requires careful management by multiple parties to ensure the wellbeing of both the institution and the individuals within it. Ultimately, a successful church is, I believe, not one that relies on a single model, but one that is comprised of many elements expressed differently at appropriate times.

Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life;
And these are they which bear witness of me;
And ye will not come to me, that ye may have life. (John 5:39-40)