Ministry and theology… like a ninja.

Why Theological College?

I’m big on theological college.

I study at one, I encourage others to consider studying at one and one day I’d like to work for one.
I’m a walkin’ talkin’ seminary salesman.
And so it gets my goat when I hear things like this.

“Why would I waste time at Bible College when I could be doing ministry?”
“Bible College is only necessary if you’re going to be ministering to academics.”
“Bible College will turn you out jaded and dry up your passion for God.”
“Ministry apprenticeships have to replace Bible College – that’s how Jesus did it!”

I don’t have the time or the space right now to address each of these fully, but for the record here’s my spiel on why Bible College/Theological College/Seminary is so important to those who wish to enter into church ministry.

Theological Colleges should have one aim. To form Christians for ministry.

Colleges should not be primarily a place to gain academic knowledge, or good grades, or a degree or even good theology. All these things are good, but the end goal must be to equip men and women to be better able to pray, worship God, read the Bible and communicate the gospel of Christ to the lost.

I grew up being told that Bible College would dry out my soul. This idea comes from the recent tendency of society to devalue the mind and emphasize pragmatism. And so instead of the theological college we have ministry apprenticeships and ‘ministry’ colleges that will teach you how to ‘do’ ministry, but with very little theology, church history or even Bible.

This is an incredibly unwise approach.

The greatest thing about being at theological college is time.

Time to study.
Time to think.
Time to critique.
Time to weigh and wrestle.
Time to converse with lecturers and students.
Time to go deep and go broad.

Ministry apprenticeships are great. I’m currently doing my second one. But when you’re in ministry you simply do not have the time to think for yourself. As Ridley lecturer Dr. Rhys Bezzant said, ‘Ministry apprenticeships don’t train people to think critically, they train people to keep the cogs turning.’
Blogger and college lecturer Ben Myers says that the key theological question is ‘Who is this God who comes to us and meets us in Jesus Christ?’. A whole lifetime is not enough time to answer this question, but the three years you spend on it in college will prepare you for a lifetime of ministry.

That is, ministry to all sorts. Everyone from socially-withdrawn goth culture to ivory tower academics. From the average blue collar worker, to the CEO. From the middle-aged Caucasian, to the Kono of Cote D’Ivoire. As a friend said to me, ‘the more we have to contextualize the gospel, the more good theological grounding is essential, to guard us from getting it wrong’.

I think some young ministry guns shudder at the idea of enduring three (or four) years of study. Its so important to gain some patience and to realize that three years is but a drop in the ocean, and its worth every second.

‘Look carefully then how you walk,
not as unwise but as wise,
making the best use of the time,
because the days are evil.’
Eph. 5.15-16

For more on this, Ridley College has a great page on ‘Why go to Bible College?’.

PG

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3 responses

  1. Andrew Reid’s tips also show the unique usefulness of theological college.

    March 5, 2011 at 11:33 pm

  2. Devan

    Too true Pete!

    If you were only to do a ministry apprenticeship at one church, then you’d end up being trained to minister to that one church, for that one particular group of people, for that one particular generation, having most likely been taught by one person (your senior minister)…

    … However, if you go to theological college, then you get taught by many lecturers who have led many different churches and led many different people… so you end up with a massive wealth of experience…

    … And you get taught how theological foundations from God’s word, which can be adapted to any congregation, wherever they are from.

    March 7, 2011 at 8:30 pm

  3. Then there’s learning from mistakes and ‘achievements’ in church history, and not re-inventing the wheel by learning how Christians of the past reached certain doctrinal conclusions and why.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:52 am

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