The Well-Rounded Professor
Theological education is unique. While there may be parallels between what we do at TCBS and what occurs in other institutions of higher education—we meet in classrooms, we provide our students a syllabus at the beginning of each quarter, we test learning progress through the means of quizzes, tests, and papers—there should be a distinctive flavor to our labor as seminary professors.
We are not in the business of mere knowledge transfer from one mind to another; we are working to shape our students into holy men who are rooted in the unshakable truth of God’s Word and walk in love toward God and their people. The end-game for theological education for our students is not just a diploma and access to greater ministry opportunities, but a well-rounded life of wisdom and pastoral competency.
A Well-Rounded Ministry
Our work, then, must be simultaneously characterized by academic rigor and pastoral sensitivity, deep thought and passionate worship, careful study and consistent prayer, challenging workloads and patient instruction, competency with the material and competency in our counsel, integrity in our teaching, and authenticity in our personal lives.
Unlike other disciplines where the professor isn’t necessarily required to demonstrate personal character that is consistent with the material he espouses, theological education is unique precisely because it demands that the professor is a living model of the truth he proclaims each quarter. For the student, theological education is holistic because the subject matter encompasses the whole person and the whole of life.
How to Grow as a Professor
But how do you, as a pastor, intentionally cultivate an effective, well-balanced ministry of theological pedagogy for aspiring pastors and other ministers? Above all, we attend closely to our walk with the Lord Jesus. In his excellent book, Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon wisely observed that we will “likely accomplish most when we are in the best spiritual condition” (7). Due to the nature of our instruction and the fruit we hope to see in the lives of our students, our personal holiness is the top priority in theological education. A reverent, humble walk with God is the root and nutrient of an effective professorship (Prov 4:23; Micah 6:8; James 4:6).
Second, we seek constantly to improve our class material and our teaching skill. The wise man is the one who is always searching after wisdom and growing in the truth (Prov 2:1-10; 9:9; 10:8, 14; 12:15). But he is also the one who strives after effective communication. Solomon not only exhorts us to exercise diligence in our pursuit of wisdom, he also exemplifies how one should prioritize the way in which he communicates what he knows. “Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth” (Eccl 12:9-10).
We benefit from Solomon’s writings because they were produced with a deliberate concern for the reader/listener. Rather than haphazardly throwing truthful propositions together in a disorganized heap, Solomon pondered over the use of words so that what he wrote would be effective and enjoyable, and he paid attention to the pedagogical arrangement of his material so that the student would more readily grasp what he taught.
When a professor has been diligent to gather wisdom while also laboring to communicate that wisdom in a way that is most conducive to student comprehension and retention, his classes will become a rich source of spiritual joy and health. “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Prov 13:14).
Regular Encouragement for You
On a regular basis over the course of this academic year, I plan to provide you with biblical encouragement and practical resources to help you in your pursuit of educational excellence. My prayer for each of us is that we, by God’s grace, will take even greater strides this year in our growth as seminary professors so that we might see the fruit of changed lives and competent ministers redound to the glory of God.