Why do they want me?
At Missionary Training and Renewal, I met several different people who had some connection to the school I will be teaching at in Belgium, Continental Theological Seminary, so I got several different perspectives on it. One woman on the Europe leadership team had worked there for years some time ago and told me a lot of the practical things I wanted to know, like what the physical structure of the school is like (it is in an old chateau which was constructed out of the horse stables belonging to an ancient castle…). I had a lot of questions answered that people are always asking and I have no idea about since I have never been there. (Alas, I have no pictures that I have permission to use. But you can go here and see pictures for yourself.)
On the very last day, at the commissioning service, I got to meet two presidents of CTS. The last president, Roland Dudley, is now teaching at Trinity Bible College, my own alma mater, and I got to be introduced to him in passing there. The current president, Dr. Joseph Dimitrov, was also there. Dr. Dimitrov is Bulgarian and is the first non-American president of CTS. I’ve talked to him on Skype once, but I actually met him properly, and he prayed for me during the prayer service at the end.
But my first meeting was with Terry Hoggard, CTS’s Director of Development, and it answered my most important question: What on earth do you want me for? I have caught myself wondering, What have I got that someone else can’t provide for you? Am I really going to do something indispensable? Am I worth people supporting me when they could be supporting orphans in Africa?
Without knowing any of that, Terry told me about CTS’s goals for the future, and those goals are something I can contribute meaningfully to. The European model of theological education is totally academic and intellectual. Now, I adore the academic and intellectual, as anyone who knows me knows. But, he said, they need to learn how to integrate the intellectual with the spiritual. European students don’t expect their spiritual life to be enlivened by their theological education. The CTS leadership is making a concerted effort to move in the direction of community and spiritual life. Forty students were filled with the Spirit there last year! That’s nearly half the student body.
Ever since I was at Trinity Bible College (I graduated in 2003), I have longed to help students make that connection. When you go to Bible college, you’re often warned to take extra great careful care for your spiritual life, because being in theological classes all the time can kill it. (Never mind that if you don’t take extra great careful care for your spiritual life, anything will kill it.) But I found the exact opposite to be the case. My spiritual life was enlivened and expanded by being at Bible college and in theology and missiology and Greek classes. When I learned something about, say, God’s purposes behind the sacrificial structure established in the Pentateuch in an Old Testament class, or about how Francis of Assisi became a Christian in a Christian history class, or about particular strategies for reaching a particular people group in a missions class, or about the significance behind Paul’s use of a participle in a particular passage in a Greek class…my mind expanded and with it my heart and my excitement about what God does and my enjoyment of who He is. Oh, I loved it.
That’s the teacher I want to be, not just one who says, “This is what a participle is,” but one who shows why the participle is important to the structure of Paul’s sentence and the overall goal of what he is trying to teach about God and the church. Or not just one who teaches the dates that Francis of Assisi lived and the structures he established in the Catholic Church, but one who can show how his life was transformed, how God used him to transform aspects of the Church of his era, how similar that is to what God did through John Wesley, how similar that is to what God wants to and can do in the Church in Europe…
CTS needs me. Isn’t that crazy? I need CTS, because I don’t have much teaching experience, and being there will give it to me. But they need me, too, because I have a perspective they are deeply wanting, and the very thing I have wanted to contribute to any school I am in is the very thing they want from me. Why, yes, I am actually worth people supporting. Because I’m called by God, for one thing, and because I’m going to go do something rather special He’s laid out for me.