Training The Next Generation
 
By Dr. Ken Matto
 
One of the responsibilities of every generation is to train the next generation of Christians to minister the Gospel. This is how it has been done for nearly 2000 years, and that is how it will continue until the Lord returns. The only way a person can become saved is through the hearing of the Word of God.
 
(Rom 10:17 KJV) So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. The word “hearing” in both cases, comes from a Greek word “ako ” which means a “sense of hearing or a report.” It was because someone handed you a tract, heard a sermon in church, heard a message on the radio, or tuned into a Christian site on the Internet that you heard the Word, and because you are one of God’s Elect, the Holy Spirit applied that Word to you and you became saved. Each generation from the time of Pentecost in 33 AD brought about the salvation message to subsequent generations, until it came to you. This is God’s method of keeping the true salvation message alive until the last one is saved, then it is over.
 
We gain a great insight into the training method that God uses to bring the message to each generation. This training method has become lost within the last century--at least here in the West. That method is still employed by many labor unions. It is the method called “apprenticeship.” Here we see in the few successive verses concerning Joshua and his relation to Moses.
 
(Exo 33:11 KJV) And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.
 
In Exodus 33:11, we see Joshua described as a young man and already we see how Joshua had attraction to the Tabernacle, in that he did not depart out. We do not know exactly how young Joshua was at this time, but the age did not matter to Moses because Joshua showed himself to be a leader in training. God’s Hand was already upon him at an early age.
 
(Num 11:27-29 KJV) And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. {28} And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. {29} And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!
 
In Numbers 11:27-29, we see a young man who ran to Moses and told him of Eldad and Medad who were prophesying in the camp and this young man thought they were doing something wrong and thought Moses should know about it. Then Joshua, who was showing keen spiritual insight, wanted Moses to forbid them from speaking. Apparently, they were speaking truly in the name of the Lord and Moses did not forbid it. Instead, he would have been happy if the Spirit of the Lord would rest on all God’s people. This shows a little insight into the character of Moses. He was not threatened by someone else doing ministry under his leadership.
 
Unfortunately, today many Christians in churches and ministries are silenced because of the fear of the leadership that someone else may be doing the Lord’s work with proficiency and may show the leadership up. Fear-based leadership is absolutely destructive to any organization, and that not only applies to ministries and churches, but to business as well. To quell a person who shows ability is the most absurd thing a leader can do. It is nothing more than personal pride.
 
(Deu 31:14 KJV) And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation.
 
In Deuteronomy 31:14, God gives Moses the Word that he is to begin the process of the transfer of leadership. God was going to take the life of Moses and now was the time for Moses to begin to hand over the reins to Joshua. He and Joshua were summoned to the tabernacle to appear before the Lord. Notice the word God uses in speaking about the coming death of Moses. “Behold, thy days approach that thou must die:…” God is telling Moses that he must die. This should be a warning to all those in headship positions in churches and ministries. Unless the Lord returns, we will all die and if we do not do as Moses did, choose a successor to the ministry or church, then if we die suddenly, the flock in the church or the people in the ministry will be without leadership and can cause a serious problem in the ongoing ministries. If someone heads up a ministry or church, and is approaching the age of 70 or 80 years old, they need to realize that they have to relinquish the reins of authority. It is time to step down but not out. I really admire those who know they are getting on in years who head up a full time ministry and pick their successor, and the transfer of authority goes smooth and the church or ministry continues to move forward. What I mean by not stepping out, is those church pastors or ministry directors, need not retire from life but can now make themselves available for speaking and writing. Put all those years of ministry into a book for the future generations. Now that you are not bound by ministry or church responsibilities, yet you can still be associated with them so people will know where to contact you, you can speak as many times in Florida in January as you want. A pastor or ministry director that has been in the ministry for 50 years has so much to offer younger Christians.
 
(Num 27:18-23 KJV) And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; {19} And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. {20} And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. {21} And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation. {22} And Moses did as the LORD commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation: {23} And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.
 
In Numbers 27:18-23, we see that Moses brought Joshua to the Tabernacle and the ceremony was not in private, but in front of the entire congregation. This is an excellent way to do a transfer of authority, so the entire congregation knows that the person being installed will have the official reins. God did it this way because He wanted the people to know that it was now going to be Joshua who would be the leader of Israel, and this Tabernacle ceremony was the official procedure of that installation. This way, there is no one in the congregation who could say that Joshua was not the right man for the job. Joshua’s installation was done by the authority of God, with the office of the High Priest and Moses, who laid hands on Joshua giving him the charge to lead the people into the Promised Land. Joshua was God’s man and now there was no question about it. In Deuteronomy 31:7, Moses gave Joshua the charge that he was to have courage as he leads the people into the land which God promised to their fathers. (Deu 31:7 KJV) And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.
 
(Deu 34:9 KJV) And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses.
 
In Deuteronomy 34:9, we see the results of doing a transfer of authority in front of the entire congregation. The people hearkened or gave respectful attention to Joshua who was now the official leader of the nation. He now had the spirit of wisdom in him and with the help of God, he was now ready to take the people into the Promised Land as soon as God gave the command. In Joshua 1:2, we read that God states that “Moses my servant is dead.” (Josh 1:2 KJV) Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
 
God was declaring that Moses is now dead for the purpose of instructing the people that the era of Moses was now over and God’s man in leadership was now Joshua. There may have been some mourners of Moses who may not have trusted Joshua as leader and this is why God was emphasizing that Israel will now go forth under Joshua. Now that Moses had died, God was ready to move the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Joshua was to lead the people across after the priests took the Ark of the Covenant across. The people were to stay behind the Ark at a distance of 2,000 cubits (about 3,000 feet), and then when they saw the priests step on dry land, they were to follow. Their wilderness wanderings were over. In Joshua 3:7, God stated that as He was with Moses, He will be with Joshua. It is a good lesson to learn that God specifically encouraged Joshua that He will be with him. Sometimes, when ministries or churches change hands, there may be a temporary lapse in faith by the congregants that when the outgoing person leaves, then so does God. If a person is chosen and groomed for any leadership position, it should be realized that if the transfer of power was a legitimate one with the right person going into the position, then God will be with that person too. In these few verses we saw a progression of the man Joshua from a young man who assisted Moses to leader of the nation of Israel. This was done because God’s hand was upon him and was training him from a youth.
 
What if Moses said, "I am not going to train anyone, I can still handle it!"  When Moses died, there would have been chaos in the camp, then all the little factions would have tried to get their own person in the office. God expects those in leadership positions to train the faithful people for the next generation. It is nothing but pride when a person refuses to let go of the reins or looks at a qualified person as a threat to their position. Many good people have been let go in ministries and churches simply because of the sin of jealousy on the part of the leadership. As Christians, it is our responsibility and a command to train the next generation of faithful Christians. The Moses-Joshua scenario also brings something else to light.
 
Those in headship positions should not only be looking for future leaders in their own families or relatives. Look for the most qualified to lead, and if it is not a relative, then God has made the choice by grooming the person. In plain English, you are not going to place a dope in a position where people’s eternal souls are at stake just because he is your son in law, son, nephew, brother, etc. You just train the right person and let God work out the details. Moses had his Joshua, who do you have?
 
Elijah-Elisha
There is a second great example of apprenticeship in the Bible and that is Elisha and Elijah.  The first mention of Elisha is found in 1 Kings 19:16:
 
1 Kings 19:16 (KJV)   And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.
 
In this verse God is telling Elijah plainly that he is to anoint, as a prophet, Elisha.  The reason for this is that Elisha will be taking the place of Elijah.  He is going to succeed Elijah once God takes him to Heaven.  Here is God Himself preparing to take Elijah to Heaven and at the same time, naming the person who will take his place for the purpose of being a prophet to the nation of Israel.  So the idea of apprenticeship has divine approbation as God Himself puts into office the man who is going to replace Elijah. 
 
1 Kings 19:19 (KJV)   So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.
 
Elijah now finds Elisha plowing in the field with twelve yoke of oxen.  This passage teaches us that for a person to be approved by God for ministry does not mean they are found in the halls of academia.  If God chooses a person out of the workplace to take a spiritual position in a church or ministry, God will qualify that person to be able to perform that function.  Notice that the mantle was cast upon Elisha while he was still in the field.  Notice there was no big ceremony like the ordination ceremony of today, which is not found in Scripture.  When God chooses a person for a specific ministry function, He will empower them to do the work.
 
2 Kings 2:1-2 (KJV)   And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.  {2} And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Beth-el. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Beth-el.
 
Elisha understood his calling and we see here in these verses that Elijah was going from Gilgal to Bethel and Elijah told Elisha to remain where he was.  Elisha had refused to be left behind and wanted to go to Bethel with Elijah.  Elisha wanted to spend as much time with Elijah as he possibly could and this brings up a major principle.  Don’t wait until you are bed ridden or so weak that you can’t function before you attempt to train your successor.  You need to start the apprenticeship when you are able to get around and do the normal day to day functions of the church or ministry so the neophyte has a chance to learn firsthand the realities of ministry rather than just giving them verbal instructions.  Elisha’s desire to go with Elijah states that he was taking his calling seriously and did not want to cut any corners in performing the office.
 
2 Kings 2:3 (KJV)   And the sons of the prophets that were at Beth-el came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.
 
When they were at Bethel, those in the school of the prophets had told Elisha that the Lord was going to take Elijah that day.  Someday the Lord is going to take you from your position and you will need a replacement.  Don’t wait until that happens but prepare someone to take your place before it is too late.  The more you teach your apprentice, the easier the transition for the church or ministry when the time of your home going comes.  It is not fair to just throw someone into the ministry without any training.  Book training is not on the job training.  It has been said that a person’s real education begins when they leave school.
 
2 Kings 2:9 (KJV)   And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
 
Elisha had grasped his calling with great fervor because Elijah had asked him if there was something that he could do for him before he was taken away.  Elisha had asked for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah.  This was granted to him because Elijah did 14 miracles and Elisha did 28, his last one occurred when he was dead and as they laid his body in a grave, his bones touched the body of a man next to him and that man came back to life.  I am sure that went over well with the pall bearers.
 
2 Kings 13:21 (KJV)   And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.
 
As we see in this final miracle that even though Elisha was dead, his ministry had continued.  This was because he had the spiritual strength to ask Elijah for a double portion of his spirit.  Elisha wanted to have a ministry so effective that it would double that of Elijah.  This is the desire of every true apprentice which shows their desire for true ministry that their ministry outreach would exceed that of their predecessors.  That is why it is so important to train a successor even if you are in good health being up in years because this shows that you have real care for those you minister to and that you want to see the ministry succeed in continuing to bear fruit so the following verse can be applied to you:
 
Revelation 14:13 (KJV)   And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
 
Apprenticeship
At the beginning of the chapter, I had mentioned the term apprenticeship. The normal routine in the modern church is if someone feels they have the call to the ministry, they instantly go to Bible College or Seminary, and then come back and go into the ministry. Their calling is then based upon the fact that they have completed required courses and received a degree. However, they may be educated, but they are untried. Schooling does not place God’s stamp of approval upon a person’s ministry nor does it ready an unqualified person for ministry. Some go to seminary and then go pastor a church, so they will not have to go out in the world and find employment. They learn to play church and are very good at it. This situation happened at a church I once attended.
 
Church Service
Let us say there is a person in your congregation who believes that God is sincerely calling them into the ministry. Should we shuffle them off to seminary right away? The answer is no! Before any money is spent or commitments made to go to school, the person needs to be tried and tested to see if they are pastoral material. This does not happen in a week. Remember, Joshua was with Moses when he was a young man. Joshua was trained by Moses for many years before he was able to lead the nation of Israel. Moses was trained for forty years before he took the reins of authority in Israel. So where do we get this idea that sending someone to school for a few years makes them qualified to lead? We get this erroneous belief because education has supplanted Biblical methods.
 
If a person believes they have the calling of God on them to become a Pastor, then let them be an apprentice in their home church, for at least three years. They can assist the Senior Pastor or a staff Pastor in hospital visits, weddings, funerals, confirmations, teaching, home visits, church budgets, repairs around the church, counseling, and many other smaller things associated with the multi-faceted ministry. This way after three years, if the person has shown responsibility and growth, then they have proven the call of God on their life. The person should then appear before the elders of the church and give a summation and a reason why they still want to pursue the ministry. If the elders find his reasoning in concert with biblical standards, then they could help him financially in the arena of an education.
 
Many years ago, some of the older denominations had apprentice programs, whereby a Christian could serve in a local church in the same manner which would give the elders an opportunity to observe the candidate. It is a shame that many churches do not practice apprenticeship programs and train their own, because hiring someone on the basis of a sermon and their education does not give any opportunity to truly evaluate that person. Many churches have been upset by this manner. Credentials, while impressive to the world, means nothing in the spiritual realm. A person needs the Holy Spirit to interpret the Scriptures, not a Ph.D. The apprentice program would also be helpful to sister churches. If a person goes through the program and successfully completes it, and another church is in need of a pastor, that person can fill in till they find one or assume the pastoral role and maybe get their degree through distance learning--which means the man can minister while he studies.  We can even find an apprenticeship program in the New Testament as well. When the Apostle Paul was setting up churches, he was also helping to appoint elders in those churches. Let us look at two verses which give us this insight:
 
(2 Tim 2:2 KJV) And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
 
Timothy was to commit the Gospel to those men who were not only faithful, but had the ability to communicate it to others. Timothy would have been able to help train these men in the Gospel ministry, since he had Gospel upbringing by his mother and grandmother. In other words, he was exposed to it for many years. Paul referred to Timothy as “his son in the faith,” which means he must have spent much time with him and I am sure, Timothy learned much from him during their time together. Timothy was then supposed to teach what he knew to others, so the ministry would expand and the Gospel could be published for the next generation.
 
(Titus 1:5 KJV) For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
 
Paul also referred to Titus as his “son in the faith.” Paul and Titus must have spent much time together since Paul trusted him to set up elders in every church on Crete. Trust only comes after you know someone for a while and you are familiar with their temperament and attitude. Both Timothy and Titus were spiritual success stories, all because they were under the tutelage of a godly man.
 
Non-Leadership Responsibility
The overwhelming majority of Christians in this world will never become a leader in a church or in a ministry. Does this vast body have a responsibility too? The answer is yes! We cannot relegate all the learning and teaching to the leadership in churches or ministries. It is every Christian’s responsibility to know the Bible and to be able to communicate it on the best level they can. Not everyone will have the elocution of Paul. Even if our vocabulary is severely limited, it can be used to convey what we know. Peter was a fisherman and probably uneducated for most of his life except for attending synagogue, yet what a great sermon he preached on Pentecost. The key to that sermon is simple, he told what he knew under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Today we speak with the illumination of the Holy Spirit, to wit, He gives us understanding of the verses of Scripture and then we are able to communicate it to others. There are 31,102 verses of Scripture in the Bible and if we lived to be 150 years old, we will never be able to understand each verse in totality. Therefore, we communicate with the Bible knowledge we have. We never worry about what we don’t know and we witness with what we do know. The Gospel message that we teach today will be handed down to those of tomorrow, either verbally or written.
 
Discipleship
As a pastor trains his successor, the Christian in a non-leadership position also has a privilege of training one of God’s lambs. This is done through discipleship. A new Christian will have millions of questions as they begin their Christian walk. The way you disciple them will determine how they grow and learn, which means it will affect what they hand down to the future Christians which God may lead them to.
 
Christians in the work world have an extreme advantage because they can get into places pastors can’t. Christians in the job world will encounter many strange beliefs and as they study on how to defend against it, this will cause them to sharpen their skills. They will be ready for the next encounter which may yield spiritual fruit. God may send us a new Christian or group of Christians to help teach them so they may grow. (1 Pet 2:2 KJV) As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:  If the Lord sends you a new Christian, then be available to help and teach them. They are depending on you. Remember when you were a baby Christian, someone took the time with you too. It is an investment, not a loss.
 
Final Thoughts
Every Christian has a responsibility to prepare themselves to leave this world and to commit our ministries to the next generation. We saw this in the Moses-Joshua and Elijah-Elisha relationship. Moses was not threatened, nor was he angry about giving his ministry to Joshua. He knew it was his time to die because God told him, plus he knew his ministry would end before they went into the Promised Land. The time to begin preparing the next generation is today. If there are people in your church who show leadership promise, don’t truncate their ministries by bringing in someone from your Alma Mater and shutting them out. A flower blooms where it is planted and there are many Christians in home churches who are ready to bloom.  All you need to do is water them and let God do the rest.
Back