In recent years local churches and denominations have attempted to find ways of better identifying, encouraging, preparing and testing people for gospel ministry. Potential gospel workers have often felt confronted with a vast gulf between their emerging desire to devote their lives to gospel service and the processes (machinery) by which they do so within a church or denomination or a Christian organization. A successful approach to overcoming this problem has emerged based on a ministry apprenticeship concept. This entails a prospective gospel worker being associated with an experienced gospel minister in a structured programme integrating spiritual development, ministry experience and biblical teaching for a period of time usually one to two years. In the course of this “apprenticeship” both the apprentice and the experienced practitioner, along with the local church oversight body, are better able to assess the suitability of a person for ministry and, if appropriate, facilitate progress toward more specialized training or ministry involvement.
The “apprenticeship” idea is based on the concept of prospective gospel workers (apprentices) working alongside experienced practitioners (pastors, mentors, coaches etc.) who not only share their knowledge and skills, but also their lives and ministries. It mirrors the kind of relationship evident between Moses and Joshua (Ex. 24:13; 33:11; Num. 11:28), Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 19:21), Jesus and his disciples (Mk 3:13-15), and Paul and his co-workers, particularly Timothy (Acts16:3; Phil. 2:22; 2 Tim. 3:10). In each case, prospective gospel workers/leaders were associated closely with mature practitioners, sharing with them in the various experiences of life and ministry, and in the process, being equipped and proving their suitability for ministry themselves. The goal of such apprenticeships is to facilitate “the passing on of the baton” of gospel service to another generation of proven men and women.
Apprenticeship should be the heart of ministry, many of the times though not so many people have understood this concept. Indeed it is more of a new approach that could be foreign in our context but still is a good avenue from which we can be able to recruit, train and equip the next group of gospel workers for the African church. Many of the churches in the west thrive on apprenticeship as a way of resourcing and recruiting gospel workers. First-hand exposure to gospel service in an apprenticeship provides an invaluable context for both the apprentice and the experienced teacher/guide/coach –along with any other body of oversight –to assess suitability for ministry. It allows the apprentice to experience the realities of gospel work and appreciate its demands and requirements, enabling them to better assess their spiritual gifts and sense of call to such a ministry. At the same time, it provides those guiding, teaching and overseeing them a substantial basis for affirming or otherwise their suitability.
In our efforts to equip the African church with gospel workers for the coming centuries it is time to embark on structured models of descipleship and mentorship.
The big questions for the African Church still remain to be:
1.How best can we equip gospel workers?
2. How can we tackle unfaithful teaching of scriptures and combat prosperity preaching?