Doing the job

Essentials 4 Doing the job. 

Theological education is a glorious calling, teaching and living for the formation of students to go and serve God with their lives. But what of actually “doing the job”?

Doing the job of theological education transports us from glorious calling into the real, practical world, full of messy situations where we cannot just do what we want, where we cannot simply take our theoretical principles and ideas of best practice and use them as a shining programme of action. They remain guides, goals to which we strive, but must not be simplistic judgemental yardsticks of success or failure. That leads to damaging disappointment.

Theological education, like politics, is the art of the possible in a fallen world. It is fulfilling calling in a society that is not specially set up to make life easy for the teaching of theology. And, here is the crux of the issue, it is done by imperfect people for imperfect people. It therefore becomes a case of do what you can for God in the circumstances. Dare I say it? It is compromise with reality in the pursuit of greatest usefulness. In what areas does this need to work?

Firstly, in our teaching of students. You will find students both excitingly encouraging and sometimes disappointing. If you have not done so already, you are not yet in theological education. Motivation, levels of commitment, ability and spirituality all vary. After all, students too are struggling with weaknesses, mistakes and difficult circumstances in trying to do what God has asked of them.

Secondly, in the management of the college or seminary. Generally speaking, to do all you want, you need more money than you have. And, although colleges can feel like heaven now and then, there is a significant “not yet” about it all. Theological institutions have staff members who are sufficiently imperfect to fall out with each other, make mistakes, and sometimes find it hard to reconcile their own sense of calling with the precise mission of the seminary.

Thirdly, in the constrictions imposed on us by society, government agencies, accreditations and secular attitudes to what we try to do. Those institutions which receive government finance for their students, seek to bring students from abroad and ask for secular accreditation have the most frustrations.

Fourthly, in our personal goals. How often do we come to the end of the day concluding that we have not done all we intended to do? The end of the year? The end of the role? The end of the ministry? Outward circumstances and internal weaknesses often conspire together.

In the midst of all of this complication and struggling with imperfection, we should not forget the simplifying power of Hebrews 12v2 – keeping our eyes on Jesus who calls us with real understanding of reality, having walked physically in this imperfect world and done the will of God. His request is to do what we can with Him and for Him.

It would not be so bad to hear at the end of it all something like

“Well done good and faithful servant, you have joyfully done what you can as an imperfect person in a messy, hard, sometimes disappointing, situation and good has come of it for my kingdom. Enter into the joy of your Lord”.

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3 Comments on “Doing the job”

  1. Our weakenesses show us how much the work of the Kingdom is about him and not about us and just our sucess. great post.

  2. Perry W Shaw Says:

    As always a great encouragement, Graham. Of course there is so much that could be added, but what comes immediately to mind is the challenge of working with our colleagues. One’s hope is for heavenly relationships among those who teach those who should be the church’s finest – but sometimes it is very “earthy” and on occasions downright “hellish”. However, when we can work through difficult relationships with grace we model life together to our students. This is when we genuinely “do the job”.

  3. Dorothy Anderson Says:

    Your final paragraph is something to which we may all aspire. Thank you, Graham, for your encouragements.

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