Monday, August 28, 2006

On Preparing for the Pastorate . . .

Here are some pretty stimulating thoughts about what it takes to adequately prepare a person to pastor in today's world. This is an excerpt--read the entire piece here.

The traditional seminary must deal with many cultural and ecclesial challenges. One of the most significant is the dramatic new cultural situation of the Church in the West.

Our assumptions about and practice of local church ministry, as well as the training required for that ministry, were formed in the context of Christendom or, to put it another way, in a churched culture.

However, the culture of Christendom no longer exists, and the Church now finds itself in a new situation. Kennon Callahan speaks clearly to this tension when he says:

"Professional ministers are at their best (and they do excellent work) in churched culture. But put them in an unchurched culture and they are lost. In an unchurched culture, they do a reasonably decent job of presiding over stable or declining churches. They maintain a sense of presence, dignity, decorum, and decency—with a quietly sad regret—much like the thoughtful undertaker who sees to keeping things in good order throughout the funeral."

With that in mind, let’s think for a moment about what could easily be a typical morning of a seminarian.

He says good-bye to his wife and leaves for campus. As he walks from his apartment toward his car, he says “hello” to his postmodern neighbor. Having forgotten his morning coffee, he stops for a cup at the local convenience store owned by a Muslim.

Having satisfied his caffeine craving, he notices while driving that his gas tank is low, so he stops at the gas station for a fill-up, handing his twenty-dollar bill to the Hindu behind the cash register. Confident now that he’ll make it to school, our student looks at his watch and realizes that he has just enough time to pick up some clothes he dropped off the other day at the local dry cleaner that is owned by a Korean Buddhist family.

Content with how well the morning has gone so far, our budding theologian pulls into the seminary parking lot eager to wrestle with the ideas that he’ll hear in his 10:00 a.m. systematic theology course.

However, the theological study of the Biblical text in class is too often conducted with little or no reference to the context in which the student lives. Although this student lives in a large urban area filled with immigrants from all over the world, world religions are relegated to an elective in the practical theology department.


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