Theological Education and Pastoral Ministry: A Sociological Perspective

theological education and pastoral ministry

Theological education has been synonymous with the training of ministers. This is viewed as manpower development in the church systems. However, it has become a more complex, diverse, and often problematic task for both the church and the seminaries to underscore the societal impact of theological education in the twenty-first century (Hill, 1986). Ukpong (2010) states that theology is strictly an ecclesiastical discipline that is reserved at the service of the church, hence its introduction in secular institutions needs critical reflection and examination.

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Sound training of pastors and school effectiveness had always caught the eyes of researchers and policymakers and had created a polemic in finding suitable education programs for effective pastoral ministry. According to Amin and Abdul (2008:p.3), “leadership training has no direct relationship with institutions’ effectiveness since what was learned in university or training institutes would not be able to cater for the real need in pastoral ministry.” However, there were researchers that support the ideas that theological education should be able to enhance and develop the knowledge, skill, and attitude of pastors as well as future leaders (Bush, 2008). This was buttressed in Ukpong (2010:p.183), “who emphasized that theology is a practical science which deals with the fertilization and illumination of religious faith accessible and practicable to believers in different cultural contexts.” He further stated that through theological education, religious faith is made practicable in different ways and in an informed manner.

To be an effective pastor, one needs capacity and leadership skills. There is a general agreement that leadership skills could be developed through capacity-building programs and by exposing pastors and future leaders to updated leadership ideas and practices (Ali, 2012). Realizing this fact, pastors and future leaders engage in capacity-building programs in different educational institutions to upgrade their knowledge for effective ministry. This has been the order of the day as theological institutes and different certificate programs are springing out from various corners within the state and nation, opening the doors for pastors and proactive leaders to easily acquire educational knowledge. However, little is known about the impact of these programs on leadership practices and their effects on society at large.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he states that he labors and struggles “to present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28-29). Education must be on every pastor’s radar as it either helps present or prevents maturity in Christ. It then implies that education helps in the combination of secular as well as sacred knowledge of the world goods to impart understanding and sound understanding brings maturity. It is pertinent to know that sound teaching comes from those with spiritual and literal knowledge of the word. Without clarity of understanding, Christian maturity will be far-fetched and the ability to cope with the complex world of politics, economy and science would be challenging.

Pastoral ministry in the twenty-first century has proven to be different from the previous centuries as ministers utilize sophisticated equipment, effective communication skills, and planned delivery of actions to be able to retain members of the congregation who have a growing need for healthy spiritual growth. Hence, this research will evaluate theological education in the complex world of science, technology, economy, and politics and yet preserve the sanctity of pastoral ministry in Assemblies of God Church, Aba Central District.

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1.2       Statement of Research Problem

The complexity of the world is the incorporation of science, technology, economy, and politics in the government of a nation. These are the constituents of the ‘world’ identified by the Bible (1 John 2:15). It is not that these are not essential to life or that they are evil, but the way and manner people go about them is the evil the Bible detests. Science is good because it advances knowledge and exposes our understanding of the workings of God’s creation. However, it has brought more controversies rather than complementing religious truths. Paramount among them is Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Technology has helped us increase productivity and collaborate with others more efficiently. Yet it has its own disadvantages. With technology comes the menace of urbanization which has created the class system in society, modernization, and globalization which have brought mixed cultures and traditions to the detriment of our younger generations. Also, politics and the economy with their menace. People kill others because of money or to have control of resources. Riches and wealth have become the language the society understand rather than morality. Politics has even crept into the church, where brethren kill or conspire against one another for the sake of power.

The Bible did not condemn these things but says we should not love them (1Timothy 6:10 – 11). With the integration of all these items in the world today, the church faces the problem of evangelizing Christ in a world that acknowledges ‘success’ without questioning its foundation. The problem becomes, how the church can preserve the truth in the word of God while ensuring that the benefits of science, technology, economy, and politics are preserved (Isaiah 9:6). As a result of the search to preserve God’s word in the world that has bred worldliness in the church, the Assemblies of God Church, Nigeria established Divinity schools and the Lay Ministers Training College (LMTC) to impart the practical knowledge of theological education in order for pastors to assist in curbing these societal problems.

The church is seen by many as the last resort for a common man who has no hope because the Bible has promised hope to the hopeless, many run to the church to find solace. In recent times, many pastors have used different communication media to draw men to their congregation for which many sought for which different kinds of people have come to compound the problems of the church and society. The classes of people that entered the church came in search of material inclination, worldly positions, political relevance, marriage, employment, and income. It is also paramount that most of these people would do whatever is asked of them in order to receive what they want. In the Assemblies of God church, Aba Central District, the case is no different. In as much as God has told us to preach the Kingdom to the world, the problem faced by ministers of the gospel is how to relate the scriptural message to events around the world without tampering with the core values of religious beliefs or distorting the word of God to suit the demands of the people.

Theology being the education of the human person with deep respect for truth, and being the foundation of the truth of God, ought to engage the creative and innovative power of the human person, who is created in the likeness of God, in solving societal problems. Hence, this research will evaluate how theological education will help gospel ministers to solve complex societal problems while preserving the truth of the word of God.

1.3       Research Questions

  1. How does theological education influence the effectiveness of pastoral ministry in Assemblies of God Church (AGC) in Aba Central District (CD)?
  2. In what ways does the theological curriculum enhance the literacy level of pastors in the AGC in Aba CD?
  3. What are the current challenges militating against theological education in Aba CD?
  4. Are there factors promoting these challenges?
  5. What measures can be adopted to curb these challenges for the benefit of pastors-in-training in Aba CD?

1.4       Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this study is to evaluate how theological education would enhance the effectiveness of pastoral ministry in Assemblies of God, Nigeria, Aba Central District. The research work would specifically,

  1. Identify how theological education influences pastoral ministry in AGC Aba CD.
  2. Identify the areas in which the theological curriculum enhances the literacy level of pastors in AGC Aba CD.
  3. Identify the current challenges affecting theological education in AGC, Aba Central District.
  4. Identify the causal factors of these challenges.
  5. Suggest the measures that can address these challenges in line with the goal of theological education.

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1.5       Significance of the study

This research is significant to pastors, clergy, ministers of the gospel, churches, and bible students as follows: The result of this analysis will draw the attention of both pastors, clergy, and members to understanding the importance of theological education and how it affects relationship building in the church and society at large.

To pastors, clergy, and gospel ministers: the study will help them understand the importance of theological education in enhancing the effectiveness of their ministries. It will also assist them in understanding the challenges faced by society and equip them with the required tools needed to curb these challenges without distorting the word of God. Through the study, they will have the urge to choose or operate in the offices of a prophet, pastor, evangelist, or teacher in other to preach the kingdom of God to society.

To Bible students: the study will help them understand the essence of theological education so that they will have a clearer focus while training. It will sod assist them to understand the challenges affecting theological education and their causal factors and adopt suggested measures to address them.

To churches: the study will help them formulate a good curriculum that will enhance the effectiveness of their trained pastors in their respective training institutes.

The information provided by this research shall also be useful to administrators of theological institutes to understand the need to be objective in constituting the organizational structure of the institution, and the need to utilize a standard curriculum for better training experience of pastors and ministers. The research will serve as material for pastors and student formation institutes to study further the impact of theological education. It will also provide a yardstick for understanding what constitutes theological education in a ministerial setting. It shall also serve as a tool for further research.

1.6       Scope of the Study

This study is focused on theological education and pastoral ministry: a sociological perspective. The study will cover Assemblies of God Nigeria, Aba Central District of Abia State only. Aba Central District is made up of fifteen (15) sections and one hundred and twenty-seven (127) churches, these sections are covered by the researcher through the selection of respondents from each church. The study examines the leadership theories’ relevance for theological education, barriers and hindrances to pastoral education, pastors’ quest for theological education, and the social impact of theological education.

1.7       Limitations of the Study

In the course of the research, the researcher encountered some problems such as non-immediate compliance with the filling of the questionnaires by the selected participants and not being able to cover the entire churches that make up the District due to bad road network and congestion in the research area. However, the researcher attempted to overcome the problem of non-compliance by using available participants, as well as lodging the questionnaire to participants for a certain period before retrieval.

Also, the problem of the bad transport network and congestion may be solved by distributing the questionnaire during church accounts at the District headquarters when all pastors of the District would gather.

The researcher experienced a few challenges while conducting the field exercise. Some respondents’ attitudes towards the collection and filling of questionnaires were not friendly. Some pastors and deacons were reluctant in collecting copies of the questionnaires, stating that they don’t have time to fill them. However, through persuasion, the researcher was able to get a reasonable number to fill out the questionnaires. Some of the few pastors and deacons who accepted to fill out the questionnaires were persuaded of the importance of conducting the research before they were able to gladly and willingly fill out the questionnaires on the spot.

Some of the lodged questionnaires were not retrieved due to the absence of the respondent on the day of collection or due to the loss of the questionnaire while in their possession. However, the researcher gave out additional questionnaires to those who lost the ones given them while he forfeited the ones that were not available.

1.8       Definition of Terms

Pastor: An ordained Christian who caters to a flock of Christians that attends the church he/she presides and feeds them with the word of God as well as counsels them using the scriptures.

Science: The study of the nature and behavior of natural things and the knowledge that we obtain about them.

Technology: The methods, systems, and devices that are the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes.

Evolution: A process of gradual change that takes place over many generations, during which species of animals, plants, or insects slowly change some of their physical characteristics.

Economy: A system of organizing money, wealth, industry, and trade of a nation or region.

Politics: The actions or activities concerned with achieving and using power in a country or society.

Success: The achievement of something that one has been trying to achieve.

Urbanization: The shift of population from rural to urban areas or a change in the ratio of the total population living in urban areas. It could be the increasing footprint of urban areas and the increasing percentage of the urban population; this is linked with modernization, industrialization, and the sociological process of rationalization.

Modernization: The transformation from a traditional, rural, agrarian society to a secular, urban, industrial society. Modern society is an industrialized society.

Globalization: The process in which people, ideas, and goods spread throughout the world, spurring more interaction and integration between world cultures, governments, and economies.

Industrialization: The transition of an economy from primarily agrarian to one based mainly on manufacturing and industry. It is associated with income growth and urbanization.

Rationalization: The process of organizing something into a logically coherent system.

Socialization: The process by which people are made to behave in a way that is acceptable in their culture or society.

Social process: The forms of social interaction that occur repeatedly between people.

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