Pastor Chuck Newkirk is lead pastor at Church on Mill in Tempe, AZ and was an early adopter of our Ministry Apprenticeship Alliance (MAA) program. Below, he explains the relationship between the traditional seminary education and Phoenix Seminary's MAA, through which a student may earn up to 18 hours of MDiv credit in the local church.
This fall marks the fifth semester of Phoenix Seminary’s innovative MAA. In the span of only two years, dozens of future and existing pastors have found this unique partnership of church and seminary to fill a critical missing link in ministry training. You too may reach the same conclusion by choosing to enroll in the MAA. Allow me to explain.
Seminary was quite helpful for me personally. Church history provided a deep appreciation for pastors and churches who came before me. Bible background classes painted a beautiful canvas of historical and cultural detail. Greek and Hebrew made even studying the Bible in English more fruitful. In these ways, seminary was helpful, but frankly, it was not enough. My Master of Divinity provided little preparation for the rigor of preaching. Oddly enough, the two things I do the most as a lead pastor of a local church are preaching and overseeing. Unsurprisingly, if I could say only one thing to everyone who sat under my first sermons and followed my initial years of pastoral leadership, I’d just want to say, “I’m sorry!” I knew how to speak to the few in the academy, but I was inept at pastoring the masses in the pew. Phoenix Seminary’s MAA is designed so you will start and remain stronger than me.
One essential component of the pastor’s work is to train future pastors. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:1-2). The Ministry Apprentice Alliance exists to support pastors and churches in their labors to obey these verses. Local churches and pastors must train additional faithful men. This is God’s command; it is his primary strategy for the multiplication of gospel workers for gospel churches. I am thankful Phoenix Seminary’s MAA is a tool to help pastors and their churches obey our Lord.
The MAA is led by pastors for pastors. We cover topics including preaching, what a local church is and ought to be doing, and how to build weekly worship services that honor God, edify his people, and evangelize the lost. We wrestle with current challenges facing churches and enjoy collaborative conversation regarding faithful paths forward. We pray and hear from present pastoral practitioners. We discuss the formation of a theologically rich philosophy of ministry and require the writing of papers you’ll use far after classes are over as you share your philosophy of ministry with people in your churches. And we do all of this in the context of observation in local churches.
Could you imagine choosing to see a surgeon for a consult on a major operation if you knew the surgeon mastered her medical book work but had never observed, let alone performed, an actual surgery? Of course not! We trust our bodies only to surgeons who know their books and have experience with the scalpel. We ought to trust our souls only to pastors who know the Book and have learned by thoughtful observation and practical experience how to apply the Book to their own hearts and the hearts of their people. By taking classes through Phoenix Seminary's traditional education and through the 18 hours provided by the Ministry Apprenticeship Alliance in a local church, you'll be well-equipped for a lifetime of performing surgery of the soul. You’ll get trained for pastoral work from pastors doing the work.
In partnership with several local churches, Phoenix Seminary is providing the MAA to integrate experiential learning, structured supervision, and disciplined spiritual formation. Think of the experience as a backstage pass to the leadership of a local congregation of Jesus’s sheep. Without the pressure of performing ministerial duties yourself, you’ll gain VIP access to the joys and hardships of pastoral ministry. Picture starting the day reading about eldership, discussing it mid-day with peers from diverse backgrounds, and then ending the day sitting in an actual elders meeting. These types of positive, early experiences in a local church where the Bible is preached and its teachings on the church are obeyed pave the way for longevity in ministry.
Are you a future or existing pastor desiring more training? The scholarship of Phoenix Seminary and the experience of a local church are vital to your development in pastoral competency. Academic rigor alone is insufficient for a long, faithful pastorate. But experience unaccompanied by biblical scholarship won’t do either. The two must be wed and are, in fact, married through the MAA. Without reservation, I commend this program to you.
The church I pastor would love to consider you for our internship in which the MAA is approved. Or, even better, perhaps your existing church would allow you to take the MAA classes where I pastor but to do your practical, hands-on work under your present pastor so you can remain in your church? Furthermore, check Phoenix Seminary's website as their just might be a church doing the MAA that’s closer to you than my church in Tempe. Wherever and whenever you choose to get involved, make this timely addition to your pastoral training a high priority.
Dr. Chuck Newkirk is husband to Jill, father to Abby and Micah, and a member of Church on Mill where he serves as Lead Pastor. He holds degrees from the University of Central Oklahoma, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and Talbot Seminary. As pastor of a church, an instructor with the Charles Simeon Trust, steering team member for The Gospel Coalition Arizona, an adjunct in the MAA program at Phoenix Seminary, Chuck loves to see God change lives through the Scriptures.