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Moving Beyond Preparing People for Jobs, Pt. 3: Calling

June 26, 2017

Developing People as They Pursue Their Calling

We continue our series challenging some of the commonly held beliefs about the educational process.  Over the last few weeks, we have discussed why theological education should focus on developing people to live out the gifts they have been given instead and explored the changing nature of pastoral ministry.  This week, we look at the idea of developing people as they pursue their calling as opposed to simply education people.

Have you ever heard the saying, “the learning must be greater than the change”?  My doctoral advisor would repeat this saying whenever we, as students, would give a pat answer to a complex question.  She required of her students a more complex way of thinking, a greater desire to learn, a compassion for helping others and a robust longing to be effective change agents in our work but also in our personal lives.  She instilled in her students that learning material and content was important but that the true test of our learning would be evident when positive change occurred in our personal as well as professional lives.  This professor understood what it meant to develop her students in the educational process.

It has been said that people will change jobs five to seven times in their lifetime.  At Sioux Falls Seminary, we have been committed to educating lifelong learners for all roles of life.  We help students discern their roles in life not just by the position they fulfill (i.e. pastor) or by how they will earn a paycheck but by who they are becoming as a person in the various roles they fulfill in life.  A developmental way of learning requires more of a person than memorizing material for a specific role or task in life, it requires one to understand and live into Luke 12:48 which states that to whom much has been given, much will be required in all of life circumstances.  A developmental way of learning matures individuals to live into the refining process of recognizing who they are, what they have been made ready for, the challenges they will face in everyday life, and the support they will need to meet those challenges.

I texted a friend to pray for me as I wrote this blog.  I asked her, “Why do we develop people?”  Her response was, “Because if you didn’t, people like me wouldn’t make it through life.  Light to my path, a shoulder to cry on, a pivot to point the way, people who help me get up rather than criticize that I’m down.  We need ‘developed people’ so that people like me can survive.”

In other words, we need Philippians 2:1-4 type of people, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

A development way of learning demonstrates to students that we are created to live life and learn in submission to Christ and to our Christian community.  It requires humility rather than arrogance.  It requires a learning posture that engages people who want to know more of who God is, who we are as God’s people, and what God intends to do through us.  That our callings overflow from worshipful hearts and minds to serve God, that the compassion of Christ is to be lived out with all we encounter and the power of the Spirit be made known in our prayers, and the positions we fulfill because all of life is ministry.

Next week, we will discuss the topic of vocational ministry as something to which all followers of Christ are called.  Please join us.

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