From September to mid-November, our church hosted four seminar students for a pastoral internship. I decided to share their entire internship experience with you when it was finished, so the report was delayed.
The pastoral internship has two parts. The first part was led by the seminary teachers to study church government, discuss reading reports, and consider how to keep a stable relationship with God in church service. In the second part, I led these interns to take part in various ministries in our church. They participated in church oversight, visiting members, discipleship, evangelism, and fighting against heresy, leading worship service, preaching, reception, and afternoon teaching in the church. I am very grateful to conduct the two-month internship, which is a great blessing to myself, our church, and the seminar students.
First of all, leading and overseeing the internship humbles me. These seminary students are very gifted and well-equipped in theological knowledge. We often discussed theological issues together, which allowed me to organize my theology again, and how to better put it into practice in the church. For most of the time in the internship, interns participated in the ministry, and I watched them around. When I saw that the ways of seminary students were different from mine or could not meet my expectations, I always wanted to replace them. But I knew that their growth required hard labor, and I should respect their way of service. I need to overcome my impulse and learn to slow to speak and quick to listen.
Second, overseeing the internship is an excellent help for the church. There are some non-members and gospel seekers in our church, whom I do not have time to follow up. This time I asked four interns to follow up with four seekers and four non-members. In the past two months, they taught the basic courses of Christian faith and life to the seekers. They disciplined non-members and helped them to recognize the importance of being committed to a local church, which provided the interns’ opportunities and challenges in shepherding the flock. Also, the interns had the opportunity to meet with different members privately on the Lord’s day. Members could also share with them the take-away of the sermon, which reduced a lot of my burden in the service and allowed other people to have more opportunities to fellowship on the Lord’s day.
The seminary arranged to train the interns’ wives. Our church is very young and lacks older sisters to teach younger sisters, but the wives of the seminary teachers came to prepare the interns’ wives, which also provided opportunities for sisters in our church to be trained. After the training, they further learned how to be a wife, mother, and how to serve the church better.
The internship allowed the seminary students actually to participate in serving in a local church, so their serving skills were sharpened and improved. An intern said at the end, “What I have learned in the seminary I see in this church.” I was very encouraged and feel it is achievable to present what he has learned in reality. Also, this internship subverts the traditional way of ministry in their traditional house church. All these interns attend traditional evangelical churches where many problems cannot be dealt with and resolved according to the Bible. But here, they see that our church also has many problems like the traditional church. But what is different is that we are willing to solve the issue according to the Bible.
Finally, during their internship at the church, they also actually realize that the ministry is not easy, but requires a full price. Not only do they have to keep their relationship with God, but they also have to visit and oversee members every week, prepare sermons, and, more importantly, they must continuously keep their growth in grace. I spent almost every day with them in the past two months. In the morning, I had devotions, studied, and prepared my sermons. I had lunch with them at noon, talked to them in the afternoon, and arranged for them to go out to serve. There were two nights a week to attend church meetings (small group and evangelism), and one night to visit members. They feel that ministry is much more complicated than secular work. Also, they need to lead their wives, raise their children, and spend time with them. They think it is too difficult. But they see even more clearly that they cannot serve in pastoral ministry without calling from God. I am also very grateful to God for giving me such grace, to accompany seminary students to grow in grace together.
I did two unique things during their internship. The first thing is church planting. The dean of the Theological Seminary asked me to give the interns a course on church planting. I was trained in church planting and had personal church planting experience, so I shared these with the interns. The second thing is to take them to fight against heresy. Later in their internship, a sister came to our church and asked some questions about the Bible. She told me that several women next to her company shared some content in the Bible with her. As soon as I heard the material, I decided that this was a heresy. Then I asked the sister to lead me to meet them to determine my judgment and help the sister to stay undisturbed. They were very willing to meet with us, and I took a few interns to talk to the heretics. In our conversation, I pointed out that their interpretation of the Bible was wrong. In the end, they left with great anger, for they were indeed a cult called “new heaven and earth” from South Korea. This experience was something that these seminary students had never encountered before. This confrontation made them see that the belief environment around us was not so clean. There is government persecution from outside and heresy disturbance from inside, which shows the importance of pastoral ministry, both to strengthen the faith of believers and to help them resist the temptation of heresy.
I am very blessed with this internship. Not only can I work with these seminary teachers, but I can also accompany these interns to grow in Christ. More importantly, God uses this as a way to bless our church.