As congregations grow, their pastors’ time is stretched by the growing needs of their members – writing and preaching sermons, teaching Bible studies, preparing the youth to receive the Lord’s Supper, visiting shut-ins and those in the hospital, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the church, outreach, and assimilation. This list could go on and on, but you get the point: our pastors are extraordinarily busy doing the work the Lord has called them to do. Fortunately for our pastors, they are not alone in their desire to serve their Lord. There are many lay members who are gifted and willing to serve in any way that they can. This has created a growing interest by congregations in resources to train their members for local ministry.
During the 1990s, the Curriculum for Congregational Service and Outreach (CCSO) was developed to fulfill this need. That program utilized study materials developed for the Multi-ethnic Pre-seminary Program. The combination of biblical and doctrinal studies, along with the study of the practical skills needed for service, helped to equip members to serve in their congregations with the confidence that comes from a thorough knowledge of God’s Word. Eventually the CCSO became the Congregational Evangelist Program (CEP), a program that allowed a congregation to locally train, certify, and call one of its own members for ministry.
In August 2005, CEP became CAP, the Congregational Assistant Program. The purpose and focus of the program remains the same: evangelism. Evangelism is sharing the gospel. The Greek word for “gospel” is the word that “evangelism” comes from, so evangelism is “gospel-ing” and an evangelist is a “gospel-er.” In the narrow sense, evangelism is reaching out with the gospel to those outside of God’s Kingdom so that the Holy Spirit can call them to faith. In the broad sense, evangelism also includes reaching out with the gospel to those who are already inside of God’s Kingdom so that the Holy Spirit can nurture them in their faith. CAP does have an outreach emphasis, but it is not limited to evangelism in the narrow sense. Thus, to more accurately fit the reality that these individuals assist in ministry in a variety of ways that support both the outreach and the nurture aspects of the mission of the church, the name of the program changed from “Evangelist” to “Assistant.”