Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Should theological training always lead to the ministry?

This is an issue which we face here in my context. The understanding that we have here is, once someone goes for theological training he or she must always come out as Christian ministers engaged in full time Christian ministry. This is mandatory. Anyone who chooses a different path other than what is culturally acceptable will face social ridicule. I'm just touching this issue in a general manner. So for those living in the vicinity of Miri, forgive me for my broad explanation of the issue at hand.

I would like to hear your views on this.


Eilidh said...


when you talk about full-time ministry, do you mean becoming a pastor of a congregation? or a wider context of youth ministry/mission etc?

Either way, I'm personally of the opinion that theological training can lead to any number of things, for example religious education in schools. Theology is a pretty specialised subject so I can see how people might assume you would go straight "into the ministry" (I've found that myself). As I don't understand fully your situation I can't really comment, but in my own view, studying theology should be able to lead in any direction. It strikes me that limiting a theology student's career prospects could (but not always) lead to limiting God's plan for said student.


Tremonti said...


Yes the context of talking about fulltime ministry covers both. Although being a pastor of a congregation is the norm.

The context here is that people have a narrow view of serving God. Though I would not say that is evident in every Malaysian context, I know it of my own context in Malaysia. So that is why there is absolutely no possibility of theologically trained student to follow a different route in their careers.

Most ministerial positions that one will find himself or herself in is being a pastor of a congregation. You will rarely find more than one pastor for a congregation. Youth pastors are rare. And other ministerial positions are simply unheard of (there are missionaries of course) but other that that it only pastoral posts.

There are many other issues but I'm not sure where to start on this. From my own point of view there is nothing wrong if one chooses a different route than conventional christian ministry. I also feel that theological training can be beneficial to those opting for other careers.

But not everyone thinks of it this way. I was just interested to hear if you were going through the same issue. Maybe in different contexts this would be deemed a non issue.

Part of the problem here is there is still a stark contras of the secular and sacred sphere of understanding here.

Thanks for stating your views though.

Mason said...

I’ve seen that tendency as well, to assume that theological training necessarily ought to lead to either a pastoral role, para-church ministries, missions, or less often a teaching role (which is the path I’m pursuing).

Now, all these are excellent things, but it is so wrong to assume that either
A. only certain people (those in ‘the ministry’) need theological education or could apply it to their lives on a day to day level. Or,
B. If you do have theological education and do not choose one of the above paths then you are choosing something less, something not quite as important or ‘spiritual’

I don’t think either of those all too frequent assumptions are at all Biblical. We should desire everyone is able to learn more about God and his Word, no matter what career they choose to be in. If we assume that non-ministry people should not learn at the academy or elsewhere at the same level as those in the ministry, we are essentially setting up an elite to dictate to the masses what the Bible is saying which they need to believe sine we are the learned ones.
Also, the idea that the ministry is more or less spiritual/worthy than other vocations is terribly dualistic and misses the clear Biblical theme that what we do on this earth matters not just later in a spiritual way, but both now and later in a physical/new creation way. Wright’s “Surprised by Hope” and Wittmer’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” are good remedies to this sort of thinking.

Tremonti said...


Thanks for this. What you said here is spot on
"We should desire everyone is able to learn more about God and his Word, no matter what career they choose to be in."

And what you said about dualism is so true. This is the main problem with some of the folks here i believe. Dualism is actually killing the numerous possibilities of an engaging christian life.

God's call for a person is that we become salt and light wherever we are and this is surely not to be confined in just a christian setting.

I am also pursuing a teaching role but this path is usually ignored. No many pursue it or see any good that may come out of it. Academia to some is just plain nonsense. But i do wish that these kind of thinking will eventually change.

Thanks for your book recommendations too. I have Wright's "Surprised by Hope" but not that familiar with Wittmer’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth”. I think i have it on my wish list though.

Eilidh said...


thanks for shedding a bit more light there. my own situation is pretty different in practice, but the assumption that because you're studying theology means you're going to become the pastor of a church is still pretty strong. That's not the path I want to go down myself, and culturally for me that's not a problem. many different students (past and present) i know have gone into different things, some teaching, some have become ministers and some have just used the degree as a degree and a way to do other things. it's interesting to see such a marked difference.


Tremonti said...


Just to be clear that my malaysian context covers just a small sphere. hehe. I don't want to be crucified later on misrepresenting my malaysian context.hahahaha.

Anyway for women in ministry the prospects are not encouraging.

1. Not many churches want women to pastor a church.
2. If the women minister marries someone other than a pastor she will have to relinquish her ministerial positions.
3. Most women ministers here either are involved in the children ministry or doing become part of the administrative staff in church.

So over here we have to do a lot of rethinking. There is still along way to go in actually prying open these type of thinking.

Eilidh said...


oooh women in the ministry is a whole other ballgame! my own opinion of women ministers is still to be fully formed, but i'm not really in favour of it for a variety of reasons. i know at least one lady who i'm at college with whose plan it is to go into the ministry, and while she deals with a fair bit of opposition she also has quite a bit of support.

at the end of the day i think everywhere has a lots of rethinking to do with regard to who you have as leaders/ministers/pastors of the church. sadly where i am, it seems you don't always have to be a christian to be a minister which is incredibly worrying. it also has to be said though that the majority of ministers are preaching the Word faithfully. ideally though, all of them would be.

going back to the original issue, i still think it's possible for a person to study theology and come out doing something completely unrelated, but it's surely the responsibility of these people to use what they learn for the benefit of other people.


Tremonti said...


I just thought i'd throw in the issues of women in ministry because it does cover some parts of the question.

I would like to ask what you meant here: "but i'm not really in favour of it for a variety of reasons". I just wanted to get some clarifications thats all. Do you mean that you are, at the moment, not in favor of women in ministers? or the other way round.

A what you said here:
"it seems you don't always have to be a christian to be a minister"
really struck me. Over here this is at least 'unheard' of. I guess some people take it as just another profession.

Very interesting conversation.

Eilidh said...


"Very interesting conversation."

Indeed. As far as women ministers go, I am currently not in favour. I think for a variety of reasons it is best if ministers are men. I don't agree with the argument that men are ministers so why shouldn't women, as all are equal, because equality doesn't mean get treated exactly the same. men and women have different roles.

As far as non-Christians being ministers, I would reckon that these people think they are Christians, but what they're teaching certainly isn't the Gospel.


Kurt said...

1st in regards to the main post...
I do not see this in my current context. We have people at our seminary who are not in full time or vocational ministry and have no intention of doing so; rather they are simply enriching themselves. I think this issue is probably different depending on both the location and the denomination.

2nd... i just want to say that i am fully in favor of females in ministry in ANY ROLE as long as they have been authentically called of God to do so. an excellent defence of this position can be found in Scot McKnight's book: Blue Parakeet (this is old news to you Jon, but added it in there for EW) and also in an NT Wright article tha can be found at here:

Tremonti said...

It might take a few years for us here to reach that level.haha. But there was a pastor i met who is challenging those who are working in the 'secular' world to set some time to go to seminary for a few years. It will be their own decision on whether they choose fulltime ministry or still remain in the 'secular world'. But just like you said, this pastor is just nudging these people to enrich themselves.

I would agree that McKnight makes a good case for women in ministry. He deals with the issue taking the whole biblical narrative in building his argument. For me, im in agreement for women to minister in any role. My denomination believes this too but in practicing what they believe it is another thing. And thnaks for the link as well. This is helpful.

Hopeful Theo

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I'm a student of Theology (currently and will always be one). I'm a student of culture and a student of music as well. I guess you could say life is a never ending journey of learning. Because of that we never stop being students. Just a little something about this blog: Deconstructing The Monkey is all about being a safe space for emerging conversations