Most of the persons submitting their paperwork last month, if asked, would admit that they spent seven or more months working on it. Last week, it took the printer in my office about three hours to get through printing all of these same pages. It will take me the equivalent of a few days to read all of it. Along the way I will be making comments and writing some questions in the margins. What is it that so has consumed so much time, you ask? Theology.
Not from the pen of any famous author, nor available in the local bookstores. Instead, I've started poring over the answers to theology and doctrine questions posed to the candidates that are scheduled to appear before our South Georgia Conference Board of Ordained Ministry next month in Macon. These are persons seeking to be admitted as ministers within our church.
The questions are deep and broad; it takes 35-50 pages to answer them completely. They cover essential terminology (repentance, Kingdom of God, resurrection, eternal life, etc.) and expansive ideas (what is the mission of the church, what role do pastors play, what can be said of humanity's need for divine grace, etc.). They also ask specific questions about the candidates personal life, their call to ministry, their ambitions, their strengths and weaknesses, and their willingness to submit to the highest ideals that are truly asked of every person called 'pastor' by any church. In addition to the questions, they also submit sermons, bible studies, and go through a battery of various checks and histories as a part of the larger scope of the Board's work in examining them.
It was not many years ago that I was going through it myself, as I sought to be affirmed and set apart by the church for the ministry of leading the church, and serving God's Kingdom purposes. But to now sit on the other side and read through answers that show evidence of deep reflection and conviction is humbling, to say the least. These women and men will serve churches across our conference, and serve God around the world. They will be asked questions and put into positions of great responsibility, and a solid theology of God's grace and Jesus' salvation will sometimes be to only thing of which they can be sure.
The same is true for us. We are tested. We are asked about what we believe and upon what foundation are our values built. However, only rarely do the questions asked of us appear on paper. Instead, we find our lives examined by the world that wonders, 'Do we live out what we believe?'
Grace and Peace to you, Scott