Tuesday, May 7, 2013

University is about Teaching, not Research Papers

I read this article from Sydney Morning Herald with great interest. It was written by an exchange student from Georgetown University who is studying at Sydney University. I could not agree more, especially so in the context of theological education. It's about real-life experience and practical ministry experience that count more than research papers as far as training the next generation of Christian leaders is concerned.

I am more convinced than ever that effective teaching, being an inspiration to my students and interacting with and relating well to them are key aspects of a good teacher. Today I taught my last class on Greek grammar. It may be a while before I teach introduction to Greek again. As it was revision week, why bother or be overly serious about finishing the syllabus. As usual I found myself getting up at 5:30am to prepare for my Greek lessons. I did not start reading Greek before dawn as I read my Bible and waited on the Lord as usual until about 7am before I revised my Greek lectures. I went to Chapel at 8:30am for its morning service and taught Greek from 9.30am to 11:50am. The Lord was good and rewarded me for the efforts expended. Attendance was full this morning; all 16 students came and perhaps partly due to the extra incentive of getting some tips about the exams next week. But I felt good and the atmosphere was great. Most of my students responded well to my instructions on Greek.

Many thanked me at the end. But I thought what I shared before the start of the second session meant more to them than all my knowledge of Greek, limited as it is. I shared with them about Joseph's two sons and the significance of their names. After pain and toil which God allowed Joseph to go through and overcome (Manasseh in Hebrew, "causing to forget"), he had Ephraim which means "fruitfulness". So I told my class that it is after much pain and toil, we will learn Greek but after a while comes the time to bear fruits when we begin to mine the NT in the original language. I also read out Lev 19:23 about how a tree will only bear fruits that can be eaten after 3 years and it is only in the fifth year that fruits of the tree will increase and multiply. I shared my experience of how the Lord led me to accept my PhD scholarship (I almost turned it down and applied for a downgrade to a 1-year MTh), the Lord telling me that I needed more than 1 year to learn about the book of Revelation.

Theological education cannot be rushed. It's not about getting top grades. It's not about writing essays and meeting deadlines. It's not about getting the degree that sets one on the path to ordination. It is about learning God's Word, knowing the truth through careful interpretation of the biblical text and applying Scripture in our lives before teaching it to others and seeing lives transformed to Christ-likeness for the glory of God.

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