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There is a huge range of debatable issues in theology and in the practice of ministry that a person could take sides on. An average church member generally isn’t required to have fully developed theological opinions. They are often asked to agree with and support the theological and philosophical stance their church, but aren’t required to be an evangelists for or defender of those positions.
Leaders, on the other hand, will be expected to have thought through a wide range of issues in ministry and theology, and to have an opinion on them.
Seminary is a great place to begin to formulate these positions. No doubt you’ll have arrived at seminary with some issues already firmly settled in your mind. But for those you’ve not yet considered, you can study the range of positions, pick one to defend, and duke it out with professors and fellow students who disagree.
On some debatable issues, you’ll take a position. It may not be firmly held, but it will be at least a provisional opinion, an answer to give. On others, your positions will develop into strong convictions, which will fuel your life and ministry.
Positions can be staked out pretty quickly, but convictions aren’t developed overnight. You need not have strong convictions on every debatable issue. I would argue that a leader with many convictions will be less effective than a leader with only a few carefully chosen ones.
Here are some issues in theology and ministry you will very likely encounter, either in seminary or in ministry:
- The authority of Scripture, esp how it relates to tradition, reason, and experience.
- Is the canon of Scripture open or closed?
- Charismatic Gifts: Tongues, healings, miracles
- Baptism of the Holy Spirit
- The role of women in the church and in ministry. Are you complementarian or egalitarian?
- Church Governance. Where should the functional authority in the church be located? Pastors, bishops, elders, deacons, trustees, congregation?
- Understanding of election. In Southern Baptist circles, Calvinism and the doctrines of grace are becoming a flashpoint.
- Church discipline: when and how should it be exercised?
- Homosexuality: Is it morally acceptable or not? What will your pastoral approach be to homosexual people?
- Abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, and other life issues.
- Divorce and Remarriage: what is permissible?
- Weddings: for whom will you perform weddings (or not)?
- Counseling: who will you counsel or not, and to what extent?
- Baptism: who is a candidate? What mode is proper? How does baptism relate to church membership? Should alien immersion be accepted? What are its limits?
- Communion/The Lord’s Supper: What is its meaning? Should communion be open or closed?
- Church Membership: requirements and expectations
- Eschatology/Millennial Views. (This is probably not as important to many churches as it used to be.)
- Translations of Scripture: Do you have a preferred translation of the Bible and why?
- Priority and focus of the ministry of the church: What things should the church be and do? What is most important?
This list is just a beginning. What else would you add to it?
About the AuthorMark Warnock is the founder and General Editor of Seminary Survival Guide.com. He serves as Associate Pastor of First Baptist Church of Columbia, Illinois, and is a Ph.D student in Christian Philosophy at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is working with Ed Eubanks on a book on how to survive seminary.
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