Nothing is more important to God's cause than the training of the future ministry. The church of tomorrow will be largely the product of the theological trainees of today. "My people are no better than their priestlings," declares the Lord. (Hosea 4:4, Moffatt.) How true this is! We need the best training possible for the ministry.
The General Conference took a long step forward in 1929 when the internship plan was developed for North America. It is to be regretted that such a plan is not in operation in every overseas division. But here in the home base a good start has been made, and much good has resulted. The investment on the part of the General Conference in providing opportunity for field training for ministers in the making is considerable, but unless the ministerial intern really receives an adequate training, even the wisdom of the plan itself might be questioned. Although the original policy require that those benefiting from these provisions spend the period of internship in evangelism,. and preferably in the association of more than one evangelist, yet until this last Fall Council no definite pattern for such training during the two-year period was adopted.
Heretofore each conference receiving the services of the ministerial intern has been left free to determine the method of training. For a variety of reasons it has sometimes been quite impossible for some local conferences to place a young man with an experienced evangelist. Consequently some interns have spent the entire two years pastoring one or even up to seven churches and companies without any definite supervision. Such a procedure has really been a breach of the provisions of the policy, yet circumstances have often rendered a change not only difficult but virtually impossible. This has given our leaders real concern. But even more disappointing is the fact that more than one budding preacher has had the misfortune to spend his whole internship period in service which had little to do with the work of a pastor, to say nothing about the vital work of soul winning.
Although the recent Fall Council action was designed to prevent such abuses, yet the main objective was the setting up of a definite pattern to govern the field training program. Hitherto there has been no pattern. Each man charged with the responsibility of training an intern did what was right in his own eyes, even if it meant that practically the only service the intern rendered was figuratively to pour water over the prophet's hands. The General Conference assumes almost sixty per cent of the salary expense of the two-year period of the internship, the balance being met by the union and local conferences, yet up till now the whole method of intern training has been left largely to individual discretion.
The result has been a very diversified procedure, lacking in many respects both unity and efficiency. The weakness of this has been recognized by administrative leaders in both union and local fields, and it was an effort to strengthen the whole program and provide a pattern for a thorough-all-round training that called for renewed study of the whole internship plan. The recommendations adopted at the 1946 Fall Council are as follows :
WHEREAS, The Internship Plan when rightly carried out provides a unique opportunity for the effective training and well-rounded development of the future ministry of the advent movement; and
WHEREAS,The clear instruction of the Lord, through the Spirit of prophecy, is that "the inexperienced ones should not be sent out alone. They should stand right by the side of older and experienced ministers, where they could educate them" (Evangelism, p. 684), and recognizing that not all ministers have the necessary qualifications to measure up to the high responsibility of molding the lives of future ministers,
We recommend, 1. That our ministerial interns be placed where there is hopeful prospect for a well-rounded development in all the phases of the ministry—Evangelistic, Pastoral, Teaching (i.e. personal and group instruction, and Promotional (viz., special fields embraced in the various departments of church activity).
Evangelistic Training.—Under this new plan it will be readily seen that the intern is to spend some time, possibly nine months, in association with one or more of our successful evangelists. During this time he will have opportunity to study all the techniques of soul winning. As a member of the evangelistic team he will not only observe but also participate in the various features of the work, such as the publicity program, the community Bible schools, and personal soul winning in the homes; and gain some experience in song leading in association with the music director. He will also be initiated into the important features of financing the campaign, supervising book sales, organizing ushers, and so forth. It is expected that he will have some opportunity to preach, although that may not necessarily be so in the large meetings. If regional meetings are conducted throughout the city or the area, he may take the oversight of one of these, and under the guidance of the evangelist assume the responsibility of the publicity, finance, and organization of a small suburban effort.
Soul winning, important as it is, is not, however, the only work of the minister. He must be a shepherd to the flock and a counselor to the distressed. He must know the principles of organization and how to work with a church board. The promotion of Christian education and all the different interests of departmental work in the church is definitely the responsibility of the minister. We need strong evangelists, but we also need strong pastors. God has not called every minister to a lifework of evangelism. Pastoring, promotion, and administration are all part of the sacred work of the ministry. Therefore, in training men for so diversified a calling, we must keep a thorough balance.
Pastoral Training.—It will be noticed that in addition to the months of definite evangelistic field training, the ministerial intern is to spend a number of months, possibly four to six, in association with a strong pastor. This may be in a large city church or in a district, but in either case he will not be left to sink or swim, but rather under sympathetic guidance he will be initiated into all the responsibilities of the church program. As an assistant pastor he will learn, under guidance, how to chairman a church council, how to promote the various church missionary endeavors, as well as how to work with local church leaders. This will not only be a help to the intern himself but will prevent some problems we have seen arise out of inexperience.
Just as a medical intern is initiated into his profession under expert supervision, so the ministerial intern will, under supervision and by close observation and participation, learn the important techniques of soul surgery and spiritual healing. The conducting of such important services as the Lord's supper, baptisms, funerals, and anointing the sick, requires that one be more than a novice. Then, too, there is that sad but possibly necessary procedure of removing from the church roll the names of those who have made their decision to walk no more with the people of God. All too frequently this delicate work, which requires a deft touch, is left to the inexperienced, and the results are often tragic.
Promotion Training.—In addition to definite field training in the techniques of evangelism and pastoral work, it is planned that the intern devote a short period, possibly a month or six weeks during each of the two years, to the definite promotional program of the conference.
This would be under the guidance and supervision of the conference departmental secretaries. It is hoped that, in association with the Missionary Volunteer leader, he will help in youth camps and weeks of prayer ; and with the home missionary secretary, in Ingathering and other church campaigns. With the educational secretary he would visit schools and academies. Thus he would have opportunity to become acquainted with the various responsibilities of the ministry, with the added advantage of viewing a minister's work from the standpoint of the conference office. Such a program would develop all-round men who can view the whole scope of ministerial work and enter into its responsibilities.
For the carrying out of such a program we need real field trainers, men who, by experience, education, and spiritual leadership, are equipped to mold future workers. The environment in which a young minister finds himself as he leaves college and begins his service in the field influences him throughout his whole life's work. With,a view to developing the kind of men who can give young workers the training they need, it is suggested that definite councils be held within each union field, possibly every two years. At such councils, which could be held to a brief two-day period, opportunity may be given for the study of definite ideals, as well as the development of definite techniques for the training of men.
Of course it is expected that these young workers will later come to the Theological Seminary for further study, but in general it is believed that two years' field experience beyond the internship period is an advantage. Defects of technique and knowledge rarely show up at once; therefore one is not usually conscious of his needs until he has had some experience in the field.
The internship plan is part of a long-range training program, and these are the suggestions that led up to the council action. We are confident that should time last for another decade the ministry of the advent movement could reach a standard of efficiency, spirituality, and fellowship in service that would mean everything to the completion of our world task. As ambassadors for Christ and workers together with God, let us be sure that we have received "not the praise of God in vain." And giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed," let us go forward, praying God to help us to reach His ideal, and thus meet the need of this great hour.