The Role Of Biblical Study In Preparation For Ministry -- By: Richard A. Spencer

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 03:2 (Spring 1986)
Article: The Role Of Biblical Study In Preparation For Ministry
Author: Richard A. Spencer


The Role Of Biblical Study In
Preparation For Ministry

Richard A. Spencer

Professor of New Testament,
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

It is beyond question that the life of the church and the message of the Bible are inseparably entwined. Where the church is truly the Body of Christ and not a social institution with a fondness for Jesus, serious and consistent attention will be given to the Scriptures. And where the awesome demand and overwhelming grace of God recorded in
the Scriptures are the regular fare of the believers, there will be a community that truly bears witness to and lives for its Lord. Christ does not have a church made up of many members. Christ’s body is the church. When all of his members function as they ought, they live for him, to him, and by him. Since the subject of both the Old and the New Testaments is God’s final revelation of himself in Christ, his body can do no less than give the Bible a central place in its life and work. The church and the Bible cannot
be separated.

In considering this broad topic “the role of biblical study in preparation for ministry,” I am faced with the dilemma of whether to address the topic ideally or to describe the situation realistically as it is practiced in theology schools and seminaries today. The ideal of the Bible as a constant and basic resource for Christian living and ministry is far from being realized in much of the church—both in its congregational life and in its theological education. The place we say the Bible should have and the place we actually give it are not the same. So, I shall consider separately the ideal and the realistic situation, and then make some comments on maintaining the ideal in the real world.

I. The Role Of Biblical Study In Preparation For Ministry: The Ideal

Many lay people who send their young people off to seminary to prepare for the ministry—and many first-year seminary students—have the idea that studying the Bible in theology school is a very practical exercise. They anticipate the acquiring of answers to those tough questions posed by the Scriptures: how can the sun stand still? how can one “pray constantly”? how can women be told to keep silent in the church, yet be told in the same Corinthian letter that they should keep their head covered while they pray or prophesy? can a divorced man be a deacon? what is the unforgivable sin? and what about baptism for the dead and speaking in tongues... ?

If the delivery of working data were the goal of Bible study in preparation for ministry, all we would need to do to accomplish that goal would be to distribute packets of information about biblical books and give tests on the data much like drivers’ license examinati...

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