The past two days we have been considering the implications of Hebrews 13:17 for local church structure and functioning,
Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (NAS)
We have drawn two conclusions from this verse. First, that this verse suggested a clearly identifiable church body. Church leaders can only give an account if they know who is under their charge. Yesterday we consider that some strategy would be necessary to connect the church leadership to individual members such as subdividing the body and assigning a group to each leader. This would set up a structure that would enable leaders to manage.
The nature of leadership responsibility
But with that structure, what should the church leadership seek to achieve? The verse above indicates that they would give an account, but for what?
If I were commander of a boot camp training company, knowing that these troops were headed for combat I would do everything possible to prepare them for the challenges ahead, not only in regard to knowledge, but also regarding the necessary skills and the required strength and toughness. I sense that this is the type of training the writer had in mind.
This perspective would lead to a church training program that would be mandatory for the entire constituency. Wednesday night would be set aside for this purpose, with everyone meeting at the church at 6 PM for a brief meal followed by two hours of intense training.
What should such a program look like?
- For new believers it would probably start with a course on basic Christian living to include the nature of salvation, baptism, Bible study, prayer, and church connection. This course would also deal with practical challenges of the Christian life such as how God expects us to live and how to overcome temptations to live otherwise. This segment would lead to the new believer instituting into his personal life the practices he has been taught.
- A second basic segment may provide an overview of Scripture, followed by the study of five or six key books of the Bible such as Genesis, Isaiah, the Gospel of John, Acts, and Romans, followed by an overview of theology.
- The third segment of this basic training would deal with relationships. To do this effectively trainees would be divided up by their particular situations in life. Married people, those with children, single adults, teenagers, etc. would all go to their respective groups that addressed scriptural principles applicable to their situation and discussion regarding problems. As needed, this training might get more personal, with discussions related to challenges the individual for facing, even doing some of the work one-on-one as necessary.
- The forth basic segment would involve stewardship, dealing with the effective use of one’s time, talents, spiritual gifts, finances, and other resources in service for the Lord. This would include helping each person identify his gifts, helping him discern how they might best be used, and identifying further training and other prerequisites. This segment would result in the trainee being headed toward some sort of service. There would be flexibility in regard to the nature of that service as the person grew and gained a better grasp of his capacities.
- Perhaps everyone would attend a half-hour segment each Wednesday night would be devoted to an in-depth study of the book of the Bible, which would expose newer believers to Bible study methods and keep everyone digging into the Word.
- For those completing the basic segments, in addition to the half-hour in-depth Bible study they would receive leadership training and specialty training of various types.
- Of course, this church structure many would involve many in doing the training.
- A key function of this training would be a requirement for each person in the basic programs to meet with his mentor weekly to discuss progress and problems. Those beyond the basic programs would meet with their mentors monthly. This mentor/trainee relationship would not be a casual one, but one in which the mentor would provide authoritative direction as suggested in the verse above. Of course boundaries would be needed to identify the extent to which mentors should and should not insert themselves into the life of the trainee
What This Training Program Would Accomplish
It is hard to fathom the impact that this type of training program would have on American Christianity, especially if it were carried out in a loving, disciplined, highly professional way. It would give people the tools, direction, oversight, and encouragement that they need for Christian living and service. It would also provide help when faced with the challenges of life.
One major outcome would comprise a different view of the church. Rather than seeing the church as a place people came on their terms to meet their needs and accomplish their objectives if they had any, the church would all be about accomplishing God’s agenda through church structure, training, and ministry.
The verse above seem to suggest that this approach reflects God’s basic design for the church. In this day in which the church is being infiltrated, dominated, and decimated by the secular culture, an approach such as the one described above is desperately needed.