In the short time available, how can you increase the quality and quantity of your gospel ministry?
1. Be super clear on the gospel
There is no good talking about maximising ‘gospel ministry’ without defining (and glorying in) the gospel we are serving and proclaiming. The gospel is the good news of God’s sacrificial gift of his Son to make hell-deserving rebels his children. It is the news of the bridegroom Son winning his bride the Church by a bloody dowry. It is the news of the King, punished in the place of his sinful people, risen victorious who now rules, gives life and will return as Judge. It is the news of the righteous dying for the unrighteous to bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18).
The best first step in maximising our gospel ministry will be to go deeper and deeper in our understanding and love of this gospel and to take every opportunity – in conversations and speaking 'up front' – to be really clear and explicit about this gospel and warmly hold out Christ crucified to fellow sinners. This is how we will increase the quality of our gospel ministry: by making the most of every opportunity in this short time before Christ returns.
Make the most of every opportunity...
As a starting point check out Chris Green's talks:
Going deeper in understanding the richness of the gospel will certainly mean:
- a devotion to the Word, listening, digesting and obeying;
- leaning into all the opportunities in our local churches to learn and serve;
- and a hunger for good books full of gospel truth (check out the Good Book Company and 10ofthose).
Increasing the quality of our gospel ministry may also mean seeking out additional training through online resources, a gospel partnership ministry training course or through part-time or distance theological education.
2. Think about increasing the quantity of your gospel ministry
If you are finding your gospel ministry is fruitful (people coming to Christ, being encouraged in Christ, and strengthen in the gospel through your ministry); if you are being warmly encouraged by your church leaders to do more gospel ministry than you have time for; then it may well be right to explore the possibility of moving into part-time (bi-vocational) or full-time gospel work.
Some resources for those considering maximising the quantity of their gospel ministry:
- Clarifying the Call (Christopher Ash)
- What constitutes a call to the ministry (D. A. Carson)
- How do I know I'm called? (John Stevens)
- From student to starting out in gospel ministry (Charlie Butler)
- Persevering in Ministry – Advice for the next generation (William Philip)
- Gospel ministry: Is it right for me? Am I right for it? (Mark O'Donoghue)
This is not just something for young people to consider. The following two posts illustrate a couple of different pathways followed by those over forty:
- From secular work to full-time ministry (Rob Bridgewater)
- God isn't finished with you yet (Graham Fairbairn)
Your church leaders and wise friends can help you think through these issues. As part of that conversation, a 9:38 conference can be a great way to help you explore the nature of gospel ministry further and to talk with others at different stages of the journey.
3. Consider doing a ministry traineeship
Being a ministry trainee (some churches might call it being a ministry apprentice or pastoral intern) is a great way to 'test the waters' of full-time gospel ministry and learn as you serve – it is in-flow (training) with an out-flow (ministry): head, heart and hands, convictions, character and competence, teaching and humbling.
A traineeship tends to be one or two years, with a day or two a week of ‘classroom’ training but also lots of hands on practical service and opportunities for gospel ministry – whether to children, youth, seniors or cross-culturally. It can be done as a ‘gap year’ after school, post-university, pre-theological college, after a number of years in the workplace or in early retirement.
A key verse on the apprenticeship/trainee model is this one:
“But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” (Phil. 2:20)
The relationship between the apostle Paul and Timothy was unique in some ways but Paul’s pattern of ministry is given as a model for others (e.g. Acts 20, 1 & 2 Thess.). Paul entrusted gospel ministry to Timothy, Titus and others who entrusted it to others… all the way to us. How was the gospel entrusted? In what context was it passed on? Timothy was a trainee-apprentice of Paul. Paul was a trainer-mentor to Timothy. What did that involve?
- Relationship – There is love and respect as between father and son. The father is not overbearing or exasperating (Col. 3:21; 1 Pet. 5:3) but encouraging, comforting, urging (1 Thess. 2:11-12; Eph. 6:4) and above all a humble example (1 Pet. 5:3-5). The son is submissive (1 Pet. 5:5) and eager to learn from the life and words of the father (2 Tim. 3:10-11). This relationship matters far more than a precise curriculum.
- Service together – Apprenticeship is not academic – it is about getting hands dirty. There is content to be taught (2 Tim. 2:2) but the deepest learning comes through service and particularly serving together – the apprentice observing the mentor and the mentor observing the apprentice and giving feedback. The aim is that the apprentice grows not only in skill but in servant-heartedness.
- Gospel work – The apprenticeship that we are talking about here is not in plumbing or electrics or even in ‘leadership’ but in gospel ministry. The priority is proclaiming Christ (Phil. 1:18), the God who humbled himself to death on a Cross (Phil. 2:5-11) and who wraps us in his own righteousness (Phil. 3:7-9). This gospel must never be assumed. The trainee and mentor are constantly seeking to know Christ more (Phil. 3:10-14) and to work for the joy of others in Him (Phil. 1:25).
- Proving – Apprenticeship/traineeship is a time of testing. This is true both in the sense that, through hardship and trials, through temptations and through the rigors of gospel service, faith is refined as gold (1 Pet. 1:6-7) and in terms of exploring gospel ministry – the apprenticeship experience begins to reveal whether there is a gifting, desire and right character for long-term gospel ministry.
And as you think about doing an apprenticeship, have a look at real stories from ministry trainees, and also consider the range of different places you could serve:
- Gospel needs in the North of England
- Gospel needs in Ireland
- The smaller church option
- The value of doing a ministry apprenticeship in a church plant
- Overseas opportunities
Again, the first place to go when considering doing a ministry apprenticeship will be your local church leadership. Once you have sought their wisdom and counsel, you may want to look on our vancancies database which is packed with traineeship opporunities across England and Wales: