Friday, August 3, 2007

A Faculty of One

While attending Dallas Theological Seminary I have come to observe, and as a result passionately confess, that all education of the believer, whether formal or informal, has as its source the Holy Spirit. This would seem obvious to any who confess that God is the source of all, including training and growth toward Christ-like character and service. However, over time it can be tempting for some to begin unconsciously assuming that the source of their education is the human source in front of them (be it personal or institutional). They are, of course, not entirely inaccurate, for human instruments are integral to the Spirit’s process. The unconscious error occurs though to the degree that one begins losing their realization that the Spirit works through both formal and informal, personal or institutional means to train them into that which they must become. In this regard, the Spirit is the consistent educator using any and all means as the teaching tools of His “trade.” The seminary is to the Spirit what a chalkboard is to the math teacher. The mentoring relationship is to the Spirit what the Bunsen burner is to the science teacher. He is the grand unifying Instructor behind all learning moments in the believer’s life.

Not long ago, the U.S. Army ran a recruitment campaign that included the slogan “an Army of one.” The Army was seeking to create the image that it was made strong by the strength within any one of its soldiers. A fine American notion to be sure; however, the slogan has the inaccuracy of seeming to promote individualism within a system where individuality can have devastating results. Far from being an incubator for individualism, the Army must act as a fully integrated and cohesive team in order to accomplish its goals. The veneration of the individual is antithetical to Army values. This perhaps explains why it was discarded as a slogan for the U.S. Army.

For Christians, the veneration of individual believers within the Church can be equally destructive to their cause. On the contrary, they are most integrated and cohesive in their collective veneration of the Individual that links and trains them: The Holy Spirit. For this reason it appears a better use of the Army’s original slogan to venerate the One source of all training enjoyed by believers throughout time and around the world. Therefore, it is far more accurate for believers everywhere to confess they are all being trained and grown by “A Faculty of One.”

The application of this realization to me has been one of trust in the Spirit’s ability to use all of my teachable moments in His training curriculum. Whether in the formal training of an institution’s classrooms, or in the informal training of mentoring relationships, the entire scope of my training has enjoyed “A Faculty of One.” This is of particular comfort as I approach entry into a ministry role I had not anticipated for myself. I have previously not sought extensive formal education to prepare for executing a pastoral function, mainly because I found the appointment of such a post so improbable. However, now that such a post appears highly probable I am forced to reexamine previous years of training for whatever the Spirit has taught me about pastoral ministry in whatever environment He has done so.

Peering back across my experiences in churches, being mentored by pastors and even the degree I have been attentive to professors’ pastoral wisdom reveals that the Faculty of One has been quite active throughout my years in training me for this moment. I cannot credibly maintain that my education has been devoid of pastoral training considering how much the Spirit has already been active with His customize curriculum for me. It is no more customized for me than it is for all believers in whom the Spirit dwells, but the comfort of that customization is freshly resent to me, given special applicability by the task I approach now. In this way, such comfort even allows for a fresh re-interpretation of past training and experience to see how the Spirit was actively preparing for present tasks as well. Would that more believers gaze on the panorama of their life experiences, formal and informal, personal and institutional, and be comforted that preparation for their participation in the mission of God was always being divinely arranged by “a Faculty of One.”

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