Calling the trained or training the called
In a post on evaluating Driscoll’s 18 obstacles to effective evangelism in Australia, Michael Kellahan writes (paraphrasing Driscoll):
You call the trained not train the called. The Holy Spirit makes you elders over the flock. Other elders are to test and approve leaders. Ministry should begin with callin from the Holy Spirit. If anyone desires the office of overseer it is a noble task. Part time training options are better. 4 years at Moore College will only work for some and can lead to an idealism and self righteous criticism by those who don’t know what ministry is. Colleges need alternative delivery system for theological education. SOmetimes (ie when you are learning from real life ministry) you don’t know what you know then you are more teachable.
Kellahan goes on to disagree with Driscoll and his calling language.
Now I hadn’t heard that particular aphorism before (Training the called, not calling the trained) and I know next to nothing about Driscoll, but it certainly sums up what I have been advocating for the last 40 years or more, and people like Roland Allen and St Nicholas of Japan were advocating over 100 years ago.
Part of what Kellahan is objecting to is the subjective notion of calling to ministry — the “I feel God is calling me” idea. But that is quickly disposed of, since any such feeling of being called needs to be discerned and confirmed by the Church.
Of course there are cautions. Both Roland Allen and St Nicholas of Japan were operating in societies in which few people had any idea of Christianity or Christian ministry. They would be unlikely to mistake their own selfish desires for a call from the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about Australia, but in South Africa, with its 10000 or more different Christian groups, sects and denominations, it is very easy to get the wrong idea of Christian ministry. I’ve heard people express their inward feeling of being called to Christian ministry because they want to be state-appointed marriage officers; they’ve seen that such marriage officers demand money from people, and very often the ministers of different denominations in a district form a kind of cartel, setting the fees that all must charge, so that there will be no undercutting by rivals. All the more reason for the state getting out of the marriage business. Others rather like the idea of getting to harangue people once a week, with little risk of anyone questioning or answering back.
But, provided there are adequate safeguards to prevent that sort of phony call, it would be better to train the called rather than call the trained, at least for the basic sacramental ministry of priests and deacons in parishes and mission congregations. Their basic job is to be worship leaders, and too often the formal forms of theological training train them in anything but that — at least such was my experience 30 years ago when I was responsible for self-supporting ministry training in the Anglican diocese of Zululand. When I was given that job there were six newly ordained self-supporting deacons, and not one of them had a clue what to do during the services.
Of course there is still a place for full-time training, but that should be mainly for training the trainers and teaching the teachers.
Insisting on full-time training can have bad effects on new mission congregations, because it removes the leaders from those congregations for training, and thus leaves the congregations untaught and leaderless at the very time when they are most in need of teaching. In-service training and theological education by extension would be far better, enabling leaders and congregations to learn together, which would in turn help to raise up more leaders.
So I must say I rather like Driscoll’s aphorism.
Training the called makes good sense — provided they are really called and really trained.