Author: Alan Baird
For the last year the world has been fighting an unseen enemy that has taken away the livelihoods, physical and mental health, and sadly the lives of a great many people. The momentum of Covid–19 has been curtailed by the skill and commitment of the army of frontline workers: doctors, nurses, carers, research scientists.
A great deal has been said about the debt we owe to the skills and dedication of all involved and rightly so. However here is a question: where did these people develop those skills? What would have happened if those frontline workers had simply been left to deal with the pandemic in their own way? What if training and equipping in the skills necessary to deal with Covid had not been available?
We owe the current positive outcome to the fact that the necessary effective training was available. The frontline teams were trained and equipped in our centres of learning—our universities, colleges and dedicated training institutes. Their role was vital to the health of the nation.
At the height of the pandemic there were regular public displays of gratitude. Hand clapping in the streets along with posters expressing thanks to all the frontline workers. However, in all of the public displays of thanks and praise, the crucial importance of these centres of learning has never been mentioned. Without their existence and expertise, the consequence from this pandemic would have been very different.
The vital importance of this training in relation to the positive impact on the nation’s health cannot be overstate. Without it the outcome is too terrible to even contemplate.
In a similar way the Church of Christ continues to face an unseen enemy that seeks to damage and destroy lives here and now; and worse, eternally. This powerful enemy attacks all of mankind. He blinds the unsaved to their true condition in order to keep them under his control. He attacks God’s people with the purpose of causing them to sin and become stumbling blocks to others. The battle is fierce and complex; we face a world that is increasingly hostile to God and the Gospel. A society that is continually seeking to eradicate God from every aspect of life. All of this has an impact upon the local church, and the wider work of mission.
If we are to effectively counter the activities of this enemy, build up the people of God, and reach those without Christ, those engaged in the frontline of the battle need to be equipped to the highest possible level. They need the tools to be able to confront and challenge error wherever they find it. To uphold God’s moral standards in a society that no longer has a moral compass. All of this alongside having the ability to equip God’s people to face the challenges of living for God in a society that is aggressively anti-God.
To deal with all this onslaught, we need pulpits occupied, churches led, and mission pursued by those with a love for God, an overwhelming passion to reach the lost, and a commitment to build up the saints. People called by God, thoroughly grounded in God’s Word, practically trained in the communication of His Word, and effectively taking the message of Christ to the lost, across the street and across the world.
Think about a surgeon. We would never consider employing someone in this role who did not have the proper training. We would not risk brain surgery carried out by a surgeon who had little or no training. They hold our lives in their hands. Nor would we consider sending soldiers into battle without equipping them with the best weapons to attack and defend, and the appropriate training in the most effective use of those weapons. That preparation is vital for success in any battle.
The soldiers of the gospel, whether serving on the home front or in foreign fields, likewise must have the best possible weapons and the most effective training in how to use them.
All too often such training and preparation for ministry is seen as separate from, or even optional to, the work of ministry and mission. Such a view totally fails to grasp its vital importance as part of the work of the Kingdom of God. Effective preparation lies at the very heart of what it means to engage in ministry or mission. Training cannot be separated from service. It is a vital component.
That being so where will our ‘frontline gospel workers’ receive the effective preparation they need to successfully face the enemy of souls and ensure the health of our Association churches and Baptist Missions?
The answer is the Irish Baptist College. The College, as a tool in God’s hands, is the resource for equipping and training men and women to be effective in the ministry to which God has called them. It provides a thorough conservative evangelical grounding in the Word of God. It ensures a wide practical training experience in communicating that Word, and caring for the spiritual wellbeing of God’s people. It prepares those taking the message of Christ to the lost from our own streets to the uttermost parts of the earth to do so effectively.
This is achieved through a soundly biblical and seriously practical preparation for ministry course. Delivered by tutors, who all have hands on experience of pastoral ministry or missionary work. The theological and practical training is accompanied by a strong emphasis on the personal spiritual development of the students through the building of their faith and a broadening of their vision for God’s service.
All of this reinforces just how vital the College is to the health of our churches and Baptist Missions. Its importance in the work of the Kingdom of God cannot be overstated as it provides our churches and mission with frontline workers that have experienced the best possible preparation for ministry and mission.