John Frye’s excellent, Jesus the Pastor, raises two major issues, the value and role of seminary education and the meaning of “pastoring.” Here’s the question John provoked for me: If you could make one change in a seminary education, what would it be?
Let’s be fair here, and I’ll begin with the “pastoring” issue in this chp: I’m not a pastor in the normal sense of the word. We sometimes tell others that our task in the BTS Dept at North Park is partly academic and partly youth pastor. So, maybe there is a touch of pastoring in what I do. And then I speak in lots of churches, but equating speaking with pastoring is silly (though sometimes one would think seminary profs give that impression).
Nor am I a seminary professor anymore, though I’m in regular contact with seminary professors at North Park. I feel like one lots of the time. (I do miss teaching exegesis.) So, I’m an indirect participant in both pastoring and seminary education.
Which now brings me to the subject of John’s second chp — John argues that we need to learn from Jesus and not just from pastoral conventions where the pastor can be bombarded annually with new techniques and strategies and methods, and without which you’ll just collapse if you don’t adjust… . John argues that Jesus gave us what we really need, if we are attentive.
And then he gets into a peeve of mine: seminary education. Jesus didn’t have one. John doesn’t demean seminary education, saying what he thinks its big values are: a respect for revealed truth, an appreciation for church history, the discipline of personal study, and an exposure to godly leaders. The solution to seminary education is not to junk it. I’m well aware of the many good pastors who don’t have a seminary education, but for my take on this one I think it is of immense value — but it is not without its problem, not the least of which is how much it costs and how far it sometimes gets from church work. And that’s another post. John has two other issues:
He sees two major problems, and I’m sure more could be listed: pride and distancing. Pride from being more competent than others because of education, and distancing from the uneducated. If you need a good book on this, there is a standard: H. Thielicke, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians.
John’s got two good issues in this chp: seminary education and its purpose and what it can do for us, as well as just what pastoring is. In fact, I’d say the latter ought to determine the former. Does it? I’m so glad that Dave Dunbar, out at Biblical Seminary in the rolling hills of Hatfield, PA, is answering the former by re-asking the latter, and that seminary is learning to reshape what it does in light of the emerging situation. And that is why I’ve agreed to teach a course out there next Spring.
Now back to John Frye: his passionate concern to look at Jesus leads him to define pastoring as “bringing God to people by imparting the Word of God out of the reality of his or her life, which is undergoing authentic and continuous Christlike transformation” (48-49).
Now here’s my question: If you could make one change in a seminary education, what would it be?