I have to admit that being in seminary raises the complexity of determining calling. I say this because the initial logic for people who intend to do theological studies is that they are preparing for ministry. Or to put it more bluntly, the pastoral ministry.
Personally, weighing all the resources of my own capabilities, I don’t think I fit as a pastor. I have no conviction that it is my call, in terms of vocation. But that somehow disrupts the initial plan that I’m in seminary. It does disrupt the logical passage.
So, whenever I do convey this to people and say that I think I fit more in the context of teaching and I hope that is in the context of seminary, I’ll probably get a few laughs directed at me. Maybe for some that is a pious aspiration or prideful wish but should it be? (although people might argue that the designation in Ephesians 4:11 about the office of teacher and pastor go hand in hand, I would assume that Paul had no vision of that to explain our context now of theological education.)
I hear people complaining about the reading work load, the struggle with writing, and all that is boring about seminary setting but these are stuff that resonates with me. I don’t complain that much about all these things though.
But putting that aside, I was having a conversation with someone about something to do with my calling and I said I probably fit more in the context of teaching. My conversation partner replied that the logical route of that calling is the pastoral ministry and is accorded as a good fit for teaching, especially in a seminary setting. He continued that, one needs to be rooted in pastoral ministry to be a good fit for teaching. But, I think this poses problems, although I do agree in some way that the argument given is true.
To me it raises the question asking, “What is the purpose of pursuing theological studies?” and another one might be, “Is theological education only for the reason of ‘making’ pastors?”
I guess if one answers these two questions as the purpose of theological training is solely for the training of pastors and that being the only reason, the seminary has a somewhat reductionistic vision. Although it is true that there is a strong case for training pastors, it must not be the sole vision. What about people who seek theological training who work in the vicinity of the market place, or for house wives who are interested in doing the courses? Do we neglect the role of theological education for the masses and the implication of what it can do for the lives of those who do not intend to get directly involved in church ministry?
And if that is the case, are we not again digressing our understanding of ministry and reduce it to the church context only? Are we not in that manner creating again the chasm between sacred and secular?
With those views stated, I still think there is room for student who have a calling to pursue higher theological education to stay in their field and expand. They should be people who are specialized in their fields, they should pursue it with the utmost passion, without the need to argue again that by pursuing that route, they are only academic and disengaged with the church.
I do find it frustrating if someone argues that the only best model is the teacher who has done extensive pastoral or ministerial training. Sure, they will know how to address pastoral issues well, but does that warrant a good rational for that argument? Are not academics in conversation with pastors? Can’t there be some sort of budding in knowledge that a pastor can gain from an academic or vice versa?
With all of those questions barraging my mind I’m in a frustrated stance at the moment because the situation does not permit this sort of thing to occur. I’m starting to think that, if anyone does pose a question to me on calling, I would be happy to answer, “I have no idea,” because that will then leave me in a calm demeanor rather than make my emotions all welled up again.