THE ROLE OF THEOLOGICAL TRAINING ON PASTORAL MINISTRY (A CASE STUDY OF ASSEMBLIES OF GOD CHURCH)
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This study examines the role of theological training on pastoral ministry using the Assemblies of God Church Rivers District as case study. 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
Theological training is vital for the future of pastoral ministries all around the World. Theological training has the potential to be the seedbed for the renewal of churches, pastoral ministries, mission, commitment to Christian unity and the changing world. Although there is an age-long unresolved conflict between theological training and actual pastoral responsibilities in Nigeria. The question of why most of the graduates from theological institutions not teaching and living these truths taught at the seminary? This question still bothers most researchers as there is a clear difference between what pastors professes and practices; which led to finding out why what is taught in the Seminary does not accurately depict the realities in the churches today? Theology training is not simply the usual academic pursuits, it involve the entire human person, not just the intellect (R.H. Mounce, 1991).
There is widespread consensus that every pastor in the ministry should understand Christian faith and tradition in their fullness and should have access to basic education, faith nurture, and empowerment for mission. The book of Acts chapter two could be traced back in time to the last chapters of the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke (Matt. 28:16-20; Mk. 16: 14-20; Luke. 24: 44-53), in those records lies the Great Commission that Jesus gave before his ascension. Inherent in these biblical accounts is the specific instruction to the believers of being sent to “make disciples and teach”. It is instructive to note that Jesus sent those he had trained and prepared (Mk. 3:13-19; Luke. 6:12-16) and here lies the unassailable fact: for there to be a fulfilment of the mission of the church,, the church must be at all times involved in the training, discipling, and teaching of all believers. This is the essence of theological training and Christian education in particular.
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 Education to the people of God, especially that of Church-Based Theological Training. This is a task we cannot afford to shirk. Which led to the study on the impact of theological training on pastoral ministry.
1.2 Problem Statement
The challenges facing pastoral ministries in Christianity is as old as Christianity itself, and in responding to this great task several strategies have been developed through the ages to accomplish the task of providing quality, relevant, timely, and effective Theological training to the body of Christ, especially at the leadership or ministerial seminary. The church has formed a bad reputation in our general societies today. Christians are dropping out of their churches in large number, while others do not dare to set foot in a church again. Reasons being that people are being hurt, ignored and even abused by the institution that was designed to save, love, and help the people of God and the people around them. The church was to train its people and release them into the world with the power of the Spirit to proclaim the Kingdom of Christ, yet the kingdom of selfishness and misdirected priorities have taken over the ministry today. Traditional Seminary education somehow has failed to deliver on its promise of producing effective ministers, that the Seminary experience contributes little to the effectiveness its graduates. This is due in a large part to the fact that Theological Education has largely adopted the traditional academic model for training clergy. Its way of knowing is pagan, not biblical. This way of knowing promotes a detached, uncommitted, “objective” relationship to pastoral ministry. It has institutionalized competition, pride and dependence on the praise of men, these days it is called “accreditation”. Typically, it holds out as an ideal to emulate an institution of “higher learning” that has devastated the faith of millions. 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 the role of theological training on pastoral ministry.
- Aims/Objectives of the Study
The primary aim of this study is to examine the role of theological training on pastoral ministry. The specific objectives are to:
- Examine the significant relationship between theological training and pastor’s performance in Assemblies of God Church, Rivers 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 Assemblies of God Church?
- Are there challenges faced by students and lecturers in the course of theological training and the effect of these challenges on pastoral ministry?
- Do Assemblies of God pastors apply what they learn in theology school when faced with challenges in the ministry?
- Does pastoral ministry 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 pastoral ministry 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 role theological training has in pastoral ministry. This study confined itself to examining the impact of theological training on pastoral ministry. This was is within the framework of the Assemblies of God Church and with specific reference to Pentecostal Theological Seminary Eleme, which is located in Eleme, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. There were some constraint that tends to hinder the flow of this study, such limitations include:
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).
Members Reluctance: In most cases the members of Assemblies of God Church Seminary often feels reluctance over providing required information required by the researcher. This result in finding information where the structured questionnaires could not point out.
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 Rivers 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.
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.
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.
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