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

1) Thomas S. Kidd discusses professors and the new public square. In his post Kidd writes:

E-mail, Twitter, blogging, and podcasts have dramatically lowered the structural barriers between professors and a potential reading public. But these are only possibilities unless academics avail themselves of them, and it remains to be seen whether they will…Academics who want to reach a broader audience will have to get used to the idea that they need to reach out to their prospective readers.

2) In this post, Joe McKeever reflects on his single biggest regret from 53 years of ministry: Making time for his family.

The minister who learns to say ‘no’ in order to protect his time with the family will occasionally anger a self-centered, demanding church member. But it’s a small price to pay, and in the long run, works out best both for the family and the immature member. Only a strong pastor can do this. I sure wish I’d been one.

3) Keelan Cook reflects on Muslim immigration in this post.

The least reached peoples are now in arms reach. And for the first time in our history, every, single member of your church can impact the nations in this way. Believers who never could go overseas no longer have to in order to share Christ with a Muslim, or a Hindu or Buddhist for that matter. We now share space. We share a marketplace. This is not bad news, if your heart is to share the good news of Christ.

4) Ed Stetzer discusses discipleship of new believers and how to focus on spiritual growth and transformation in this post.

More often than not people respond to Christ because they are in a life crisis, not just because they wake up feeling the need to be closer to Christ…every church needs a pathway which will provide direction for their discipleship plan, and also show how they grow together as a church.

5) Cameron Stanley, a member of a team of SEBTS students serving this summer in San Diego provides his take on the limitless boundaries of God’s love from a quick trip across the border.

One of the main lessons I was able to learn from that day was that God’s love transcends all boundaries. Regardless of the language barrier, the actual land boundary, or any other self-construed boundary pretense, we were able to share Christ, only by His grace. If we live life on mission with the idea that God’s love transcends all boundaries, pursing Him in all that we do, there is nothing that He can’t use us for.