At the beginning of a new year one might ask; what kind of education does a person need to be a pastor? How should a relevant curriculum be set up? There are various responses out there to such a question, the variety mostly being due to the kind of denominational traditions involved.
But if we are engaged in pastoral education, such questions should always be considered relevant. How should a theological curriculum be composed to best equip a person to serve as a pastor in a church today? Our social wold is becoming more and more influenced by what is often called globalization: influences that were rare are now becoming common, religious ideas that were exotic and strange are being held by our neighbors across the street, or at the next door, and religion as such is being scrutinized, evaluated and criticized to an extent unknown to many only a few years ago.
In a book published in 2007 by Timothy C. Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology (Zondervan, 2007), I found the following statement of opinion:
The purpose has been to widen the perimeterof theological reflection so that the theologians, church leaders and missionaries of tomorrow will be more adequately equippedto respond to the changing global context in which we live. Why do theological students in the West continue to spend countless hours learning about the writings of a few well-known , now deceased, German theologians whose global devotees are actually quite small, and yet completely ignore over one billion living, breathing Muslims who represent one of the most formidable challenges to the Christian Gospel today? We must be far more intentional about fostering a more engaged, missionfocused theology that is informed by actual global realities. The effectiveness of our global witness as the church of Christ depends upon it.
Looking back on the first decade of this millennium, I think two challenges are particularly relevant for pastors and thus for
a theological education that want to be relevant; namely a) the challenges from Muslim communities and theology to Christian theology (in a wide sense of the term), and b) the challenges from the growing and aggressive forms of atheism associated with writers as e.g., Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Victor J. Stenger, just to mention a few.
The former is relevant because it challenges our pictures of God, Jesus, and in fact of many other aspects of Biblical Christianity; the latter presents itself as a more scientific challenge, but I am not so much afraid of that as the vulgar picture they draw up of religion in general and Christianity in particular, and the impact it may have on those in the pews who never hear a sermon in which such aspects and issues are dealt with.
Surely, there are challenges out there;
but nevertheless: have a happy and healthy year in 2010!