You've heard it said before. A pastor, a friend, someone active in evangelististic ministry. "You don't need seminary, I had it, it really doesn't make that much of a difference in the practical ministry I'm doing today."
I'm not arguing that all people in ministry need to have a seminary education, or even seminary level knowledge. What I am arguing for, however, is that before we can do "practical" ministry, we must have something to apply. When concerning ourselves with the lives, and ultimately, the beliefs, of others, we must be concerned with our own.
I bring this up because I was struck today with the realization that I often hear this articulated by both men and women, that we shouldn't get so "heady," we should be dealing with the practical needs of people and not worry ourselves with the -ologies and the -isms.
(I want to know who decided what is considered "practical" ministry and when they did this, because I don't remember being invited to the table.)
Ok, the reason this epiphany is so important is because when men - the ones who are usually seminary grads - say this about the role of their education in their current ministry, they don't realize that they are probably in some way utilizing a lot of what they learned in seminary in their present ministry.
Ok, that might not be entirely true, but I think it's a reasonable assertion.
Here's the interesting point: the women I hear say this about the role of seminary level learning are not seminary graduates (though some of their husbands are) and often lack a great deal of understanding about their own set of beliefs. This is significant because I believe these women to be taking their cues on the role of the intellect vs. "practical application" in ministry from none other than their seminary spouses. Yet, when they live out their ministry of practical application, working usually at the level of the lowest common denominator, they are doing so without the first hand seminary experience that belongs to the man in their life.
Seminary degrees aren't usually a two-fer, and theological education cannot happen by osmosis, I don't care how close the pillows are.
The impact of this is profound. When women of an anti-intellectual persuasion do women's ministry (or children's ministry, or anything other ministry), arguing for their ministry of the practical over and above anything the slightest bit thoughtful, they do so because they've often seen this attitude and behavior modeled for them by the people who have the intellectual resources to return to. What remains for these leaders is something like a body without a skeleton.
When I hear "practical application" argued for by those without the framework for taking women beyond where they are currently at, I get worried because for many, that's all the farther they will go. Their ministry will remain intellectually stagnant. When I hear "practical application" argued for by people who have a knowledge base to rest it on, I am relieved.