Why Do We Apprentice?

God has called the church to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). But what does it mean to make disciples? What does it mean to equip the church to do ministry? What does it mean to intentionally apprentice others?

In short, I believe it means that each and every Christian is responsible to pass along to others the knowledge, skills, and gifts that have been entrusted to us. Over the next couple of weeks, I want to share some truths and resources I've discovered while studying the nature of equipping ministry. Here's the first tool. It's a free teaching outline from North Point Community Church in Atlanta on the subject of apprenticeship. I love this outline because of the clarity of their definitions. It's like a catechism on equipping! Here's my summary.

What is an apprentice?

An apprentice is someone who participates in life or work with his teacher and patterns his life or work after that of his teacher.

  • An apprentice is NOT an expert--not someone who has it all together. Rather, she is someone who has caught a vision for modeling ministry after her teacher.
  • An apprentice is NOT merely an assistant to the teacher or leader. Rather, he is a teacher or leader in training.

Why do we apprentice?

We value intentional apprenticeship for several reasons. We believe that apprenticing is a biblical model for developing the next generation of leaders, and it supports our ministry strategy both philosophically and organizationally.

It’s biblical. Throughout the Bible we see examples of leaders apprenticing those who would follow in their footsteps. Moses apprenticed Joshua. Elijah apprenticed Elisha. Paul apprenticed Timothy. In fact, one of the most frequently cited texts on the subject of apprenticing and discipleship comes from Paul’s second letter to Timothy:

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2)

Maybe the clearest example of apprenticeship is Jesus and the twelve disciples. The word 'disciple' literally means learner or follower. Jesus never did ministry alone. His disciples were always with him. They were watching, learning, and listening. He had an inner circle--Peter, James, and John--who were often alone with him in conversation and prayer. He involved them in everything he did. He saw beyond his three years of public ministry, and he knew that the Father's plan for growing the church involved leaving behind transformed and transforming leaders who would entrust what they learned from him to others.

It’s practical and strategic. Practically speaking, apprenticeship is the only effective way to equip leaders in a large-scale, relational, volunteer-driven organization. If everyone teaches someone else what they know, the ministry of the church will not be limited by the number of pastors or staff people we have. Every member--every Christian--will be released to use their gifts in a way that builds up the body. As Paul wrote:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
There’s nothing like being asked to teach someone everything you know to make you take stock of just what it is that you know.

This passage reveals something else about a church’s equipping (or apprenticing) ministry: Equipping is a pathway to maturity. Not only does apprenticing develop the apprentice, but it grows the leader who apprentices. There’s nothing like being asked to teach someone everything you know to make you take stock of just what it is that you know. The process gives you incentive to organize your knowledge and put it down on paper, which forces you to solidify it in your mind. As you begin to entrust responsibility to your apprentices and they bring their knowledge, gifting, and experience to bear upon what you’ve shared with them, they will find new and better ways to lead, giving you the opportunity to learn from the and expand your own knowledge and skills.

What knowledge, skills, and gifts have been entrusted to you? Are you entrusting them to someone else? Do you have an apprentice?