Theological education can be both extensively beneficial to the student in fulfilling the Lord’s call to the ministry, while additionally introducing its own set of dangers into the life of the student who embarks upon theological education.
One of the benefits of theological education for the ministry student is both broadening and deepening his wisdom and knowledge in the Word of God. The ministry student will be presented with a broad range of theological subjects that are essential for his training to effectively fulfill the Lord’s calling to the ministry. Additionally, the ministry student will go deeper in his understanding of the Word of God through seminary, allowing him to be a more accurate and effective communicator of the Word of God to the world.
Another benefit of theological education for the ministry student is the interaction with both seasoned scholars in various ministry fields, as well as the interaction with the student’s peers and fellow classmates in theological discussions. The ministry student will be mentored and guided to excellence in ministry through his interaction with various scholars and professors. His interaction with peers and fellow students will sharpen him as well and give him the support he needs from other fellow ministers-in-training.
A third benefit of theological education for the ministry student is the exposure to theological discussions that directly impact the presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world, and how the ministry student can effectively wade through the discussions to ensure his church congregation is grounded on a firm doctrinal foundation in the Word of God. Without the knowledge of these discussions to ministry students in theological education, the minister will be caught off guard by some of the theological discussions that make their way into his church congregation.
One of the dangers of theological education is the ministry student may begin to utilize the Word of God merely as an academic textbook of information and not the living Word of God that produces transformation in the life of the student. The ministry student must keep the Word of God fresh in his thinking and heart and not fall into a perfunctory trap of reading the Word of God as a mere academic exercise.
Another danger of theological education in the ministry student is that the ministry student may be trained heavily in theological information that he fails to notice the practical application of theological education. Theological education is more than downloading massive volumes of theological information into a ministry student to produce a walking theological encyclopedia. One can easily purchase a theological encyclopedia for far less than the cost of theological education. Theological education is a means to prepare the ministry student for the practical application of real-world, hands-on ministry, and it is up to the student, educators, and seminaries together to ensure such application is woven into the framework of the theological education.
A third danger of theological education is that the ministry student leaves seminary with an attitude of superiority, feeling as though he has fully arrived in his knowledge of the Word of God and begin to think of his congregation as a different caliber of individuals than himself. This is a destructive danger. The minister will never fully arrive in his knowledge of the Word of God even after a lifetime of theological education and Scripture reading, as the Word of God is infinite in wisdom. One can spend their lifetime mining the riches of the Word of God, yet this endless stream of wisdom is more vast than all the oceans of the world. Additionally, no matter how much theological education the student acquires, without a genuine love for his congregation and a love for the lost and dying souls in need of a Savior and a love for the edification of believers, the minister will profit his congregation nothing. Seminary should be to lead ministers to humility, not haughtiness.
As students, we should allow theological education to both broaden and deepen our knowledge and wisdom of the Word of God. We should also allow our interaction with seminary professors and our fellow students to sharpen and refine us and our Christian character. Additionally, we should allow theological education to make us aware of theological discussions and ensure when we step into the pulpit, we are effectively proclaiming “thus saith the Lord” to our congregations.
With that said, we should be careful to ensure the Word of God continues to transform our lives as God’s living Word and not as a mere academic textbook that we read merely for information. We should also ensure we are not simply filling out minds with information to make us theological encyclopedias but learning the practical application of real-world ministry while we are in seminary. Lastly, we should be careful to ensure we never feel that we have exhausted the infinite mind of God in our theological education and allow seminary to bring us to a spirit of humility as we step into the pulpit and lovingly minister to our congregations. By paying attention to the dangers of theological education and avoiding the pitfalls, we can reap the immense benefits theological education can deliver us.