In-depth training: Run with endurance
Posted on: 9th April 2018
CMS Director of Training and Development David Williams (with his wife, Rachel) works with the teaching team at the CMS training facility, St Andrew’s Hall, to prepare potential missionaries for service in many locations. He explains why solid preparation is necessary for new missionaries starting out in cross-cultural ministry.
Some people think being a missionary is a bit like going on holiday. You need to do a bit of planning to go on holiday—find a destination, buy an air ticket and a guidebook, pack your suitcase, get a couple of vaccinations. Then off you go.
The trouble is, going on holiday usually only lasts two or three weeks. If you approach being a missionary like going on holiday, you will probably only last two or three weeks as well.
In reality, being a missionary is more like being an accomplished jazz musician. Sure, anyone can sit down in front of a piano and plonk out a couple of notes. But to make beautiful music takes time and training.
Biblical leadership takes time and training
The Bible is clear that to be a leader amongst God’s people takes time and training. It takes time and training to develop the character and godliness that exemplify a leader—just look at Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. These qualities do not grow overnight but emerge through faithful obedience to God’s word over years of Christian living.
And it takes time and training to learn how to teach the Bible faithfully. The apostle Paul worked hard at equipping his apprentices to handle the word of truth correctly. That’s why churches across Australia are wise when they require future leaders to invest in training. Typically, our churches encourage leaders to work as apprentices for a couple of years to discover if they have the gifts and skills for ministry. If people thrive as apprentices, we encourage them to go to Bible college. Training at a Bible college gives people core skills in understanding the Bible and structuring its teaching into a coherent theological framework. There are other ways we could train church leaders, but the route I have described is well established and works effectively in Australia.
So… do you think missionaries need more or less training than church leaders? Do you think it would be easier or harder to teach the Bible in another culture and using a different language?
CMS wants trained missionaries for the long term
CMS asks missionaries to complete in-depth training for two reasons. The first is because we take the Bible seriously; the second is because we are committed to long-term mission. We believe people are more likely to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ if they hear the message in their own language. We believe that this gospel message must be proclaimed faithfully, with understanding of both the Bible and the culture in which we speak. It takes time to learn language and culture well, making long-term mission vitally important and effective.
What does in-depth training look like? It is a three-step process. Step one is the life of faithful discipleship leading to Christian maturity, lived out in a local church. It is easy to take this step for granted. But the godliness and growth in ministry skills thus developed are critical.
Step two is Bible college. We ask our missionaries to complete at least a year of Bible college. For those headed towards full-time Bible teaching, the requirement is a three-year theology degree.
Step three is our specialist cross-cultural training. Our program has different components. We focus on missiological and anthropological theory to give missionaries a framework from which to understand cultural diversity. We explore different religious and cultural contexts and ask how we can effectively proclaim the gospel there. We add ministry tools to people’s toolkit, including skills in Bible storytelling, language learning, managing stress and much more.
Our course features a 19-week residential program that requires people to live at St Andrew’s Hall with their families. Husbands and wives study together. Children relocate to a school in Melbourne and pre-school children go to childcare unless they are infants. This provides a ‘dry run’ at experiencing family transition. We learn in community. The residential nature of St Andrew’s Hall is critical to this process. Groups are small and a privilege of our role as a training team is to see groups of missionaries becoming cohorts who love one another, forming friendships that last into the years ahead.
Through this training, our aim is to enable missionaries to become reflective practitioners. In many of the cultures in which CMS missionaries work, you can go on making the same mistake for 20 years and nobody will ever correct you. This is why it is so important to have the skills to keep growing and learning inter-cultural competence. It is because we long to see a world that knows Jesus that we invest in in-depth training.
A story from a CMS missionary
CMS missionary Gillian Law works with the Christian student movement Gruppi Biblici Universitari (GBU) in Italy. She says: “Before I applied to CMS, I trained at a theological college where I gained a deeper understanding of God and his gospel, myself and humanity, and handling the word of God. This has probably been the most significant training of all, because all other ministry training builds on this.
“My work experience in my professional job and at a university church was good for honing skills of talking with non-believers and training young people. Doing this in my culture gave me a great head-start to ministry in another.
“Training through CMS has given me an approach to learning language that is about talking and listening to the people around me. It’s helped me be sensitive to my own culture so that I can work out what is simply cultural difference and what is unchanging gospel truth. It’s given me tips on resilience for thriving in a country that is not my home and having realistic expectations, especially by reminding me that success is about fidelity to the gospel of Jesus. And it’s taught me to be a learner: to learn from my Italian brothers and sisters and to ensure that I remain someone who keeps on learning about Italy, about myself, and about Christ Jesus.”
CMS is passionate about sending the gospel out into all the world and dedicated to finding, training and supporting people for that task. Has God been stirring you to consider mission? Check out this page to learn more about what steps you could be taking to go to all the nations.
Don’t forget that preparation for mission starts now. As you consider God’s plans, ask yourself: Who am I speaking to now about the gospel of grace? Who am I currently meeting with to read the Bible and to pray? Who can I ask about mission possibilities? Contact your local CMS branch to discover where the possibilities lie.