Strengthening the Church Through Seminary Education
There are few things more frightening than being given a job that you donΓÇÖt feel equipped to do, especially when it comes to the work of the church. There have been several occasions in my time here in Ghana when I have been called on to be part of the worship service because I am an ΓÇ£OsofuΓÇ¥ (a pastor).
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)
There are few things more frightening than being given a job that you don’t feel equipped to do, especially when it comes to the work of the church. There have been several occasions in my time here in Ghana when I have been called on to be part of the worship service because I am an “Osofu” (a pastor). These requests usually come while the service is taking place and, many times, I do not feel I have an adequate understanding of what is expected of me. It is debilitating and I frantically look for some help or insight to perform this function for the building up of the church at that moment. What a relief it is when someone sees my dilemma and explains what is expected of me so I can understand!
I have seen that relief on the faces of my students here at the E.P. Seminary as we work together on the tools to understand and teach the Bible. This is especially true of my students who are training to be catechists (think licensed ministers) who are responsible to teach and preach in churches that are not attended by an ordained pastor on a weekly basis. I can attest about their desire to serve God as best they can as teachers, but often their knowledge of the Bible comes down to remembering stories from Sunday school. As Ghana is modernizing, more a more people have access to televisions and are watching “pastors,” “apostles” and “prophets” who preach to huge crowds in large churches in West Africa. It is pretty daunting to compare your ability to teach and preach to these people whom your congregation have heard of or seen.
We have only a short period of time together as students and professors because taking time off of their paying jobs or businesses to come and study is difficult financially. Paying for room, board and tuition is also a financial burden that not everyone can overcome. So we focus on the tools for understanding the text: things like the author’s original intent to the original audience, the historical, grammatical background and using study tools such as commentaries and maps. When the Bible becomes a collection of books that make some sense in revealing the nature of God to us instead of a really large book just filled with stories, that look of relief and the strengthening of their faith becomes a really rewarding part of my work.
Gary Luallin, a member of Southside Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Jacksonville, Florida, serves with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana, as a university professor at the Peki Seminary. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples’ Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.