Paul, the Areopagus & the Why of evangelism

We all find evangelism hard. Admitting that is the first step to dealing with it. But what’s the second step? What gets in the way of people taking the next step with their acquaintances, friends and family?

Our Mission Pastor, Sam Hilton recently gave an excellent talk from Acts 17 that highlighted 3 big reasons. I’d recommend you listen to it. If you’re training an MTSer, it would be a great resource to listen and review together.

  1. We don’t understand the non-Christian world-view enough
  2. We don’t get distressed about people’s idolatry enough
  3. We get caught in the same idolatry, and don’t long for God’s glory enough

Have a listen here.


Why most people get the ‘T’ in MTS wrong…

The Ministry Training Strategy ( is an awesome and much needed part of the Australian Christian landscape. But… most people think the ‘T’ in MTS is about being a Trainee… they think it’s the Ministry Trainee Strategy… and they’re wrong.

MTS is very keen on young men and women doing a two-year full-time hands-on word-ministry placement before further theological training and/or Pastoral Leadership roles. The MTS Movement wants to see thousands of people do these Traineeships. But MTS is not primarily about Trainees… the ‘T’ is MTS is really the Ministry Trainer Strategy.

MTS is about young men and women becoming Ministry Trainers – for the rest of their life.

Let me put this another way… if you were an MTSer and you’re not currently training (or recruiting) someone into full-time gospel-leadership… you’ve stopped being part of the Strategy, you’ve missed the point of MTS… that you’re never meant to leave, you’re never meant to stop calling others into full-time gospel-leadership. Your MTS involvement was never meant to end.

Are you a trainee who dropped out, or are you a trainer who’s still part of the strategy?


p.s. If you do want to get back on the Trainer “horse”, grab some keen Christians from your ministry and come along to the MTS Mission Minded Conference in Sept 11-13 2015.

Learn by preaching small passages or massive passages… but not medium

A common trap for young preachers is the medium length passage… its like 15-30 verses.

See, you can get your head around it. You can spend 10hrs preparing it and exegeting it and know what it says. But you’ll want to preach all of it. You’ll drag your listeners through all the ins and outs of the passage, and you won’t be able to hold them.

See, if you tried to preach 100 verses, no-one would expect you to touch on all of them… not even you! You’d be okay with letting some ideas through to the keeper. And if you preach 5-10 verses, you’d have the time to unpack everything properly, while still being able to apply it and think about your audience and presentation.

So, until you’ve learned to be okay with skipping bits, avoid the middle-sized passages.

This is all part of why we give our MTS Apprentices middle-sized passages! ;)

When they say, “Church needs some people to NOT do full-time ministry”…

It seems like a sound argument… If 100% of Christians tried to do paid-ministry, there’d be no-one to pay them. Therefore the church needs people who will faithfully decide to not do paid-ministry. Right?

Even though the statement is “true” it fails on three counts.

  1. It’s putting the cart before the horse. You don’t make a decision about entering paid-ministry on the basis of whether other people are doing it. You offer your life to God, you work it out with him – regardless of what other people are doing. What if God actually wants lots of people going into paid ministry!?!?
  2. No-where near 100% of people are going into full-time ministry. In fact, only about 50% of people who start on the road to paid-ministry end up in paid-ministry. Our church has a congregation of uni-students & grads, and only about %4 of them start on the road to full-time paid ministry!
    But think about all the other churches around Australia where students and grads are NOT being challenged to consider paid-ministry!!! That 4% ends up closer to 1%.
    Your church may not need more paid-ministers, but Jesus’ church does. So train at your church and take it to other churches.
  3. The argument implies that people who choose to “stay in the workforce” will be just as helpful to the gospel by being able to pay for others DOING paid-ministry (as compared to going into paid-ministry themselves).
    Anecdotally, this is false. If it were true, wouldn’t these people be making the same financial sacrifices those entering FT ministry make? The average MTS Scholarship is about $25-$30k. If you really believe the argument above, doesn’t that mean you should invest every cent you earn above $25k into gospel workers – people who are doing MTS?

The similarity between Ministry and Magic…

…it’s only cool until you know how its done.

Every kid who’s seen a magic trick starts imagining themselves as a magician. That’s why toy stores sell those starter-magic kits. But if they sold so many, wouldn’t there me so many more magicians?

The reality is, as soon as a kid realises that the magic trick is more trick than magic, they quickly lose interest. Doing magic is only cool when it’s amazing. When you’re just hiding a card in the other hand, it’s boring.

Inviting young men and women to consider a lifetime of gospel ministry is a bit like that. They see you doing “impressive” and “amazing” Christian ministry…. they hear the bible knowledge and wisdom… wow! But when they start doing it, they soon realise that ministry is hard work, taking hours of preparation time, years of just reading the bible one your own and with others. Regurgitating the same wisdom you’ve been given over the years. It loses it’s shine.

Which is sad, because ministry really is the closest thing to real magic in the end. By the grace of God, we see people move from death to life. God uses us to raise the dead, proclaim forgiveness of sins, melt hearts of stone, rejoice for eternity. Amazing.

Reblog: What MTS experience is worth having before college?

After catching up with some Moore College students who just finished first year, I was reminded how the type of MTS experience you get is so important.
College doesn’t teach you how to “do ministry”; it doesn’t teach methods, principles or how to apply God’s word to people’s lives. It doesn’t even teach you “the bible” like a Sunday sermon does. College teaches you to be an expert of the bible, it’s language, it’s doctrine, and supporting disciplines.
That’s why the ideal MTS experience gets you to read the bible (1:1) with as many people as you can. It’s basic ministry; bible, you and someone to love. It’s the best prep for preaching, because you’re learning “how” to teach the bible. It’s the best prep for college, because you spend heaps of time in the bible. It’s the best prep for ministry because you learn how to become dependant on God and his Word and prayer.
The principles and methodologies you take to college will likely not change, college will simply deepen them.

Things you can’t really understand until you’ve been in full-time ministry…

There’s nothing super-godly about being in “paid FT ministry”, but there are some things that you just couldn’t know without experiencing them first-hand…
(This is why MTS is so important!!! No matter how much ministry you’ve been doing, or how you’ve seen your parents be in full-time ministry… It’s not about knowing it, but rather how YOU handle it).

  • Ever organised a wedding? Helpers, cars, equipment, outlines, songs, rsvps, invites… That’s what ppl in FT ministry do every week. Again and again and again. And not just church – It feels like 50% of your effort is just spent convincing people to come to things that you know will help keep them from hell!
  • Being able to devote more time to a ministry doesn’t make it easier, rather it increases your responsibilities. You are held more responsible for more aspects of it.
  • Being more responsible means the buck stops with you… You are the one who makes the decisions, rather than the one who complains about the decisions made. You get criticism and slandered by people you’ve tried to love when you have made decisions that you know are for the good of the gospel. Some people will refuse to listen and understand.
  • Your favourite thing in the world becomes something you’re paid to do and you need to take breaks from. So you have to change how you take time off. Friends become your flock, and your flock can become your friends or your foes.
  • You have to deal with very wrong expectations. On one hand, your love for people is devalued because they think you’re doing it “just because it’s your job”. On the other hand, your love for people is over-valued because they think that their pastor’s attention is more special that their brothers and sisters in Christ. They “need” you when they really don’t, and they claim that “the church” hasn’t loved them if you don’t give them everything they ask for.
  • You know that you’re just another sinful-yet-forgiven member of Christ’s family, but people expect you to be special somehow. You make bad decisions that will hinder growth, that will turn people away, that will get blown out of proportion. You don’t know what’s the best thing to do, but you have to do something.
  • People want you to love them more than you love God. They don’t know they want this, but their actions show they do. Especially when loving God means saying hard things to them and calling for repentance.
  • Bible reading and Prayer becomes your best friend or your source of depression. Keep doing them.
  • You see the gospel in an amazing new light (not different – just fresh). Because you’re totally depending on the gospel to change people and you see people reject the gospel, ignore the gospel, have the gospel explode their world view.

If leadership means making decisions, raising up new leaders means…

If leadership means making decisions, raising up new leaders means… delegating decisions.
If you want more people involved, you need more teams/groups for them to join. If you want more teams/groups, you need new team/group leaders. If you want to see and develop more leaders, you need to give them things to choose. You need to give them the opportunity to make some decisions. Slowly give them more and more authority and responsibility… until you have a leader.
This isn’t hard, it’s just risky. Say, “Hey, we need to work out a growth group social event, and I’d like you to decide what we do! The decisions up to you. I can give you some suggestions, and I can give you feedback on any ideas you have, but I want you too choose. Ok?”
Tip: make sure you give more than 2/3 suggestions and include things you WOULDN’T do.

The difference between giving someone a brief and giving someone a job…

A job is… “I want a coffee table with four legs, 1200x900x500, in wood.”
A brief is… “I have a coffee every morning and I want to out it down in something…”
A brief is a problem, a need, something that requires a solution.
This is what we should be giving our leaders, our MTSers and especially our designers; problems and the responsibility to implement solutions.
So don’t ask your designers for a postcard… Tell them you need to give people something so they know about the Christmas Carols night. They might still come up with a card… But at least it was their idea, and not just your job.

What are they afraid of?

If you can help Christians answer this question for themselves, for their own lives and their own ministry involvement, you help them take a big step towards maturity as they face fear with the god who provides and promises to look after them, even while their worst fears come true before their eyes.
I reckon this is the big question to get people to answer for themselves as they approach thinking about doing MTS and a life of full-time ministry. If they can identify their deepest fears about giving their life to the work of the gospel, it might not make the decision easier, but it will afford them the chance to grow in their love and dependence on God.
Don’t ask it straight off the bat… You gotta work to get that deep.

The best way to help MTSers develop self-assessment habits

Just one question, asked again and again… “Why?”

“When you did that lesson, why did you do it that way?”, “Why did you talk to him rather than her?”, “Why did you sit there?”, “Why did you change your plans?”, “Why didn’t you change your plans?”, “Why do you think you’re feeling low?”, etc.
Everything a trainee does, regardless of whether it went well or poorly, can be brought back to the question, “Why?”
In fact it’s especially important to ask when things go well. You’d be surprised the amount of un-Christian, un-reasoned “that’s just the way we always did it” that goes on!

How do you know if they’re doing it with gospel motivations and values? You need to ask them “Why?”

If you get devastated when your ministry fails, was it your idol?

Don’t think so highly of your ministry that you get wiped out when it doesn’t work. So… the kids didn’t come along. So… the person didn’t think it was valuable to meet with you. So… they decided to go to another church. Ok. In the big scheme of things, is it that bad? It’s not. So… If you’re getting so upset about it… Was it maybe a bit of an idol for you? Was your “ministry success” a bit of an idol to you? And now that idol has been shown to be hollow, is that why you’re devastated?
Your ministry is not the most important in the world… Or this city… Or this church. There’s other ministries going on. Get over yourself and get back on the horse.

MTS training is all about #2… Developees not Employees

There are two very different categories of thinking when it comes to taking on MTS Trainees. First, you and your staff team, and your elders, and your key leaders, and everyone in your church needs to be convinced that your MTSers are NOT employees. They are different to staff. A church has staff for the sake of the church, for the sake of the kingdom’s growth through that church. Staff don’t do what they want, they don’t do what will help them grow as a person. Staff do whatever is needed.
And that’s why staff and MTSers might appear so similar. Often MTSers can be seen doing jobs that just need to get done. But that shouldn’t be WHY they’re doing it.
MTSers are not Employees, they are more like Developees.
Yes. I just made that word up. But it describes the real purpose behind taking on an MTSer. Taking on an MTSer is when a church takes on the relational, financial and ministry COST of developing a person towards becoming a Christian leader.
Is it costing your church’s effectiveness by letting an MTSer take on a particular role, task or job? If its not, then it’s worth asking… Is taking on this MTSer primarily good for you or good for them?

MTS training is all about… #1 Character

Everything we do as Christians has something to do with character, right? But MTS training shouldn’t just have something to do with character… Character needs to be the primary goal.
In other words, the character of the trainee needs to be the focus, the priority, the significant deciding factor in working out questions like; Should we take this trainee on? What will we get this trainee doing?
If a church doesn’t keep the trainee’s Christian character-development central, they will quickly become a dogs-body; doing what the church needs first, rather than what will develop the trainee.

Ask people to clarify what they no longer believe

We love to see God change people; by his word, because of his grace, thru his spirit, using weak and frail “us”. We rejoice in that change.

So help people to articulate their change. Ask them what’s gone on, what actually is different?
Ask them what they used to believe, and why they don’t believe it any more.

There’s more chance that the change will stick if they understand it better.

MTS, the doctrine of election and the gold rush

Have you ever considered the similarity between the line, “There’s gold in them tha’ hills” and Jesus saying to Paul, “I have many people in this city” (Acts 19:10).

During the Australian gold rush periods, thousands of people left their jobs, their houses, their careers because they were convinced there was gold in them tha’ hills. It was there. Sure it would take some digging, it would be a sacrifice but it would be worth it. It wasn’t just the farm hands who left. Accounts tell us that lawyers, police and judges got up and left, didn’t turn up for work, they just left for the fields. They trusted there was gold to be found and joy to be had.

Isn’t that what the wonderful doctrine of election should do for us? There are people whom God has chosen living in your city. God will save them because he has determined to before the beginning of time. And yes, you could sit back on your lounge chair and say, “Well if God’s going to save them then he doesn’t need me!”. God will save them without your help if that’s your attitude. He’ll just give someone else the joy and privilege of being part of their eternal transformation.

That’s the amazing thing… God has chosen his elect to be saved and then God calls us, invites us, to be part of his work. And even more, he allows us to share in the joy and glory of seeing people saved. Remember how Paul said, “For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy!” (1Thess 2:19-20). So Jesus called them his “people” and Paul calls them his “glory”.

Friends, there are Jesus’ elect in the streets, towns, buildings around us. They will be saved through SOMEONE preaching to them. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of that!?!

Keen? Come chat to us about doing MTS at Hunter Bible Church. Come to Spur and think about giving away your life so that those who God has ordained can have eternal life.

Model self criticism

As we train and equip young leaders, we want them to grow in the skill of self-criticism. That’s a pretty tough skill to learn – cause you have to have a go, make mistakes, grow the “eyes” to see the mistakes, and have the humility to own the mistakes and create new ways to deal with it.

So as you get your developing leaders or MTSers to do that, don’t forget to model it yourself.

In 1:1s, in staff meeting, have the guts and the humility to do your own self-criticism. take them through your thing; be it an event or a sermon and let them watch you tear it apart yourself.

And if you want to go one step further, ask them to get in on the action.