This review will be short, as the chapter is short. The authors start by talking about the history of ministerial education and make their point that, in fact, mentorships and apprenticeships are far more effective in training Christian workers. I have to agree with them on this, but with a few caveats. First, this is appropriate for the church of the first century as they, for the most part, did speak Greek–biblical Greek, in fact. I believe it’s important to the church to have linguists and historians and so on who specialize in Christian studies. It’s not that we couldn’t make it spiritually without this knowledge, but it does add an important dimension to our understanding of scripture.
As for the rest, soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and so on and so on, I know plenty of scholars with no formal education who excell in these fields. Well, I don’t know them personally, but I’ve read their books. It’s fine to study about God, so long as we don’t forget that knowing God is the important thing. That said, I surely don’t think a seminary is the only, or even the best preparation for a life of ministry. The best preparation is a knowledge of how to hear from God, trust Him, and most of all, love Him and others.
Sunday School, the authors point out, began as a ministry to poor children who, forced to work all week, had only Sundays on which they might have the free time to learn to read. So, Sunday School actually started out as basic education for the poor. While the need for this sort of thing has long been history in the west and most of the rest of the world as well, we have continued the tradition of Sunday School as a place of basic teaching in the faith. This is where kids typically learn bible stories and Christian ethical principles. Do they learn to love Jesus? I don’t know.
The authors don’t mention this, but in several churches I’ve had experience with, Sunday School is considered “small group” time. I don’t know that I’d agree. Usually it’s just another mini-message with some questions thrown in, but your results might be different or better than mine.
The next topic here is youth ministry. Again, this is of recent vintage. Many of you will know this first hand as you’ll remember when youth ministry was either not in evidence at all, was provided by para-church ministries, or was staffed by volunteer parents. Now-a-days nearly all churches larger that a couple hundred members have a youth minister on staff–even if he is living on Ramen Noodles.
The main point of this chapter seems to be that actual ministry prepares one far better to deal with real life situations than seminary. This maxim could as easily be applied to any profession. I think that it’s probably a good thing to have both a balanced education and life experience. Throw in a good dose of self-directed study, and you really do have a better perspective on things. Nevertheless, I’ll take a brother or sister who truly knows how to listen to God over a PhD whose knowledge is all in his head any day.
The next chapter is an important one, I think, dealing with our methods of biblical interpretation. I’ll try to get it up sometime next week.