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The Biblical Apprentice

Do you remember the 2004 show The Apprentice? Many people, myself included, eagerly watched the apprentice-wannabes attempt different types of challenges for Donald Trump. I remember thinking I'd die from embarrassment if I failed to perform the task. But I also wondered if I could have performed well under that kind of pressure. And if I won, could I really work for him? Well, the fact is I don't really have to worry about this because Donald Trump is not ever going to be my boss. Jesus is! Dominic Rivkin, a recent guest on Lead Time | Episode 16 - A Vision for Discipleship, said, “Jesus invites us along to be His apprentices.” I was pretty intimidated by the prospect of performing for Donald Trump but to answer directly to King Jesus? Not sure I am up to the task! The good news is that Jesus prepares us. Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Is there a biblical model for what it means to be an apprentice in ministry? Yes! The Bible is filled with examples of apprenticeship. Joshua son of Nun served under Moses. Timothy served under Paul. Of course, the best example of apprenticeship was modeled by Jesus Christ’s twelve disciples, who learned from their Master for three years. These 12 apprentices would learn from Jesus by watching Him and later they would learn by doing as He did. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” ( John 14:12).

Have you ever walked up to someone and asked them if you could be their apprentice? If not, why not? We should always be open to following the lead of someone who has walked

that road before us. What’s holding us back? Is it the fear of not being good enough? Not being ready? It takes a certain amount of humility to admit we have something we need to learn from someone else. But just imagine how different the lives of Peter, James, John, Matthew, and the other disciples would have been if they had not served as Jesus’ apprentices? The apostles followed Jesus for three years, growing in life and ministry together. Jesus showed them what it meant to serve and lead others. Were the apostles ready to lead before their apprenticeship? We could say that the apostles had the content knowledge for leadership because they grew up knowing the Scriptures. But Jesus further developed their character and fine-tuned their craft. Jesus equipped them for ministry. Can you imagine Peter being able to give that empowered speech on Pentecost had he not had years of preparation under Jesus? Could Matthew or John provide their eyewitness gospel accounts without their years of apprenticeship with the Master?

We all can grow by being an apprentice. But what value is there in leadership for actually having an apprentice? Research has shown that 70 percent of a leader's development comes from giving other people hands-on experience. That’s right! Not only do apprentices learn, but leaders can also grow by mentoring an apprentice. At the ULC we have developed the model of:

  • I do, you watch, we talk.

  • I do, you help, we talk.

  • You do, I help, we talk.

  • You do, I watch, we talk.

  • You do, and you identify an apprentice. Repeat the process.

We may think that we do not have time to be an apprentice. We may think we do not have time to mentor others. We may be afraid of asking to shadow someone. We may be afraid of having someone shadow us. But we need to do both. We need to be an apprentice and have apprentices. By modeling apprenticeship, we are putting the power of God on display. Apprenticeship is not about us. It is about God’s church and ensuring that we are building up the best content, character, and competency we can by following and leading others. Apprenticeship is biblical. When apprenticeship in ministry slows, the church loses momentum. With God as our boss, we hear these words, whether we think we are ready or not, “You’re hired, now follow Me.”

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