IMPACT OF THEOLOGICAL TRAINING ON MINISTERS EFFECTIVENESS IN SOME SELECTED CHURCHES
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The study was carried out to examine the impact of theological training on minister’s effectiveness in some select churches of Assemblies of God Church in Onitsha District. Four research question were formulated in order to successfully conduct the study. Oral interviews and questionnaires were used to gather relevant information from respondents from the study area. A total of one hundred questionnaires were distributed to lecturers and students at the Church bible college; of these eighty five questionnaires were returned. After data collection analysis was done, where the collected information was interpreted to meet the objectives of the project. The study revealed that Assemblies of God Pastors illustrated situations where they applied theological training but there was still a conflict in connecting theological training and practical pastoral work when posted to serve. The study conclude that theological training is one of the major tool for character transformation, practical discipline, training of pastors for information and dissemination of spiritual information to the Assemblies of God Church and our society. It was recommended that the recruitment of the Lecturers in Assemblies of God theological College should be done in such a way that those that are sent there will not see the place as a punitive ground. While pastors were advised not to forget the training the obtained during their years in bible college.
1.1 Background to the Study
The primary aim of theological training of ministers has always been to produce church leaders that will perform various tasks in the congregation and in their host community. Theological training has its roots in Judaism and the extensive training that took place among the Jewish religious leaders, this practice continued during and after the time of Christ (Penner, 2001; Syiemlieh, 2006). Jesus last word to His followers was an instruction, telling them to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19). He also explained that they needed to tell people “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) about what they had learned from following Him.
Ministers are trained to fit into the various sacramental functions of the church according to the specific traditions of differing religious groups. Theological training remains an essential part of minister’s effectiveness in ministry all around the World. Theological training has the capability to be the seedbed for the renewal of churches, pastoral ministries, mission, commitment to Christian unity and the changing world. For nearly 2,000 years, the followers of Christ have worked in various ways to obeyed Jesus’s last words by teaching believers in local congregations about Christianity and its key values. Theological training is the enlightenment of the souls and minds of individuals about God and his activities. It is a process, which leads out men from the bondage of ignorance to knowledge, from the cage of “I don’t know, to the reality of facts about God, from the realm of the darkened mind to the glorious enlightenment of the word of God.
There is little doubt that one of most urgent issues facing the church in these critical times of doubt and confusion is the need for godly leaders. The church, indeed the whole world, desperately needs men and women who know God intimately, who look like Jesus Christ in their daily lives and who know how to help others to become mature disciples of Jesus (Dave Buckert writing in CCBT Newsletter, 2001).
Over the past century the church has relied heavily on formal Theological Education for developing pastoral leadership. Although theological schools have adopted new strategies for reaching more students, such as Theological Education by Extension, satellite campuses, correspondence and later on-line classes, this mode of education cannot meet the increasing demand for pastors, teachers and missionaries. Local churches around the world need more trained leaders than these institutions will ever be able to produce” (John. French and B. Raven, 2009).
But beyond the need for more trained leaders, equally important is the question, “What kind of theological training will give a solid and foundational basis for future Christian leaders to work in the contemporary world? What kind of Theological Education will impact society as a whole and address the individuals who are growing increasingly distant from God and His kingdom? To answer this question thoroughly, we need to realize that “for at least the last millennium of Christian history, if ever there were examples of the confusion of cultural values overwhelming truly Christian values it is in the area of training for ministry” (Smite, Robert C. 1999).
From the very beginning Christianity was a learning and teaching religion, as the sources of Christian faith were not just inner emotional feelings of the individual but a complex tradition transmitted in narratives, in hymns, in liturgy and later in creeds common to a majority of Christians at different places which could be memorized and had to be re-appropriated anew in each generation. Therefore, investment in theological training is investment of hope in the future and mission of our world. The transmission of Christian theology, the education for God’s peace and justice, and the formation for church and pastoral ministries therefore should be priorities in all churches; however, in many places theological training is far from secure or even in crisis at the present time.
Therefore, for us to faithfully preserve what has been handed over to us, and successful ensure its relevance it is the researcher’s assertion in this study that the current dominant model of Theological Education for church leadership development or pastoral training is incompatible with the stark realities of the Twenty-First Century and would not develop the type of leaders needed by the church to accomplish its mission in this Twenty-First Century world. Consequently, it is imperative for all stakeholders in the leadership development process of the church to consider other viable models of delivering quality Theological training to Christians, especially that of Church-Based Theological Training.
1.2 Problem Statement
The problem that has always confronted the Assemblies of God Nigeria is the lethargy to differentiate literate clergy from educated clergy, and literacy from education. This assertion is supported by the fact that the Assemblies of God Nigeria has always maintained a fundamentalist position on its theological training based only on the ability to read scripts without the proper educational training to interpret the scripts. According to (Elizabeth, Keefe & Susan, 2011), “how literacy is defined affects the classroom instruction, community services, and the literacy opportunities offered to students and adults.” In this regard, the philosophy of Assemblies of God Nigeria Bible schools from inception has been to help students develop the ability to read and write, and acquire physical skills to work in the ministry of the church. The AGN Bible schools were established by expatriate missionaries. With the exit of expatriate missionaries, the church is faced with the challenges of charting the path of its own theological education for training future generations. In the pressure for self-promotion and the fame game in seminaries, the practical ministry department, including missions, tends to be at the low end of the church vision. If the church will arise to maximize the opportunity that this era presents and minimize the threat that it portends then it is imperative that the training of its ministers especially in the context of Seminary education be given more attention. This formed the focus of this present study on impact of theological training on minister’s effectiveness.
- Aims/Objectives of the Study
The main aim of this study is to examine the impact of theological training on minister’s effectiveness. The specific objectives are to:
- Examine the significant relationship between theological training and pastor’s performance in some selected church of AGN in Onitsha District.
- Ascertain the social, economic, religious and academic backgrounds of Assemblies of God pastors, their motivation for joining ministry and how these factors affect their theological training.
- Critically evaluate the challenges faced by students and lecturers in the course of theological training and the effect of these challenges on pastoral ministry.
- Outline the biblical basis for Theological training for pastors in both the Old and New Testament
- Research Questions
To aid the completion of the study, the researcher intend to proffer solution to the following research questions:
- Is there any significant relationship between theological training and pastor’s performance in some selected church of AGN in Onitsha District?
- Are there challenges faced by students and lecturers in the course of theological training and the effect of these challenges on minister’s effectiveness?
- Do Assemblies of God pastors apply what they learn in theology school when faced with challenges in the ministry?
- Does minister’s effectiveness has any impact on the growth of the church?
1.5 Significance of the Study
At the completion of this study, all stakeholders will be engaged in a discussion that will help fine-tune and preserve the rich Theological training for minister’s effectiveness in a way and manner that is in agreement with biblical pattern and effective in getting the message of our Lord and saviour to the Twenty-First Century world; it will also serve to re-vitalize the potency of our testimonies as leaders and members of the church.
By stakeholders, the researcher means the Theological Seminaries and all other theological faculties of bible schools and colleges; pastors of both mega and non-mega churches; the leaders who have the call of God on their life and are desirous of getting trained and equipped for the heavenly task committed into their hands and all other people who feel it is in their best interest to know more about the task of theological training on pastoral ministry.
The study will also be beneficial to researchers who intend to embark on study in similar topic as the study will serve as a guide to their study. Finally the study will be beneficial to academia’s students and the general public.
1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study
Theological training is tied to service and the formation of all Christians, therefore this discussion on or examination of theological training was done within this context. This study confined itself to examining the impact theological training has in pastoral ministry. This study confined itself to examining the impact of theological training on minister’s effectiveness. This was is within the framework of some selected Assemblies of God Church in Onitsha, district. There were some constraint that tends to hinder the flow of this study, such limitations include:
Members Reluctance: In most cases the members of Assemblies of God Church often feels reluctance over providing required information required by the researcher. This result in finding information where the structured questionnaires could not point out.
Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Researcher’s Commitment: The researcher, being of full time student spent most of her time on other academic activities such as test, class work, assignment, examination etc which takes average focus from this study.
Inadequate Materials: Scarcity of material is also a major hindrance. The researcher finds it difficult to lay hands on several required material which could contribute immensely to the success of this research work.
1.7 Research Procedure
An historical research approach to the problem was adopted, and extensive literature review was done on the concept of theological education especially for leadership development from the period of the early church to our present day. The historical emergence of seminary based theological education and church based theological education was also sufficiently explored and the need for each was researched fully. The study of Assemblies of God Church Onitsha District in the context of historical trends, institutional and technological innovation realities in church leadership formation was also carried out.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Theology: Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries.
Training: Training is teaching, or developing in oneself or others, any skills and knowledge or fitness that relate to specific useful competencies. Training has specific goals of improving one’s capability, capacity, productivity and performance.
Theological Training: Theological education is the training of men and women to know and serve God. It has the potential to be the seedbed for the renewal of churches, their ministries, mission, commitment to Christian unity and the changing world.
Pastoral ministry: The term pastoral ministry relates to shepherds and their role caring for sheep. The term was adopted for metaphorical usage historically first by Christians, although many religions and non-religious traditions contain an emphasis on care and social responsibility.
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