Story, not Information

One of the major issues with seminaries today is that they fail to teach students how to engage theology properly.

Seminaries generally are known for dispensing information. Biblical history. Church history. Languages.

Now mind you, some of that stuff is worth the study and awareness.

But what seminaries rarely do is teach future pastors how to truly engage theology. Theology, in my opinion, is figuring out where God is active in the lives of people and providing a framework for people to understand what is happening. As one of my favorite authors, professors, and theologians writes, “Theology starts with a crisis, the very crisis of reality itself. The crisis is the fact that you live, that you have a life to live…Theology is reflection and articulation of God’s action, and God’s very action is the world is a crisis.” Andrew Root, in his latest, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry. 

As youth pastors, we don’t need more information. Students don’t need more information. Theology is not information. It’s not a dispersing of facts. (This is why MOST of the catechism/confirmation classes of generations passed have not adequately formed disciples of Jesus).

Theology is articulating how God has made himself already known and active to young people smack dab in the middle of their story.

Our Senior Pastor, Bob Merritt, is a master teacher and preacher. I was fortunate enough to pick his brain for an hour on teaching. And what struck me is that he is a cultivator of stories. Sure, he’s a smart guy. He knows facts. He knows information. He knows “theology.” But what he TRULY knows is how to assess someone’s story and point to God in the midst of it.

Therefore, when he reads, he doesn’t generally read for information any longer. He wants to find and then showcase other people’s encounters with theology — assessing God in the midst of their story.

My learning curve has been redirected because of this. I no longer read for information (or at least try not to). I read for story, as best as I can. I want to be able to cultivate those stories I can tell other people. This reality has made me more in tune to what I’m reading, but also to how in tune I am to the reality around me.

Youth Pastors, set a goal this year: Collect stories, not information, and point young people to the way God is moving in the midst of their story.

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3 thoughts on “Story, not Information

  1. I couldn’t agree more.

    As I enter my second year of seminary these thoughts have crossed my mind constantly when engaging conversation with fellow students. Many of my classmates at my seminary have gone from Christian school/Home Schooling to a Christian college straight into seminary. The journey I have been on has taken me elsewhere to say the least. I place no judgement on those who were blessed with that path – instead my struggle is with the institution.

    I’ve been told of churches where students are doing their residencies replying afterward to the institution to ‘stop sending us your ‘A’ students, send us your pastors’. There is hope, this past semester I was able to sit down and talk to my Systematic Theology professor who recently received is doctorate and asked him where he saw the future of Systematic Theology go. He quickly responded with ‘Narrative’.

    • Hey Adam

      Thanks for the read and comment. I agree with you completely. My experiences at sem seem similar to yours. However, I still think our views are in the minority at least in the seminary world. If we keep reading people like Andrew Root we will stay on the right track.

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