When I posted on Tuesday about the dangers of having a pastorate that works like a corporate ladder, expecting ministers to work their way up through "lesser" ministries to assume a senior pastorate, I got some immediate backlash. Some pointed out that this is the way the church has worked for quite awhile, although I contend that just because we've done something for generations does not make it biblical or right or even good. Some, to be sure, found themselves somewhere around the middle of the ladder and are hesitant to suggest overhauling the system because they have put their years in, and they're "almost there."
Some said, "Well, the disciples were pastors in training."
Yes and no.
Yes in the sense that the disciples were being trained by Jesus to continue His work of ministry after He left them. Yes in the sense that the disciples were being trained to become apostles (and yes, they are different things; I've written about this before). Yes in the sense that they were ever fine-tuning their skills, learning faith and obedience, and becoming comfortable with the power that they had as followers of Jesus.
But no, the disciples were not pastors in training in the way that pastors today are "in training" under the corporate ladder model.
Jesus never asked the disciples to do tasks they weren't gifted in. He didn't ask them to "pay their dues" and start at the bottom and learn by doing things that had nothing at all to do with what He wanted them to be able to do. He didn't ask them to while away their years working at labor that neither satisfied nor filled their heart, work that was outside of their calling. He said He would make them fishers of men, and their training consisted of learning to cast wider nets. That's it.
This is a far cry from the contemporary church model that takes a man with gift of preaching and tells him that if he wants to work in the pulpit, then he has to chaperone youth group trips for a few years. And then lead worship for some more years. And then teach Sunday school classes and manage the budget for a few more years. The church today tells him that if he wants to be a preacher, he has to start by being something completely different and then, one day, it might give him the opportunity to demonstrate his skills inside his calling.
But he has to do the "grunt" work first.
Jesus told Peter that on this rock, He would build His church. He didn't also say that Peter would have to watch for twenty years first as Jesus built His church on some other guy. Judas was gifted as a bookkeeper and a money-minder; Jesus did not tell him that he would have to be a pack mule for a few years first while Bartholomew kept the books.
When Jesus was training His disciples for ministry, everything He had them do was within their gifting and their calling. Nothing less. So while it's fair to say that they were ministers-in-training, it is unfair to say that they were operating in the same kind of system that our churches are using today. Not by a long shot.
And, oh, there's one more tiny little detail that brings this conversation a bit more full-circle: Jesus wasn't actually training pastors at all, even though He had His eye on their future ministries. He was training disciples.
That's something entirely different altogether. (More on that tomorrow.)