It has been quite a long journey! M.I.T. is now finally happening – when we affiliated with Elim as a church a couple of years back now, this was all part of the plan.
Yes, I am training to do what I already do. But it doesn’t feel like that. Those who are involved in Elim and the process themselves say that it is more about joining in what God is doing, than about a ‘credential’.
The first question I asked myself was ‘How does one get ordained?’ For someone who believes in the priesthood of all believers, this does appear to be a difficult choice. Yet the down-to-earth reality of church life is that someone needs to be prepared to keep it all going. Church can be a scarring, painful, traumatic place. Partly because church attracts the broken and the hurting. Jesus wasn’t welcome in the smart and the upcoming places – Simon the Pharisee visibly snubbed him and he took him to task for it.
Not only that, but church is now becoming a place that is getting marginalised and persecuted in our culture. While our church for many years has simply been members of the EA it was important that we had a clearer identity than that. The beauty of affiliation is that we keep our autonomy and our freedom. Even if we were a full Elim church – there is no one particular formula for that nowadays. There is quite a diverse range of churches involved. What’s quite neat about being members of ECI (Elim Church Incorporated) rather than the Alliance (which makes it sound like something out of Star Wars), is that it’s being reshaped and rethought about by Elim at the moment (go here to find your nearest Elim church). We keep our own charity number, we can keep our own property; we can support whichever missions we feel is right, and there are a number of ministries who are part of ECI, as well as churches.
Now that I have been approved as a Minister in Training (MIT) the process takes approximately three years. It has been made more rigorous recently, with a ‘portfolio’ of evidence needing to be collated. It reminds me of earlier days of teacher-training!
There are eight areas of competency, which consist of: Biblical and Theological Understanding, Mission & Evangelism, Leadership & Interaction, Elim: Understanding and Engagement, Personal & Spiritual Development, Ministry & Disipleship, Cultural & Community Awareness and Communication & Organisational Management. There are quite a lot of resources on the internet, videos, webinars etc. and a quarterly and annual report needs to be filled out each year. I will attend an MIT conference each June up in Malvern, where the Regents Theological College and the adminstrative hub for Elim is. Over three days the conference covers very practical aspects required for ordination, which often go hand in hand with the more spiritual aspects too.
I am looking forward to the conferences, and the opportunities to get to know other Elim trainees, as well as other ministers. Similarly to teaching, I have always enjoyed being able to network. It often creates ‘spaces’ to think, to reflect. The best training always has immediate application as well as something to squirrel away for the future.
I have learnt over the years the limitations of training, and I felt in particular as we went up to the MIT selection panel, that we needed to know that we were committed to this. It’s easy enough to complete a tick box sheet, and to put things down on paper – but it’s allowing that to make a difference in how I serve that will give the whole process more ‘Oooomph’. We were asked if we had the capacity to undertake the MIT. God is gracious to us and provides for us, and we are confident that this is the right path.
I will shortly be assigned a supervisor, and also discuss who should be my mentor. The supervisor’s role is more formal – I need to submit the quarterly and annual reports to them as well as to Stuart Blount, the Elim Director of Ministry. I need to submit my FIRST quarterly report at the end of December, so it’s something I need to look at pretty soon!
One of the reasons for affiliating to Elim is that there is a path of ordination, or of different areas of further training (Chaplaincy, Missionary training, Evangelism, Youth training, to mention just a few) which are available to us now, and available in relationship, which is the first step towards responding to God’s calling on our lives. As it says in Jeremiah 20:9 : ‘His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in, indeed I cannot.’