Pr. Paulo Costa
As an introductory element, I would like to point out that the task that encompasses this topic has not been more arduous in the Conference, compared to the topics highlighted by other speakers, but to speak about what the Church expects from Theological Education could be very profoundly simplistic if it were simply for the speaker to bring an extensive list of all that should or should not exist in seminarians as they return from theological schools to the daily life of the church.
If we look more closely at what has been proposed, it is necessary not only for the teacher, but also for each reader to think the question not only in our contemporary context, but in itself, is appropriate before reaching the heart of the proposal that I will deal here, to reflect on the Theological-Church relationship.
It is not my intention to believe or make the reader believe that it would be possible to punctuate this conversation, the question so that we can close it, but within the limitation not only of space, but also human, I will point out some alternatives that allow us to continue to open a dialogue in this field and reduce the differences existing in this relationship, accentuating the existing unity between both, which really exists.
If, on the one hand, the church questions the relevance and necessity of theological schools, on the other hand, theological schools evaluate churches for their lack of biblical and theological maturity. In fact, both have an interdependence in this relationship that, to open in a dialogue, there must be respect, love and commitment. They are twin sisters who, even if they insisted on separating, were born to live together. One needs the other.
An historical aspect
It would be innocence on our part if we think that reflection on theological education and the church is something inherent only in our time.
We know that, over time, there have been several changes in theological teaching, bringing remarkable advances, however, with some disturbances that distort and distort between theological schools and the church.
Considering this, we can take a critical look at theological schools and blame them for not having realized the changes that were entering their doors, coming from the new secular mentalities and the changes of a globalized world.
There must be a great and permanent dialogue between the church and theological institutions.
Why does the church need theological schools? This question insists on permanence, especially made by pastors and ecclesiastical leaders.
Of course, when the church sends a Christian to a seminary, it does not expect to receive the same Christian because it understands that it will be a learning period for him and all knowledge will bring about changes in his conceptions. But the church has no way to leave some questions that it hopes to keep intact in this worker, that is, that orthodoxy is still a pattern in the mind of this worker when the theological school returns after the completion of the training.
It turns out that the experience of many who went to theological schools reveals that several of them were lost during the journey. Some claim that believers entered and then left believers in parts of the Holy Scriptures. They entered with evangelistic ardor and left without love for the lost. They had a fervent spirituality and became critical of everything and everyone. These are some of the causes that have generated the discrediting of the church in some schools of theology. Upon returning to church, these students know how to preach well, teach good Bible studies, but do not have practical ministry experience because they reveal a lack of interpersonal relationships, do not know how to deal with local and denominational traditions and traditions.
Some results derived from this are divided churches, gaps, and time consumed with issues not essential to church life. When someone searches for a culprit, the first name that appears on the list is, logically, theological schools, say many critics.
Global and nonlocal preparation The church wants its candidate to have training for herself – local. But this candidate will come in contact with many other theories, concepts, values, theologies that are beyond this local community. The result is a serious critique of theological schools to do harm that goes beyond the orthodox conceptions that should guide the whole school committed to sound doctrine.
These are some signs that lead some churches and ecclesiastical leaders to question the raison d’être of theological schools. Of course, there are many other signs that the brevity of this space does not allow us to treat, however, a truth is imposed: the churches need theological schools and vice versa.
The growth of superficiality in our Brazilian context, we can observe that many pastors and leaders are deceived by the numerical growth of the church. This mentality has led more and more to pragmatism, immediacy, results oriented, not caring about the means to achieve their projects and dreams.
As a result, we have an immature, illiterate functional Bible church, with an emphasis on emotion filled with empty people. And this has been the reason why churches have been the target of criticism from some theological schools because they observe the lack of vision and theological growth of these pastors.
In some ecclesiastical contexts, it has been observed that there is an expectation that the candidates sent will not undergo many changes, which turns out to be a ledo mistake. The result is that they come back different and in several cases, judging themselves to be superior, with more knowledge than the local leader himself and forgetting a great biblical principle, which deals exactly with submission, respect and subjection to the ministerial hierarchy.
What options should we choose? In order for us to succeed in the glorious task of winning souls for the Kingdom of God, it is necessary that theological school and church live and work in partnership based on the unity of Christ. Some practices can be put into action so that this relationship is healthy, loving and fruitful.
1. Both need to perceive themselves as Kingdom partners. Competition has always been and will always be a disaster for churches, pastors and leaders. It is necessary to have an intentional approach of both parties. On the part of the church it can be encouraged to pray for the schools, to take its members to know it, to adopt seminarians, to invite teachers to give lectures in the church, to preach, to testify.
Schools should make room to listen to pastors, their needs, their concerns, also have programs for them and encourage their continuing education. Without these partnerships both will suffer.
The church does not have all the gifts, talents, and tools to prepare a theologian, though, mistakenly, some would think otherwise. On the other hand, theological schools can not prepare pastors without dialogue and knowledge of the churches and their needs. It prepares and empowers theologians.
2. Teachers need to be involved in local churches. The theological academic world can not be isolated from the church.
How can these teachers who prepare future theologians train them without having to experience the daily life of the church? This is undoubtedly one of the main gaps.
3. Denominational theological schools can develop a teaching staff deeply committed to the local church. This can be established from the process of hiring the same. Without this condition, I see no place for this teacher in school. Some may argue: “But there are certain disciplines that do not require this.” Which are? Greek? Hebrew? Introduction to Sociology? It is not about elective courses, but about a pedagogical process that is built in an integrative way. Everything in the Theology school is built from the profile of the student. That is, the profile that one wishes to form in this future theologian. The theologian without the church is a danger because his commitment does not include the same. Theology is done with the church. It is not done for it, it is done for the mission of God. The church is not the end of the mission; on the contrary, it is the beginning.
4. It is important that theological education addresses the missiological vision, encouraging students to participate in missionary projects, church planting, and evangelistic projects. An uncompromising school with the mission of God falls into disrepute. What is the reason for a theological school to exist?
In my opinion, it’s part of God’s mission here on earth. If God did not have a mission in the world, it would not be necessary to have schools of Theology. But, as He has, then the reason for existing must be to prepare men and women to fulfill and be agents of God’s mission to the world. It should also put the church in its proper place.
The church is not a reason for the school of Theology. It is the instrument used by God for his earthly mission. The church that sticks, through its pastors and leaders, pastoral vocations is not against the school of Theology, it is against the very mission of God and will have to give an account to Him.
Thus, theological education must immerse the student in an integral process of formation and practice, hoping that at the end of his theological training he will be sufficiently prepared to help the church carry out its main task: of salvation.
Theological formation is a lifelong process, for it continues even after the student completes his studies at a theological educational institution.
The church expects from theological schools to assist in the formation of its members, enabling them not only to handle the Scriptures, but to expose it, to do it in a correct, coherent way and, above all, so that in all long the name of the Lord be glorified.
We know that the theological formation itself, if not disseminated, becomes only one more information, but when shared under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and properly, it has a great power in the transformation of lives and spiritual development .
The word of order is not competition, but cooperation. Cooperation because church and theological education should complement each other. The theological school gives genuine theological training and training, and the church complements with appropriate ministerial training, according to its customs and dogmas.