Thursday, January 03, 2008

Will You Send Your Children to Bible School?

Anthony asked some good questions, “[1] how do we attract the best people for seminary training?” This arises from our previous discussion on seminaries producing active or contemplative graduates. He adds, “[2] are Christian parents themselves holding back their best sons and daughters? [3] Are the youths themselves not interested in full-time pastoral ministry? Can the Christian vocation of pastoral ministry be presented as a viable vocation like any other secular vocation? And [4] is the trend in Malaysia going to be people who have worked a considerable number of years in the secular world and then opt to take optional retirement to come into seminary for training and serve their remaining years in the full-time ministry before they officially retire at 65 years?"

I believe questions [1] is related to questions [2] and [3]. From observation, I believe that many parents are not encouraging their children in taking up studies in local seminaries, and that the youth themselves do not see going ‘full-time’ as a viable vocation. There are a few reasons for this. First, there has been a gradual theological shift from understanding Christian service as ‘sacrifice and burning up for the Lord’ to ‘seeking my self-fulfilment in the Lord.’ The former was William Carey willing to give up his ambitions, his wife and family, his health and finally his life in the service of God. The latter is a pastor candidate asking about health benefits, child support, career advancement, and retirement plan. There is also the need to address the issue of women leadership in the church.

Second, ‘full-time’ service has lost its prestige and respect it once had. This erosion was gradual as pastors give up their role as soul carers and spiritual leaders to their congregation, and take up roles as administrators and fad-chasers. Christians are leaving institutional churches in large numbers because their spiritual needs are not being met. The youth have become so sceptical of the churches that they prefer not to have anything to do with it.

Third, the culture of consumerism, pragmaticism and individualism has influenced our churches. Parents are not willing to release their children and their children are not willing to enter a vocation where there is poor financial reward and security, where you are at the beck and call of everybody, abused by the lay leaders or members of the congregation, no career development plan, and at the end of the day, no significant retirement benefits.

Four, the increase in the number of gifted, trained and talented lay leaders in the church has changed the perception of the role of the pastor. The rise of marketplace ministries have reinforce the idea that one do not have to be ‘full-time’ to serve the Lord.

Finally, with the ecumenical movement and the loss of loyalty to denominations, many people sees local seminaries as irrelevant or even worst, sub-standard. Only certain churches expect their pastors to be theologically trained. Others prefer in-house training or Spirit-led pastors.

Therefore, I believe that we shall see the continuing decline of enrolment of young people in seminaries worldwide. However, I do see an increasing trend of matured people enrolling into seminaries and graduating to serve in churches. The demographic change has been building up for some time but has escalated recently. I do see this as a positive trend as these people from the marketplace with their lived experience has a lot more to offer to the church. ‘Full-time’ service as a second or third career may be the wave of the future.

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12 Comments:

Blogger beracahvalley said...

I guess to be a Pastor or something is a little different --a calling. Even for some people, they may be called but not chosen because they do not allow themselves to.

However, I guess most Christian parents are more than willing to send their children to Bible schools.

I do not come from a Christian family but my parents send me to a Bible school when I was a kid and was in a mission school! ( and thank God for that because they feel that I can learn more about things and good values too. )

Most Christians are willing to go to church and classes to learn more actually.

10:26 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi beracahvalley,

welcome. Thank you for your comments. I agree with you that most Christian parents are happy to send their children to Bible schools.

I apologise that I was not clear in this posting because when I wrote Bible school, I meant a Seminary or a Theological School.

12:38 AM  
Blogger Indianna said...

Hi Dr Tang,

my dad wanted me to go into ministry. truthfully, i thought of it as a 2nd option.
i suppose in this case, my dad knows the value of serving GOD cuz like you, he knows that at the end of the day, what man can do is limited..only GOD can heal people totally. I suppose that once you've been thru the valley of shadows and storms of life, then your view of life changes. like the famous hymnn says..

I once was lost but now am I found
was blind but now I see...

as for me, I still don't know whether i'm on the correct path or whether God's preparing me for a special ministry..and sometimes i wonder if i made a mistake not going into seminary...
but what is done, is done...
only thing we can do is to serve God whereever we are..

even though my dad longs to go into ministry, he's still practising...and right there in his workplace, GOD"s given him a special ministry that only he can do.

God can use us wherever whenever, as long as we allow HIM to use us.


Anna.



p.s. like Chris Sim, i'll be seeing you soon in JB.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi Indianna,

welcome. Thanks for your comments. Most of the time, we think of our calling or vocation in terms of what we can do for God, i.e. as a doctor, lawyer, teacher, chow-khay teow seller etc.

However, I like to suggest that our calling and vocation is what God can do through us. Then we are not limited in our thinking to specific occupations but expand our thinking to terms of service. Then we may be a doctor and serve or doctor-pastor or pastor or etc.

Hope that makes sense :)

12:47 PM  
Blogger Jack Said said...

Dr. Alex and Indianna,

I always think that seminarians should go for post grad studies in "secular" fields.

So if you have a medical degree or a PhD in physics or a law degree before going into theology, that would be excellent!

Theology per se does not make sense in this world, no? I am not saying this as a criticism or meant any negative remark to anyone, but a challenge for us to look beyond the current church/seminary education system.

God wanted us to live in the world, not do church.

Jack

11:23 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

I think (hope) that as seminary curriculum evolves to meet current and antipicated ministry related challenges, they will attract more quality people ready and willing to be in full-time vocational Christian ministry.

I think that many seminarians may need to learn humility and realise that many non seminarians are often not only more in touch with the world around us but are involved in powerful and relvant ministry.

And on the other side, many successful "ministry practioners" need to humbly acknolwedge that many seminary profs and scholars have a lot to teach us.

Real partnership and mutual respect is needed as both need each other.

I think our local seminaries are generally moving in the right direction from some of the "conversation" I read in the blogs of th OT and NT profs at STM. The obvious striving to merge scholarship with authentic down to earth living and help seminary students wrestle with everyday issues and spirituality.

I am excited to know that in a few days, many thousands will see the fun loving bald lecturer from MBS on the big screen in Jarum Halus. So what if it is not a "Christian" movie. This to me is an exciting thing that indirecty will help connect seminaries with life in this world

10:38 AM  
Blogger Jack Said said...

Paul,
I love what you said bout partnership, but i still think something more concrete should be done.

And then again, as far as I know, I can count with one hand the number of STM lecturers blogging. That said, they probably do not represent the decision making boards, though I am sure, knowing all of them, they would probably be vocal about change internally.

fun loving bald lecturer from MBS?? hmmm...i am extremely curious...brethren assembly punya veteran (not Footstool)? What's the history of his invovlement as an actor?

Jack

4:16 PM  
Blogger Jack Said said...

Oh, got it! I got the wrong person, i tot the older bald guy. Saw the trailer, cool movie a Malay modern day adaptation of shakespeare....hmm...nice.

Anyway, the Footstool players are excellent

Jack

4:22 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hi Jack,

I agree with you that we need to be 'well rounded' in our education. Unfortunately our education, even theological education tends towards specialisation.

Personally, I am thinking to take up a course on philosophy after I have finished with my theology thingy. :)

I too like what Paul wrote about partnership.

Gonna watch out for the bald guy. MBS lecturer in the movies. What other mischief will they get up to next?

12:45 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi Paul,

I believe the theological curriculum is evolving. This is a good sign. However, sometimes modification of an existing system does not always work. Maybe we need a revolution or reformation of existenting theological education.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Blogpastor said...

Thanks for this stimulating post. I have linked it and later hijacked it too. Hope you don't mind the latter.

9:21 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi blogpastor,

You're welcome. I look forward to the discussion continuing on your blog.

12:38 AM  

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