At ILT, We Educate Shepherds, Not Shopkeepers!

May 10, 2019

 

Today, many seminaries proudly proclaim that they educate "leaders" who know how to mobilize people for "mission." What this means in practice is that students learn a variety of psychological, managerial, and sociological techniques for creating and maintaining "vibrant churches." Seminarians are trained to be what Eugene Peterson calls "shopkeepers:" "The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper's concerns-how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money." (from Working the Angles, p. 2)

 

As Peterson points out, this is a completely different task from what Christian ministers have been doing the last 2000 years. The real task of ministry is not "shopkeeping," but proclaiming the Word of God. Ministers are followers, not leaders--followers of Jesus Christ. They read the Scriptures and listen for and proclaim the one Good Shepherd so that both they and their people can follow him.

 

An ILT education is an education in learning how to follow Jesus. ILT educates people to love the Scriptures because in them they find the living Lord Jesus. And when they have found him there, they cannot but follow him and proclaim him. We educate followers, not leaders. As our students are led deeper into the Scriptures and learn more about the goodness of our Good Shepherd, they desire to be his under-shepherds. It is only in this sense that ILT educates shepherds. Only Jesus is our shepherd. We reject all notions of success in leadership that would deny that we should expect the cross of Christ as we serve as leaders in his church.

 

In other words, it's not about us and our "leadership." It's about the power of the gospel alone: "But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us." (2 Corinthians 4:7)

 

The cross alone is our theology.

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