God has placed it on my heart to begin sharing the different aspects of the heavenly vision for The River. One area of ministry that will be prominent at The River in the foreseeable future is a School of the Ministry. God called me to train ministers over 20 years ago. In two of the churches that I pastored, we had on-campus Bible Colleges with degree programs. I have also served as president of the alumni association for Dr. Lester Sumrall’s Bible College. More importantly, God placed the mandate on my heart to impart training to emerging ministries of all types – five-fold and supportive.
Many people are called into ministry but don’t have the practical option of going away to a Bible College or Seminary. Others have a desire for a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. And many are called into supportive ministries within the local church, such as praise & worship, youth, children, outreach, etc. The New Testament pattern for ministry training is through the local church. The best example of this is found in Acts chapter 13 with the church at Antioch. Paul himself was trained up in the Spirit at this church until such time that the Holy Spirit separated him and Barnabas for missionary work.
I often think about how God trained me for ministry, and realize that He used a little bit of various methods, even secular ones, to prepare me. When I was saved and called by God, I literally spent 8-10 hours a day studying the Word of God and praying… every day for over 4 years. This was the best education I ever received – the school of the Holy Spirit. After that, God sent me to Bible College and to sit under the anointed ministry of an apostle, the late Lester Sumrall. I ultimately earned both a B.A. and a Master’s in Theology. And of course, God has brought me through on-the-job training, with almost 20 years of pastoral experience. Most of those 20 years, I was able to be full-time in the ministry – living by faith. But during the period I was also in secular employment, I was responsible for Corporate Training for a company of 5,000 employees. I had over 100 full-time Trainers on staff. Classes were running continuously. We wrote and designed all of our own training programs and study guides. I did this for about 5 years and God used it to teach me valuable lessons about training, adult education, instructional design and organization. I am thankful for this time in my life as God will allow me to use those skills that were developed during that period. I am now currently completing my doctorate in theology.
I did not mean for this article to read like a résumé, but wanted to show how God uses different ways and means to train people for the work to which He has called them. God is already sending people into The River with ministry callings on their lives. Some will go away to Bible College and others will remain here and be trained. Others will “go away” from where they are now and come to The River for training. In the near future, we will be offering multiple classes through the week and be associated with a degree program in order that those who wish to earn a degree may do so. Our emphasis will be on teaching the Word of God, imparting spiritual gifts, and providing a platform for practical ministry experience. The training program will flow into our church planting ministry, as we raise up and send out pastors, teachers, evangelists, missionaries and the like, to go out and do the works of Jesus. The River will also need called, gifted and anointed teachers of the Word to be on staff at the school. God is sending them by His Spirit.
The fire is burning in my heart an He is lighting the same fire in others who are already at The River and those who will be coming.