If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, but expecting to get different results, then we, the church, need to give ourselves a health check in the area of training.
If you’re from a non-academic, working class or estates background and you actually get your calling recognised by the church, then often you end up forced into a training pattern that just isn’t for you.
During my years of struggle through theological training, I’ve learnt that God doesn’t make mistakes. He didn’t make a mistake when he called an unschooled ordinary man to be the foundation of his church and he doesn’t make mistakes when calling people into leadership today. I wonder could it be us making the mistake in how we are trying to train those that God is calling?
There has to be change if we’re are going to take seriously the stats of today’s church. 60% of people in the UK identify as working class and yet are so underrepresented in the church, where 81% of its committed members have degrees, when the national average in only 27%. We urgently need leaders from non-middle class, non-university educated backgrounds, who can share the good news of Jesus with those who are not yet part of a church, so that they can hear the gospel in their own language.
If we are to reach the forgotten places and the forgotten people, we need pioneers who think outside of the box. Those who are just wired to do things differently, including the way that they need to be trained. We can’t afford to lose those whom God is calling just because they don’t fit into our current training structures.
Things don’t have to be the same. We can teach and learn in different ways. We can evidence learning in different ways. So why aren’t we doing this?
We don’t have to follow the same pattern of training followed by deployment. We can deploy and train at the same time, even if it takes longer and is messier.
I hear people say things are changing. In fact, I’ve said it myself. But it isn’t changing quickly enough if we don’t want to lose a generation of leaders whom God is calling to the margins.
When I watch my gifted and called daughter anxiously staring at a blank screen in a state of panic – in the same way I did – trying to write a theological reflection, when she was created to discuss it and share her learning verbally; my heart breaks for her and those like her whom God is calling – and for us, the church, who desperately need them.