Why Church Leaders Need To Continue Their Education

By: Dr. Chuck Lawless

I admit my bias here. I am a seminary dean and professor, and I believe in education. My reason for writing this post, though, goes beyond these thoughts. If we are doing the work of God, we must give our absolute best. I desire to be part of a team that trains and sends out the strongest leaders in the world – leaders who make a difference in the kingdom of darkness. Those leaders never stop learning. Here are ten reasons why leaders should continue their education:

  1. The Christian life is about growth. We are babies in Christ at new birth, yet called to continual growth and maturity (Heb. 5:12-14). If we reach the point of assuming we’ve “arrived” and need no further training, we are instead neglecting our Christian responsibility.
  1. A willingness to learn is a sign of humility. Education is seldom easy. An openness to become a student again, to be held accountable for assignments, and to be evaluated by others is a sign of the kind of humility all leaders should exhibit.
  1. We always face theological issues. The authority of the Word of God, especially when evaluated against sacred documents of other world faiths, continues to be an issue. We must increasingly defend the truth that a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to God. Continued education can help us be better prepared to respond to these types of significant issues.
  1. We continue to confront new ethical and moral issues. When I started in ministry over thirty years ago, I did not imagine ministering in a culture that affirms same-sex marriage. Internet pornography was not even an option. Concerns like these are not, of course, separated from our theology, and further education equips us to minister in this changing culture.
  1. The people we lead are frequently still learning. At least in North America, we often minister to educated parishioners. Many of our congregations include professionals for whom continued education is assumed, if not required. Thus, they recognize the value that continued training offers for their spiritual leaders.
  1. Online learning allows us to continue education without leaving our ministry. Today, the Internet offers unprecedented opportunities for continued training without evacuating significant ministries. Southeastern Seminary now offers masters and doctoral degrees – including the PhD – that do not require residence in North Carolina.
  1. Learning within a group of peers is important. Many opportunities for advanced training include small group, peer-to-peer learning that focuses on particular aspects of leadership. Peers become not only classmates, but also prayer partners. Education thus becomes not only content-based, but also life-on-life.
  1. We often learn better after leadership experience. Learning apart from practical experience is not insignificant, but it risks becoming only theory rather than life application. The best students I know are those who leadership experience gives them a grid through which to evaluate concepts and programs.
  1. The discipline of learning is important. Let’s be honest: even leaders sometimes get lazy. We rely solely on yesterday’s learning to face today’s issues. We talk more about what we have read than about what we are reading. Continued education, on the other hand, challenges us to return to rigor and discipline.
  1. Continued education stretches our faith. The obstacles to further training are real. Too little time. Too few dollars. Too many years out of school. Too many other responsibilities. Too much risk of failure. Here’s the bottom line, though: sometimes we just have to trust God to help us do what He expects us to do.

First published at http://thomrainer.com.

Dr. Chuck Lawless is Professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Graduate Studies, and Vice President for Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In Case You Missed It

Yesterday, SEBTS English professor Matthew Mullins published an article at First Things magazine about the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Dr. Mullins writes:

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. But with the 2016 elections just over a year away, the passing of the VRA has taken on new meaning. In June of 2013, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court invalidated key provisions of the VRA. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts declared the section of the Act requiring “preclearance” from certain states and districts unconstitutional. This ruling allows these jurisdictions to make changes in voting laws with greater ease. Many have already done so, and some of the results suggest that we may have more reasons to mourn the passing of the VRA than to celebrate its passage.

Karen Swallow Prior published a story earlier this week at Think Christian about mourning Mark Zuckerberg’s miscarriages in the shadow of Planned Parenthood. In her article Karen raises an interesting point around potential life and actual life:

I can’t help but think that the contradictory ideas society holds about unborn children (who are considered babies when wanted and something else when not) owes in part to our tendency to conceive of child bearing as product- rather than process-oriented. The very term reproduction reflects such thinking. Our tendency, even within the church, to think with the product – rather than the means – in mind has dulled our understanding of a crucial distinction between potential life and actual life.

On his blog, Chuck Lawless gives 10 reasons pornography has power.

I suspect most if not all of the readers of this post know somebody who has struggled with pornography. From the teenager struggling with new desires to the senior pastor recently caught in sin, even believers wrestle with this sin. Perhaps if we understand why pornography has so much power, we would know better how to fight against it.

Thom Rainer posted an article about which books he would keep if he could only have 25 books in his minister’s library.

I began the process thinking it would be a simple exercise. I was wrong! I had great trouble narrowing the list to 25. Here are some of the parameters I used.

  • I didn’t hesitate to choose books that were simply personal preferences.
  • I decided at the onset I would strive to choose a variety of issues and topics, rather than just the 25 best books.
  • I was sufficiently lacking in humility, and put two of my own books on the list.
  • I really struggled eliminating many commentaries of individual Bible books.

Selma Wilson writes a reminder to parents: Building a yes home prepares your children to say yes to God.

Sure, children need direction and discipline. Along with boundaries, however, children crave a place to exercise physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. A yes home, with clearly established boundaries, gives them room to stretch, run, and grow with you close by.