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The Apprentice

Apprenticeships have been the life blood of the UK economy. Would be plumbers, turners, bakers, blacksmiths, potters (to name just a few), learned their trade from a master craftsman or woman.

Such apprenticeships provided holistic training, developing not just a skill base, but the character qualities required to become a valued and trusted member of the community. They were, of course, nothing like the TV show of the same name.

Apprenticeship is an approach that runs like a stick of rock through the New Testament. You won't find the exact word in any Bible dictionary, but many would argue that it is a modern synonym for discipleship. The early disciples were effectively apprentices of Jesus. They learned by watching what he did, hearing what he said and were then commissioned to go and do likewise. So at the great commission he commands his followers to do with new believers what he had done with them. In effect, ‘Stick with the programme! You have had three years with me, now it’s time to graduate.’ Later the apostle Paul could say to those who knew him, ‘follow me as I follow Christ’ (1 Cor. 11:1).

A recent Leadership File explored the issue of apprenticeships, both as a tool much needed within working life, and as model for the way leaders are trained.

My guest, Phil Carter of Knowledge for Life, believes our patterns of teaching fail to imitate the model that Jesus laid down for us. You might think that the last instructions of Jesus might be at the top of the list of a church’s priorities. But too often churches have settled for merely creating pleasant worship experiences that ensure that people will come back for more, rather than getting down to the brass tacks of living for Jesus day to day. We assume that sending someone to theological college is going to get the job done. Colleges can do some things really well, but few are really equipped to apprentice leaders. Apprenticing leaders comes as you live the Jesus lifestyle yourself and invest time and energy in those who follow you.

Phil Carter’s interests extend beyond the developing of church leaders. He is concerned to influence the government who see developing better apprenticeship schemes as a key part of economic recovery. Even today there are as many as 1500 apprenticeship schemes in the UK, but many fall short of providing the mix of skill and character development that has played such a crucial role in previous generations. On the show he invited anyone who had been through an apprenticeship to get in touch with him as he assesses the strengths and weaknesses of modern apprenticeships with a view to influencing government policy. 

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