By Harland Cason and Nate Templin, Co-Pastors, Steel City Fellowship, Pueblo, CO
This fall ten men of various ages and backgrounds from six different churches within the Royal Gorge Baptist Association joined a two year apprenticeship program. All love Jesus and desire to see His kingdom expand and see more come to know Him. All express some sense of “call” to ministry and spiritual leadership. All are stepping out in faith to mature as followers of Christ, evangelists, and disciplers. And thus, the “Acts 13 Experience” began.
“The Acts 13 Experience,” A13 for short, is a bi-vocational apprenticeship created to provide a framework and environment to clarify calling and catalyze a kingdom movement. It operates as part of the ministry of Steel City Fellowship, a one year old church plant in Pueblo, but has strong ties with the churches within the Royal Gorge Baptist Association.
The A13 Experience was born out of a strong desire to raise up local indigenous pastors. There were many conversations regarding whether or not we could strategically, purposefully, and locally grow indigenous pastors, church planters, and other church leaders who know our local communities, become trained for ministry in our local churches, and then stay and become part of the next generation of church leadership here.
In the first few verses of Acts 13, the Holy Spirit speaks to the church gathered in Antioch, calling for Barnabas and Saul to be “set apart . . . for the work to which I have called them.” And then, the church obediently sent them out. Believing God still calls folks to the work of ministry AND believing that local churches and pastors would be willing to be an active part of the process of preparing men and women for ministry, we with the help of many others along the way set out to create a conduit for confirmation of calling and leadership training to occur, again with the ultimate goal of creating a kingdom movement over a longer period of time.
With this end in mind, A13 was created as a two year training process with three basic components that run simultaneously.
First, each apprentice participates in a COHORT. The purpose of the cohort is to create a weekly opportunity for apprentices and cohort leaders to meet together to process through various aspects of personal discipleship, basic hermeneutics, biblical overview, theological doctrines, disciple making, and other practical areas of church pastoral and church planting leadership, specifically in light of each one’s active ministry. The outcome should be a deepening of one’s faith in Jesus, knowledge of His Word and kingdom, and skills in ministry and mission.
Second, the apprentice will engage in the CONTEXT BUILDER. Here, the apprentice puts theology into practice in real-world settings. The pastor of the local church to which the apprentice is connected, mentors the apprentice while involving them in hands on ministry experiences. This pastor mentor plays a vital role in the A13 Experience, filling the gaps between curriculum and skill. Mentors are intentional about including these young leaders in ministry and empowering them for greater leadership effectiveness, while helping them discover their personal gifting and calling. A13 provides encouragement and guidance to these local pastor mentors throughout the 2 years as they work to pour into their apprentices.
Third, each apprentice engages in a regular one-on-one COACHING relationship provided through A13. The coach comes alongside to clarify calling and catalyze action — empowering the apprentice for life and ministry, helping them discover God’s agenda for their life and ministry, and encouraging them to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to see that agenda become reality. In this role they empower each apprentice to listen to the Spirit and act in faith.
The Fall 2018 Lab was a tremendous start. Nearly every apprentice preached one or more sermons in local churches, for some of them, their first. Many had evangelistic conversations with coworkers and friends. The depth of their teaching and serving ministries in their own churches is being positively affected.
One of the our A13 guys, Mark, a student at CSU-P from London, decided to give up his soccer scholarship so that he could pursue the call God had upon his life. He has developed many new discipling and evangelistic relationships on campus. In just a few weeks there is fruit from his sacrifice and his disciples are already meeting with others that they are leading to Jesus and discipling.
The beauty is A13 doesn’t require specialists, it is simple and replicable. Can you imagine if just 10 more churches across Colorado engaged in a similar strategy? If you would like to hear more about how you could do this in your church or association, inquire via the contact page at www.a13experience.com.
God is still calling. The Holy Spirit is still speaking. Churches are still sending.