This weekend, I finally graduated from Bible College. Being a distance student, I boarded a plane and flew to the campus early so I could have a face-to-face meeting with each lecturer who had taught me for at least one class during the last 4-5 years. It was a rich, busy time of joyful introductions and nourishing conversation, mixed in with the anticipation of celebrating this hard-earned achievement. During the days I was on campus, I was met with The Dreaded Question (the one students hate answering, but can’t avoid) over and over, and I find myself still thinking about the answers that I gave.
What’s the question? The old “So, what are you going to do now?”
In his book A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, Helmut Thielicke discusses a number of enemies that face theologians today; one of these is the idolisation of the “doer” as opposed to the “thinker”. Sadly I’ve come across this anti-intellectual attitude in more than one place during my studies, even to the point that people have declared theology to be a tool of the enemy; set up purely to cause arguments and divide the Christian Church. In his congratulatory address at the start of the graduation ceremony, our Bible College President encouraged these fresh scholars to be “not only thinkers, but informed doers”. I spent a long time thinking about his choice of phrase.
The words stirred thanks in me; thanks for the skills and tools that I’ve been equipped with in order to not simply keep the fire of my engine burning, but also to keep my wheels rolling. I’m grateful that the time of (formal) study is done, so that I can dedicate more of my resources to invest what I’ve learned in the classroom into my local congregation.
[As a small aside, please don’t think that I’m saying God needed me to have a Bible College degree before he could use me; I believe in the old adage “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called”. In my case, I felt very clearly called to formal study. In order to teach the bible, I felt a weight of responsibility to get trained on how to rightly handle scripture, so a degree was my way of following God’s call for me. Also, the formal study is over, but the learning process should always continue. I’ll never stop being a learner; every time I sit in a room with my peers I realise that I really don’t know anything!]
So what’s the answer to The Dreaded Question? I think the answer is multifaceted and wonderful. I’m called to be a loving father, a faithful husband, a committed and active member of a local church, and while there may be other positions or destinations that God has in store for me and my family, I believe that God has called me to faithfully teach his Word; whether I’m preaching to hundreds, lecturing to fifties, discipling one person, or leading my family. All these are glorious privileges, and I’m grateful to God for the way in which a theological degree positions me to invest in every person in every place he puts me.
So I strive to be both a thinker, and an informed doer.