By: Dr. Chuck Lawless
I admit my bias here. I am a seminary dean and professor, and I believe in education. My reason for writing this post, though, goes beyond these thoughts. If we are doing the work of God, we must give our absolute best. I desire to be part of a team that trains and sends out the strongest leaders in the world – leaders who make a difference in the kingdom of darkness. Those leaders never stop learning. Here are ten reasons why leaders should continue their education:
- The Christian life is about growth. We are babies in Christ at new birth, yet called to continual growth and maturity (Heb. 5:12-14). If we reach the point of assuming we’ve “arrived” and need no further training, we are instead neglecting our Christian responsibility.
- A willingness to learn is a sign of humility. Education is seldom easy. An openness to become a student again, to be held accountable for assignments, and to be evaluated by others is a sign of the kind of humility all leaders should exhibit.
- We always face theological issues. The authority of the Word of God, especially when evaluated against sacred documents of other world faiths, continues to be an issue. We must increasingly defend the truth that a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to God. Continued education can help us be better prepared to respond to these types of significant issues.
- We continue to confront new ethical and moral issues. When I started in ministry over thirty years ago, I did not imagine ministering in a culture that affirms same-sex marriage. Internet pornography was not even an option. Concerns like these are not, of course, separated from our theology, and further education equips us to minister in this changing culture.
- The people we lead are frequently still learning. At least in North America, we often minister to educated parishioners. Many of our congregations include professionals for whom continued education is assumed, if not required. Thus, they recognize the value that continued training offers for their spiritual leaders.
- Online learning allows us to continue education without leaving our ministry. Today, the Internet offers unprecedented opportunities for continued training without evacuating significant ministries. Southeastern Seminary now offers masters and doctoral degrees – including the PhD – that do not require residence in North Carolina.
- Learning within a group of peers is important. Many opportunities for advanced training include small group, peer-to-peer learning that focuses on particular aspects of leadership. Peers become not only classmates, but also prayer partners. Education thus becomes not only content-based, but also life-on-life.
- We often learn better after leadership experience. Learning apart from practical experience is not insignificant, but it risks becoming only theory rather than life application. The best students I know are those who leadership experience gives them a grid through which to evaluate concepts and programs.
- The discipline of learning is important. Let’s be honest: even leaders sometimes get lazy. We rely solely on yesterday’s learning to face today’s issues. We talk more about what we have read than about what we are reading. Continued education, on the other hand, challenges us to return to rigor and discipline.
- Continued education stretches our faith. The obstacles to further training are real. Too little time. Too few dollars. Too many years out of school. Too many other responsibilities. Too much risk of failure. Here’s the bottom line, though: sometimes we just have to trust God to help us do what He expects us to do.
First published at http://thomrainer.com.
Dr. Chuck Lawless is Professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Graduate Studies, and Vice President for Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.