One Thing I Did Right in Ministry: “I Started a Pastoral Internship”

As I reflect back on a particularly difficult stretch of ministry in the local church, there is one thing I led our elder board to adopt that continues to bear fruit today and for which I am deeply grateful—we invested in several younger men called to Gospel ministry.

Motivated by Paul’s admonition to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, we sought to “entrust these things to faithful men,” by developing an internship for men who exhibited clear gifts and call to ministry. Over two years time, four young men participated, all of whom remain involved in local church ministry in some form or fashion today.

While I did not possess an abundance of ministry experience in my first pastorate, I was privileged to serve alongside two other elders with more than 70 years of combined experience in pastoral ministry. Things in that ministry were rocky from the beginning and after one year, I began to realize my stay might be short. With this in mind, I wanted to capitalize on whatever time the Lord gave me there and felt the best way to do it was to use the strengths we had and see if God might raise up other men for ministry.

As it turns out, He did.

One of the young men had completed a seminary degree and three others were seminary or Bible College students. We sought to give them practical, hands-on experience to supplement the excellent subjects they were studying from Greek and Hebrew, church history, apologetics and systematic theology.

I was privileged to gain two degrees in the things of God—a master of divinity in biblical and theological studies and a doctor of philosophy in historical theology—yet, I felt ill prepared to lead and feed a local church. I designed our internship program for these men to remedy shortcomings in my own experience. We assigned them texts and mentored them in sermon preparation and allowed each young man to preach in a church service. We took them on hospital visits, shut-in visits and allowed them to sit in on acute counseling sessions. What seminary education was teaching them in theory, we hoped to enable them to practice in reality. We sought to give them experience in many of the things Puritan Richard Baxter wrote about in his Reformed Pastor and Christian Directory.

While I made myriad mistakes during those early years as a pastor (and still make mistakes as a pastor), I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to invest in some small way in the lives and ministries of these four men and pray that they will continue to impact God’s kingdom for His glory for many years to come.

Jeff is a senior editor for The Gospel Coalition. A native of Blairsville, Ga., Jeff holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Georgia, a Master of Divinity in biblical and theological studies and a Ph.D. in historical theology with an emphasis on Baptist history from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. He is pastor of New City Church in Louisville, KY. Jeff and his wife Lisa have been married for 19 years and have four children.
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