“The Biblical church is called to be a community unlike any other, a place where people welcome the outsider, spur one another to good works, encourage one another in difficult times, and work to help all members grow in Christ.” (Tim Keller)
That is a tough task, but it is the task we are called to as God’s children. We can give thanks that the task of building the church into this type of welcoming, challenging, encouraging, growing community is one which Jesus himself does (Matt 16:18). But we, as his people and as members of the community of Christ, have been given the unfathomably great privilege of being called to work with our Saviour in this task. The future of the church – the hope of the church – is in its ability to show the reality of Christ’s love in a community which gives a glimpse of what God’s kingdom – his rule – actually looks like.
For this to happen, all of us have to be engaged in discipling and training the next generation. Whether in the home, the youth group, the men’s and women’s groups, or in our main services we need to ensure that not only is our teaching biblically-based, but that we are striving to nurture Christlike character and servant attitudes. It must be part and parcel of who we are in all areas of life.
The need for well-trained, spiritually mature leaders has never been greater. In his wisdom, God has placed the leadership of the church in the hands of human beings, people who are – and always will be – imperfect and fallen individuals; weak and often struggling. But this is how God has chosen to work. With the responsibility of leadership in the present comes the commensurate responsibility of preparing the leaders of the future; for us to truly live out Paul’s charge to Timothy, “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim 2:2).
It is this desire to prepare the next generation which lies at the heart of what Tilsley College does. Our various programmes offer opportunities to grow and develop in comprehension, competence and character, and provide an environment for training in righteousness. A year or two at Tilsley gives an opportunity to explore the many facets of our faith, not just what the Bible says, but what the truths of the Bible look like in real life.
The last few years at Tilsley have shown some positive growth in those attending Joshua, our evening classes, with centres in Motherwell, Stourbridge and Dundee. Other centres will be opening in the next year. For those who are unable to take a full year to study, this offers a real opportunity for quality training.
The core of Tilsley’s training, though, remains our full time courses. It has never been easy to take the step of devoting a year or two to training. Pressures to get a good education and a good job – legitimate concerns in many ways – can all too easily get in the way of setting aside time for concentrated study. It is here where parents, youth leaders and church elders have an important role to play in setting an example for young people to follow of giving training and spiritual growth its rightful importance. It means that those in any form of leadership in the church need to be actively engaged in seeking out young people for whom training would be beneficial. It means parents encouraging their children – boys and girls – to take the time out to deepen their understanding of the faith and be better equipped to serve God in his world. And it means churches being willing to help finance the time spent at college.