Philip Jacob Spener recognizes the importance of clergy in the reform of the church. (Unfortunately, he only thought men should be pastors–so his quotes in this blog will reflect that. Just so you are aware, I am committed to the full participation of men and women in all areas of leadership and ministry in the church based upon calling and giftedness.) This does not contradict, but goes hand in hand with Spener’s emphasis on the priesthood of all believers.
Since ministers must bear the greatest burden in all these things which pertain to a reform of the church, and since their shortcomings do correspondingly great harm, it is of the utmost importance that the office of the ministry be occupied by men (sic!) who, above all, are themselves true Christians and, then, have the divine wisdom to guide others carefully on the way of the Lord. It is therefore important, indeed necessary, for the reform of the church that only such persons be called who may be suited, and that nothing at all except the glory of God be kept in view during the whole procedure of calling. Spener, Philip Jacob (1964-01-01). Pia Desideria (p. 103). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
While ministry has become a profession, and in some circles a CEO style business profession, Spener calls ministers to a life of holiness. Those who are called to the ministry of the pastorate are to live exemplary lives in the power of the Spirit. It is a matter of character. I am increasingly realizing the importance of self-awareness and examination, and the importance of striving towards gentleness, and kindness for pastoral leaders. This type of ministry life requires surrender, a reigning in of ego, a letting go. While credentials and knowledge can be important, following in the ways of Jesus is more important. We are crucified with Christ.
The pietist Mission Friends, the forerunners of the Evangelical Covenant Church, asked each other often: Are you alive in Jesus? That is a question to ask all followers, and it is a question that should be on the heart of clergy. Pastors are to be women and men who are in a deepening relationship with Jesus Christ and with mission friends. The hearts of pastors are to be warm towards Christ. This is the only place from which to serve and lead.
Spener also challenges theological schools and theological professors to engage in the formation of ministry leaders. Spener does not discount education, but he recognizes that theological education is about learning, and it is about forming. Theological eduction should be transformational, leading ministry students to greater devotion. A theological education should make someone a better follower of Jesus, as well as an equipped and competent ministry leader (those are all my words not Spener’s). We used to describe Fuller’s Doctor of Ministry program as Fire for your Ministry; Oxygen for your Soul (theologically reflective and on the ground learning and nurturing the heart). I think that reflects the balance. Spener says:
It is certain that a young man (sic) who fervently loves God, although adorned with limited gifts, will be more useful to the church of God with his meager talent and academic achievement than a vain and worldly fool with double doctor’s degrees who is very clever but has not been taught by God. The work of the former is blessed, and he is aided by the Holy Spirit. The latter has only a carnal knowledge, with which he can easily do more harm than good. Spener, Philip Jacob (1964-01-01). Pia Desideria (p. 108). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
Spener not only envisions a new type of theological college; he challenges professors to engage students not just by imparting knowledge. Spener calls professors to be examples of the faith in the way they live. He writes:
It would be especially helpful if the professors would pay attention to the life as well as the studies of the students entrusted to them and would from time to time speak to those who need to be spoken to. Spener, Philip Jacob (1964-01-01). Pia Desideria (p. 107). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
He calls them to be mentors and guides, people who point the way forward for ministry candidates, and who pull these candidates back in line when they get off track. Professors don’t just teach towards greater learning; professors guide students towards holiness.
This is the challenge before us who teach in seminaries and desire to see ministry leaders become theologically reflective practitioners–who think and act and live well. How must seminaries continue to change? Fuller Theological Seminary is intentionally engaging in this formation process. My departments at Fuller–the Doctor of Ministry Program and the Berry Center for Lifelong Learning are dedicated to this endeavor.
More personal–how shall seminary professors teach and live and mentor in order to encourage ministry leaders and those in training to live into their calling? This will change the way we spend our professional hours.
Spener one more time: Just because theology is a practical discipline and does not consist only of knowledge, study alone is not enough, nor is the mere accumulation and imparting of information. Accordingly thought should be given to ways of instituting all kinds of exercises through which students may become accustomed to and experienced in those things which belong to practice and to their edification. Spener, Philip Jacob (1964-01-01). Pia Desideria (p. 112). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
A book recommendation for those who are courageous enough to work on their insides in order to be the ministry leaders they are called to be: The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World –by Peter Scazzero