Church & Ministry

The Other Gap Theory

The full length version of this article appears in the November/December issue of Voice magazine.

When we walk into a local grocery store in the U.S., we face an abundance of choices unlike anywhere else in the world. The cereal aisle alone is a great example of how companies strive to offer something for everyone. We see cereals for the health-conscious and sugary cereals with cartoon-filled boxes promising delicious taste, unique shapes and hidden toy prizes. We see cereals for those who like fruit, for those who like sweetness, for those who need fiber, and for those who just like their breakfast plain and simple.

American churches have also adopted this trend of specialization. Almost all churches strive to have something for everyone. Babies and infants have a nursery. Toddlers and preschoolers have their own class. Many churches offer Children’s Church for grade-school kids. And youth ministries have been developed to meet the needs of adolescents as they progress through junior high and high school. Many churches also offer adult women’s and men’s ministries and classes for married couples and senior saints.

But this church structure has flaws.

The gap for singles

A gap exists in this common ministry structure—one that poses a danger to the future of many churches. Churches provide ministry for children and young people from birth through high school, and beyond that age, adult ministries usually range from young married’s classes through ministries to the elderly members.

This structure would be perfect for young people who get married right out of high school; they can transition from the youth group to the young marrieds group. But what about the vast majority of high school graduates who move on to college or enter the workforce and remain single? Read more about The Other Gap Theory

Should Laymen Be Allowed to Read the Bible? Part 1

Reprinted with permission from As I See It. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

The problem stated

“If the average person is allowed to read and interpret the Bible for himself, isn’t he likely to misinterpret the Bible, and to misinterpret the Bible may have serious eternal spiritual consequences. Therefore, he dare not be allowed to interpret the Bible for himself, lest he err in his interpretation.”

The answer

I readily acknowledge that whenever people read and study the Bible for themselves they are guaranteed to misinterpret, misunderstand and misapply at least some of what they read. That is inevitable. But of course, the same is true if the same people read the newspaper, a textbook on chemistry or a magazine article on backyard gardening. Do we, then, forbid them to read and interpret these?

Does the fact of this certainty of to some degree misunderstanding the Bible, therefore, mean that either (1) the masses should not be allowed to have direct personal access to the Bible and/or (2) only authorized, authoritative interpreters of the Bible should be allowed to interpret for the rest of us what it means?

Some, such as the Roman Catholic Church, have appealed to 2 Peter 1:20 as proof of both of the assertions above. “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation,” (emphasis added) is explained to mean that only Church authorities have the right to interpret the Scriptures and that all must follow that authoritative interpretation. However, in context, this verse is not speaking about those who read Scripture, but those who wrote Scripture. Verse 21 continues, “but being carried along by the Spirit, men spoke from God.” Read more about Should Laymen Be Allowed to Read the Bible? Part 1

How Important is a Seminary Education? Part 1

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Bill and Mary have put off their estate planning for too long. If they were to die unexpectedly, they have some definite ideas about who should serve as guardians for their three children, how their assets should be disbursed, and how their estate could avoid probate hassles. Since neither Bill nor Mary is a legal expert, they have contacted Preston, a recent college graduate, to formulate an estate plan for them. Preston took a class in business law, and he is planning on entering law school after he pays off his school loans. Though Preston has never drafted a will before, Bill and Mary appreciate that he will do this service for a quarter of the cost that a trained lawyer would charge. They have known Preston for many years, and they know he will do his best. Would you agree with Bill and Mary’s decision to hire Preston?

Or consider another scenario. Your child has severely inflamed tonsils, a high fever, and a violent cough. Upon entering the local clinic, you and your child meet with an elderly woman who examines your child and declares that she needs to perform a tonsillectomy on him. You ask for her credentials, expecting to meet with your regular family doctor for the procedure, but she claims that your doctor has given her permission to operate. Even though she has no medical degree, she thinks that tonsillectomies are quite simple to do. She ought to know, she says, because she took anatomy in college and has watched a lot of training videos. Will you place your son under her knife?

Situations like these appear nonsensical to us because rarely would one seek legal or medical services knowing that the practitioners have not received proper training in graduate institutions. We expect lawyers to attend law school and to prove they know the material by passing the bar exam. We expect doctors to attend medical school and to pass the medical board exam.

So what should we expect of those who serve in pastoral ministry? Do pastors need training in graduate school (seminaries)? Should they pass a doctrinal exam of some sort? Assuming spiritual care of souls is at least as important as physical care of bodies or legal care of estates, is it not reasonable that spiritual shepherds gain the training necessary to perform their tasks with skill and wisdom?

Indeed it is. I hope to show that seminary education has great value not only because it is culturally and practically wise (as the comparison with medicine and law implies) but even more because it helps develop and hone the skills and the heart necessary for doing the work of the ministry. Read more about How Important is a Seminary Education? Part 1

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