A new pastor recently got installed at our church. (Installing a pastor is a strange phrase!) It was a wonderful evening launching a new chapter of ministry for our nearly 50-year-old church. My pastor is a graduate of Fuller Seminary. The preacher for the evening, and the guest worship leader/musician, are also Fuller grads. My pastor invited two Fuller professors, one who teaches church history, one who teaches New Testament, to come to the event, and they did!
After the event, the professors huddled with my pastor, the preacher and the musician. They expressed how glad they were to be at this event.
Sidenote: As I entered into the world of theological education a few years ago leaving the pastorate to teach and administrate at Fuller, I discovered the world of accreditation and educational effectiveness. Accreditation at its best is a very good thing, helping to insure quality and standards for various institutions. What we hear most when the topic comes up is a mixture of blah, blah, blah and outcomes, portfolios, performance. Accreditation is important, but rarely inspiring.
As the pastors and professors huddled, the professors and I had accreditation on our minds. One of the professors said to those huddled: “What is most important is not reporting about educational effectiveness. What is important is you. I am so proud to see you three, serving the church, serving it well. This is why I teach. This is what I have to constantly remind myself of. It is about the church. It is about training people like you.”
This is simply the best explanation of the motivation behind those who engage in theological education. We are called to serve the church in its various forms, and to train, form and encourage those who serve in the church. Nothing is more encouraging or rewarding than seeing those who are our students doing the work of ministry well.
The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3: You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ before God.
My Fuller colleagues and I have a clue what Paul is talking about.