When the call won't go away: learn to discern and develop skills to serve the church

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John Wesley writing at a desk with feather pen

John Wesley

John Wesley, who planted the seed that became the Methodist Church and Francis Asbury the first Bishop and ultimate circuit rider, share two important models for training laity moving into ministry.

John Wesley, in his Journal wrote,

“Immediately it struck into my mind, ‘Leave off preaching. How can you preach to others, who have not faith yourself?’

I asked Bohler whether he thought I should leave it off or not. He answered, ‘By no means.’

I asked, ‘But what can I preach?’

He said,‘Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.’”

What John Wesley understood was that for some of us our faith and theology comes through preaching the word. Yes, theological education is important. Yet, we know that for some of us as we work through the lectionary we will cover many important themes of the Bible. Studying the scripture, reading commentaries, taking Biblical classes, working with a lectionary group, writing and then preaching the sermon helps us develop our faith and theology.

Francis Asbury, the first Bishop of the United Methodist Church, dropped out of school and worked as a blacksmith apprentice before feeling the call to ministry. He like many of the preachers in the early days of United States and the Methodist Church were from the artisan class. That is, they worked in the trades. They were trained by apprenticeship under a craftsman with more experience.

Francis Asbury was able to reframe the apprenticeship model of artisans to train those moving into ministry. Along with the apprenticeship those serving the church read books which would help them to grow. People learned the skills of preaching, teaching, pastoral care and church leadership by walking along side another preacher and reading. The skills of ministry are best taught from a combination of formal learning and mentoring.

Today, as in the days of John Wesley and Francis Asbury, there are more churches and not enough pastors. Many of those are small membership churches which are unable to afford seminary trained pastors.

There are some people who are truly called to ministry and yet the time away from home and work along with the cost makes it impossible even to take the Certified Lay Minister program. They work forty hours plus a week, have families, and are active in their church.

The Lay Academy has a Certified Lay Ministry Training Program combines the best of John Wesley and Francis Asbury. For nine months students study lectionary passages to develop their theology and preaching. They have a set of texts which help them integrate the main areas of ministry such as preaching, pastoral care, theology, leadership, history with their work in the church. And they take time to look at real life issues in the church and how to work through those issues to help the church grow.

The training program uses a web-based platform. Students are able to work from their home at times that work into their schedule. One Saturday a month students participate in an online meeting where they participate in a lectionary study group, work on issues, and explore a teaching session on one of nine core areas important to ministry, such as worship, preaching, theology, pastoral care, history, etc.

Many conferences now have programs designed to train lay persons but some are unable to participate because of time and money. We hope that if you know someone or are one of those who has a deep call and a busy schedule you will check out the Lay Academy Certified Lay Ministry training programs. We hope that if you are a District Superintendent, Board of Laity, or supervising pastor you will consider this as an option for those who have a call and need a different delivery model.

For more information contact Rev. Dr. Carl K. Ellis.