In the midst of current political turmoil in the United States of America (USA), we realize all too well how important ‘leadership’ is. How mature is a leader? To what degree is he or she able to keep his or her impulses and emotions in check? Does the leader understand the ‘big picture’? Does the leader understand history, precedent – the mistakes and blunders of the past? Has the leader had mentors who educated and inspired? Is he or she selfless? Is the ego in check? Informed? Nobel? Wise?
Do we ask the same questions of our church leaders, both in the USA and globally? For many reasons, the relevance of Christianity is dependent upon our answering these questions about our faith leaders in the affirmative. In our post-modern world, Christianity’s ‘salt’ is dependent on the quality of its church leaders. I firmly believe that contemporary faith leaders must be cosmopolitan, that is, they must have a global perspective. No longer can ministers be ensconced in the humanities; with Creation being threatened with pollution, a fundamental understanding and appreciation of science and technology becomes crucial. Ministers today must grapple with complex and nuanced political and societal dilemmas, without becoming so bogged down in ambiguity that they lose their prophetic voice. Ministers today must be able to contextualize biblical history and customs and relate them intelligibly to ‘2017 people’ in the pews.
Education is expensive and time-consuming. Yet, we must thoroughly and substantively educate and train our ministers. If we fail, all is lost.
While serving the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) teaching students theology, missiology, Christian history and ecumenism, I have learned that often what is preached must first be ‘teached’. Yes, divine inspiration, revelation, informs ministers in the pulpit. Yet, more often than not what was preached had to have first been ‘teached’. Our ministers are taught that with which they use to enlighten. At the Seth Mokitimi seminary and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, aspirant ministers of the UCCSA drink from the font of knowledge and wisdom so that the Christian faith will continue to be spread with relevance, integrity and life-changing power.
Prayer: Gracious and loving God, we pray for divine wisdom for our seminarians and ministers in training, both near and far. We pray for the resourcing and well-being of universities, seminaries and Bible colleges in the United States and South Africa, where liberal arts and theological education are often seen as expendable luxuries that often fail to escape budget cuts. Lord, in the words of Mohandas Gandhi, we pray against “wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, religion without sacrifice and politics without principle”. In the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.