The Anointing of God and the Fear of "Book Larnin' "
Fear of formal education has long existed on the part of some in the Christian world. Unfortunately this has gained and maintained traction because of well-documented "failures of mission" at some major, and shall we say famous, institutions. Their retreat from the values and original purposes that brought them into being have been the subject of broad research and commentary. No one can deny that schools such as Harvard and Yale have drifted far from the dock where they were once moored. Liberals call this drift "maturity." The rest of us see ever so clearly that it is the extinguishing of the lamp lit there at the start.
The Harvard story and many others like it have not made it easy to advocate for higher education, and continuing education, especially in the ministry. Likewise, some in the Christian world, having seen what happened in such schools, have assumed an adversarial posture with ministerial education as a whole. In a culture where education is revered, ministers can marginalize themselves by their lack. I heard someone say recently that, "Letters after your name don't make you any smarter or more anointed." True. Oh, so true.
On the other hand those very letters may open doors. There may be entire populations that prove unreachable by ministers without formal education. Cosmopolitan congregations have a right to expect the pastor to know the difference between Moses and Charlemagne. They have a right to expect well-thought-out, clearly ordered, relevant sermons that make sense. The right-thinking, Spirit-filled contemporary congregant expects his pastor to be anointed by the hand of God. No education can substitute for Biblical knowledge and a prayer-bought unction from the Lord. At the same time, the contemporary pastor may be expected to be able to make a complete sentence, build an outline, lead a board meeting, understand contracts and communicate with parishioners who work for NASA and lecture at the local college.
I fully understand the fear of "book larnin'." I am not making light of it. I am saying it can lead to an unreasonable fear of any kind of formal education and continuing education. Not all colleges and seminaries have let their light go out. There are still fine universities and graduate schools that are NOT gutting the faith of unsuspecting freshmen.
I am flying to Sweden as I write this to preach at the opening ceremonies of a brand new seminary there, The Scandinavian School of Theology, and the inauguration of its first president, Dr. Anders Gerdmar. While this is a great honor for me personally, and I am grateful and blessed to do it, I am far more excited about the implications for the Kingdom of this bold new undertaking. It is the prayer of many that this graduate school of theology will fill the void left by the recent demise of the Livets Ord seminary. If Europe, and the world for that matter, ever needed fresh, anointed, and well-educated Christian leaders, surely it is now.
I believe this new theological school will train some of the leaders that will bring revival to Europe. I know Dr. Gerdmar to be a Spirit-filled, Christian leader, a truly committed educator and a genuinely educated scholar. This is a rare combination. The faculty he is assembling will bless many students. I hope you will pray with me that God's good hand will be on this exciting new educational endeavor in Scandinavia. It takes no small measure of bold faith to launch a whole new theological seminary in Sweden at this time in history, and I admire those who have undertaken the task.
I believe in education. I spent thousands of dollars and many years of my life gaining the education I have; I spent a great deal of my life inflicting education on thousands of others. I still am for that matter. The National Institute of Christian Leadership is an effort to bring a level of practicality to graduate theological education. It also is a way to woo pastors and business people back into formal education who may have bailed out on the process years ago. The best part is, it is working far better than we dreamed.
In cooperation with five graduate schools in the United States, we are gratified to see many NICL graduates realize the value of further education. Now Anderson University, The King’s University, Oral Roberts University, Richmont Graduate School and Southeastern University all grant up to a year of credit or advance standing in their master’s degree programs for graduates of the National Institute. In addition to that, Southeastern University will now offer as much as twelve credit hours toward an M.B.A. That is a remarkable endorsement of the level of practical instruction in leadership and management at the NICL.
Whether in Scandinavia, at the brand new Scandinavian School of Theology, or at the many fine American Christian colleges, universities, or seminaries or at the National Institute of Christian Leadership, or any place that will sharpen your gifts, I am in favor of "Book Larnin' " and "I ain't afeared" of it. If the hand of God is upon you for leadership and/or ministry, trust in Him and seek His anointing. Then get busy doing what you do to learn and keep on learning. If you are an instrument in the hand of a mighty God, why not keep the tool sharp?
The calling and blessing of the hand of God upon a leader is an awesome thing. That leader, thus called and anointed, must yield himself/herself fully to be used mightily of the Lord. This is the prayer we pray: "Lord, prepare me."
I will, says the Lord, but I also expect you to prepare yourself. Paul put it this way: “Study to show thyself approved."
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