The Training Center on the Corner
                                                                                     By Bishop Randy Barnett

      Not too long ago I heard someone make the statement, “A church is a hospital for sinners.” The statement did not sit
well with me even though I think I understand the underlying concept which is that sinners find a place where Jesus will fix
them. If I may, please allow me to offer a different and expanded concept of what the local church is about.

      Like so many things around us, the concept of the church on the corner has taken on some serious misperceptions by
some. The statement I heard is not untrue in one sense because our churches should be a place where the sinner can find
Jesus and thus be saved and healed. But this definition narrowly limits the purpose of the local church to primarily being
an evangelistic center. Evangelism is surely one of the things that pleases God and is therefore a work from the local
church to its community but that is only one of several reasons why the local church exists.

      A close look at Scripture does not paint the picture of the entity of the local church as an evangelistic center but  
rather as a training center for believers in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 4:11-16 is a clear picture of the local church. First, we
see Jesus setting in place certain ministers who are assigned the task of leadership. These five ministry offices form the
leadership of the church – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Jointly they fulfill the role of equippers
of the saints. Each ministry office is unique and carries a different anointing / calling but regardless of the specific
anointing / calling the general task is the same – equipping the saints for the work of Kingdom service.

      The general analogy used by Jesus for His people is sheep. Sheep are a flock animal and therefore their natural
tendency is to group together. When we apply Jesus’ analogy to His people we see them group together and their  
gathering place is the local church. A shepherd (pastor) cares for the sheep, leading them to food and water and protecting
them. Carrying the Jesus’ analogy to its final conclusion, sheep are the animals within the sheepfold, not cows, horses,  
wolves, or bears. In the church are the sheep of God’s pasture, not other “animals” who do not know Jesus and who have
no covenant with the Lord via Jesus Christ. This is why we do not see the local church only as a hospital for sinners.
Sinners are folks who have no covenant with God; they are lost and with no hope. Loosely speaking, these are those other
“animals” that do not belong inside the sheepfold. The good news is they can quickly and easily be transformed from
sinner to saints in the blink of an eye through the new birth which they can find in the church. We welcome all sinners into
our midst with the intent of seeing them become a sheep.

      The Christian pulpit has for centuries stood as a symbol of truth. From this sacred desk flows the powerful Word of  
God and insights into it that disciple and mature the saints. The mysteries of God are unlocked and the spiritual
nourishment needed by all born again believers flows. This is the purpose for the pulpit. However, the pulpit has in some  
cases come to be a symbol of communication rather than a symbol of truth; “good preaching” has replaced sound
instruction in righteousness and truth has waned because of it. I see a return to sound instruction in the Church and
arising out of that the truth is empowering the saints to truly become the Church not just go to church.

      The Great Commission given by Jesus to the Church in Matthew 28:18-20 emphasizes the making of disciples and
teaching the Word of God. These are inside-the-church functions intended for only believers. This is the primary role of the
local church; it is training the people of God to carry out His Kingdom work on the earth. The “good preaching” in many  
cases has simply impressed church-goers with oratorical prowess of professional clergymen developed from academic
training, and the result of this is generations of pew-sitters who are spiritually impotent and fruitless in the Kingdom.  
These religious practices have not pleased Jesus nor have they achieved His goal of making disciples of all nations.

      Church leaders; hear me. We must return to the biblical task of equipping saints for Kingdom service. This means we
may have to set aside the thrills of dynamic preaching and start training our people. Your church family needs to be  
proficient in soul-winning, discipling new believers, personal ministry, the use of spiritual gifts, and deliverance. How will
they know how to do these things unless you teach them? This will take systematic teaching that may not be as fun as a    
rip-roaring sermon but the lasting fruit that will be produced by the saints is far better.

      The specific areas of training that are mentioned above cannot be properly handled in one or two pulpit sessions.  
Each area needs adequate time given to it in order for the saints to master the knowledge and become proficient in it.   
This will probably mean a departure from your regularly scheduled worship services into one that includes classroom
settings and seminars. I recommend developing and providing study guides and workbooks and training C.D.’s. It’s time    
to go back to school and get prepared to be the Church of Jesus Christ.

      Most American pastors I know will wince at this suggestion because they know that most Americans want instant
everything and they will oppose the thought of buckling down in training sessions. Other nationalities with which I am  
familiar will not have this problem because of the level of personal commitment of their people to learning and growing.  
My deep desire is for the American Church to return to a genuine commitment to Jesus setting aside distractions and
hobbies and entertainments in favor of spiritual growth and development. I believe there is a segment of the Church   
even in America that is rising up as the “Joshua Generation” whose hearts are fully given to Jesus and who’s one and   
only desire it to fulfill the plan of God for their lives. I rejoice in this!

      Pastors, let’s cast off the garments of traditionalism in favor of the new thing Jesus wants to do in our churches. We
don’t have to abandon Sunday morning worship if that is what feels good to us; simply add to it other times during the week
for training sessions. Bear in mind these are NOT intended to be academic sessions per se but rather anointed teaching
sessions that include laboratory-type interactive methods that are fresh and inspired by the Holy Spirit. These   will not be
dry and boring but dynamic and powerful impartations of the Spirit of God to His people.

      These are exciting times in which we live. Yes, there are real challenges the Church is facing as societies and
governments continue to decline morally and become even more hostile to the things of God; however, the best of times  
are unfolding in this hour as well. God is pouring out His Spirit on all flesh just as the prophets said and we are amidst the
most powerful season in the Church’s history. The remnant is arising and you and I are a part of it! Rejoice! Buckle down
and get serious with Jesus! Witness the most awesome outpouring of the Holy Spirit mankind has ever seen! Jesus is
coming soon, so let’s be about our Father’s business until we join Him in the air.