FIRST-PERSON: Churches & seminaries
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sunday, April 28, is SBC Seminaries Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- The apostle Peter explains in 1 Peter 4:7 that "the end of all things is at hand" and by that he means he and his readers were living in the last days before the return of Jesus.
Since that time until our very own, humanity has been living at the verge of the end of the world, but that is not a cause for despair or hand-wringing. Peter's point was focused rather on how one is to live at the end of all things, and he spends the next few verses underscoring this for believers.
Peter explains that while a Christian should have his eyes fixed and his hope set on the soon and certain return of Jesus, he should be using his spiritual gifts, whether they be serving or speaking, all for the glory of God.
What, then is the source of our hope and on what task are we to have our minds and hearts set? Until the end, whether one eats, drinks, preaches, trains, waters, reaps, types, writes, shares or disciples, he should be doing these things as the biblically prescribed means for carrying out the Great Commission to the glory of God.
Such it is, too, with the work of cooperating churches -- to the end that churches are to cooperate for the sake of global evangelism and to see the knowledge of the glory of God among all peoples as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).
If that is the end goal for churches, then such should also be the singular shared desire of the seminaries who exist to train men and women for service in those churches.
In much of what is classified as theological education in this country, the six Southern Baptist seminaries stand apart, for many schools are content to sit in ivory towers and see the churches as resource providers and tangential dependents. The task of theology for these schools is to observe, comment, criticize, but not actually implement or trust at all the biblical end goal of churches.
Spectator sports are where those watching can speculate, cheer, criticize or enjoy all that is done by the coaches and players on the field. But being a spectator, while feeling the hurt of loss and the joy of winning, does not compare to the experience of those who actually play the game. Such it is also with the task of studying theology and theological education.
By contrast, the six SBC seminaries, held accountable by the churches of the SBC and the confessional parameters mandated by the churches, are training students to be non-spectators for God-glorifying, Great Commission service in and through the churches.
This is a part of the seminaries' shared ministry assignment:
"Southern Baptist Theological Seminaries exist to prepare God-called men and women for vocational service in Baptist churches and in other Christian ministries throughout the world through programs of spiritual development, theological studies, and practical preparation in ministry" (SBC Organizational Manual).
Each seminary carries out this mandate in their own region and context, and with their own unique leadership and identity, but for all six seminaries, it:
1) Starts with faculty members who, while qualified and exceptional scholars, are not mere theorists, but also practitioners -- professors engaged in applying theology to life and ministry just as much as they are teaching and writing theology.
2) Continues throughout the curriculum where every degree program, every event and every square inch of the campuses are relentlessly claimed for the purpose of directing students to the churches to aid in carrying out the churches' end goal.
The six seminaries take this assignment given by cooperating Southern Baptist churches as a matter of significant stewardship and eternal seriousness.
For, as we live and serve at the end of the world, the six seminaries count it a joy to do whatever it takes to serve cooperating churches as they carry out their biblically designed task of seeing God's great name proclaimed to the ends of the earth.