When a seminary student ponders why he is making such a large investment of time, energy, and money in the pursuit of theological education, he must work diligently to keep the big picture in view. In the previous post I argued that there are three main goals for the pursuit of theological education: knowledge, character, and skills. All of the particular endeavors of a seminary education are designed to contribute to the big picture, namely, the development of a person who is knowledgeable, holy, and equipped to lead.
A student of theology, like any student, is training in the development of knowledge. As a pastor, church planter, or counselor, he will be responsible to know many things that most of the people he encounters won’t know. What does this verse mean? Is this book/author theologically sound or dangerous? Has this issue ever come up in the history of the church before, and if so, how did the church deal with it? How should we understand the nature of the church and the responsibilities of church membership? What is the significance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper? How can an understanding of a particular Greek grammatical construction shed light on the meaning of Sunday’s sermon text?
An effective leader simply has to know these kinds of things. He must have a mind so thoroughly trained in them that he develops an instinct to respond to most situations out of a sense of fullness, not as one grasping to recall concepts he himself has only recently learned.
I spent a year teaching Latin at a school that was so desperate to hire a teacher, they hired me on the day before class began. Did I mention that I had never taught Latin before, and that my only prior exposure to it was one summer when I worked through Wheelock’s grammar on my own? That was the year that I truly began to learn the language, and while I managed to get by, I always felt like I was barely ahead of the pack. Of course, that feeling was true to reality: I was barely ahead, constantly striving to keep my head above water and not look too foolish when students posed questions that were beyond my ability. After eight years of teaching Latin under my belt now, I have developed the freedom to teach from an instinctive sense of copia, which is itself a Latin term denoting an abundance ready to be drawn from at any time. Copia only develops by an immersion into the subject matter, and no pastor or planter can safely lead a congregation without it.
Leaders in ministry simply must be able to draw quickly from an abundance of knowledge they have labored diligently to master. The contours of the Bible, of theology, of church history, of apologetics, etc. must be readily available to them to call to mind in any situation. Like a grandparent who can talk endlessly of her grandchildren without any prepared notes, a pastor must be able to talk endlessly about the things of God he has spent years learning. The abundance of knowledge he masters will be one essential component in a ministry that leads others to know and love God.