BibleMesh is guided by three pillars: the Great Commission, the Great Commandment, and the Great Tradition. This blog series will discuss the role that each pillar plays in theological education.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
The first pillar of BibleMesh is the Great Commission. Before we can explore how the Great Commission relates to theological education, it would be helpful to discuss what theological education is.
If you’re enrolled in a theological education program, you likely feel called to vocational ministry of some kind. While there is a culture among evangelicals that says theological education is an unnecessary distraction, at BibleMesh we believe in the high value of theological education in concert with the Great Commission, the Great Commandment, and the Great Tradition.
What Is Theological Education?
Let’s start with a brief definition of what we mean by “theological education”:
Theological education is the disciplined study of God and His Word, for the development of the skills to rightly interpret and apply His Word, in service to the mission of the church, and in conversation with those who have gone before.
To explore this definition, let’s now examine it phrase by phrase.
Disciplined study – Every Christian is called to know God through the study of His self-revelation in Scripture. However, for those called to leadership roles, proclamatory ministry, or service in the church, there is need for focused study in preparation for that calling. If you are responsible for teaching others, it is wise to pursue disciplined study of God in order to teach rightly about Him.
God and His Word – The primary subject of study in theological education is God Himself, what He has done in history, and what He has said about Himself. His authoritative revelation is His inspired written Word, the Bible, where He speaks about Himself and what He has done, preeminently in Christ. Theological education can relate to many areas of life, but at its heart it is focused on God and His word. For that reason, theological education is uniquely concerned with courses on the nature of scripture, how to study it, and how it applies to our lives.
Interpreting and applying His Word – The interpretive task involves seeking to understand the significance of what God has said, and then apply it for our own context today. God has spoken to us through the story of His actions in history culminating with His Son. This history contains more than a dry table of facts; it also involves poetry, lament and law and other things that represent the fullness of God’s message to us. Understanding what the Scriptures mean and how that relates to today is an interpretative task every generation of Christians must navigate.
Theological education isn’t just concerned with studying facts, but is uniquely concerned with what it means for us today.
The mission of the church – Theological education should always be ecclesially oriented and missiologically applied. Theological education is aimed at making disciples of all nations and focuses on building local congregations. It is also missiologically applied. Theological education does not exist as knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but is always meant to be in service to the Great Commission. Theological education is corporate, focused toward a purpose bigger than ourselves.
With those who have gone before – We don’t come to the Christian faith unconnected from the stream of history and what the church has believed across the ages. Jesus himself understood His ministry in light of what had been passed down, speaking about His nature and purpose by pointing to the Old Testament. All of our current beliefs have been shaped by the way Christians in ages past have interpreted or applied Scripture to their context. Wisdom compels us to recognize this and study closely the works of those who have gone before.
How Does Theological Education Serve the Great Commission?
The Great Commission implies it. Matthew 28:20 states that believers will be able to teach all that Christ has commanded us to teach. For many that involves some sort of disciplined study.
Leaders in the church are instructed to pursue it. The biblical qualification for elder in 1 Tim. 3:2 is “able to teach.” In his second letter to Timothy, Paul instructs Timothy to teach what has been passed along from Paul (II Tim. 2:2). The New Testament describes leaders in the early church as continually passing down their knowledge to others.
The task warrants it. – Throughout the book of Acts, we witness the first missionaries teaching how the Old Testament anticipated the Christ event (Acts 2), and how the Gospel challenged the beliefs of the world (Acts 17). To be equipped for similar tasks, a student must learn to connect scripture to the church’s testimony of faith throughout the ages.
Our faith benefits from it. – Rightly ordered theological education forms us holistically to know God deeper and worship Him properly. It teaches us to apply the Word for the cultivation of our love of God and neighbor, to meet the intellectual, psychological, and affectual challenges of the day, and to view God’s work in history as formative for our being.
Theological training can be overwhelming and discouraging, or conversely can cause us to be prideful. These should not be deterrents but rather a reminder to those who are engaged in theological education. We must rightly balance our lives, being prudent about the way we engage with theological education. We must have our eyes laser-focused on our calling, why we are being trained. We must remember that theological education is always meant to be in service to the church, to making disciples, and to fulfilling the Great Commission.