One of the research findings from my dissertation on church-agency relations is that many Christian agency leaders do not have formal theological training. The pastors said this is a problem. Since agencies are Christian ministries, I recommend that at least the senior leader of a Christian agency get some formal theological training, not just to please pastors but to help them be better Christian leaders.
An article by Dr. John Jefferson Davis (“The Role of Theology in the Life of the Church“) makes a strong case for why theological training is critical for church leaders, and I believe his arguments apply just as well to agency leaders. I believe theology helps us understand what we are doing, why we are doing it, how we should do it, and how we should evaluate both our options and our results.
Dr. Davis writes that theology:
- provides the grounding for a vision that will not let you get off-track. It will ensure you approach your mission holistically. Always remember that we are not just trying to solve problems (hunger, people not in relationship with God, guilt, etc.) but we are helping bring this world into God’s kingdom where everyone can experience the fullness of God’s love and peace, and truly be the people God made them to be. So our vision must be bigger than overcoming the problem; it must incorporate God’s intended result. Theology should broaden and elevate our vision for the work God has called us to so that we always have God’s end in mind.
- keeps ministries healthy. Based on some research, Dr. Davis states that denominations that have “tolerated doctrinal erosion” have suffered great membership losses between 1965 and 1999 while denominations committed to a strong biblical theology have grown and shown great vitality. Staying true to your theological foundation gives workers and supporters something solid to commit to that fully engages them. Taking action based on a strong theology puts your ministry in a place where it is most likely to enjoy God’s many blessings.
- provides a standard against which to measure your success. How are you doing, really? How would God assess your results? Thinking about your performance from God’s perspective will likely lead you to include some additional performance criteria such as the manner in which you achieved results, and it will almost always lead to little niggling questions such as “Who did we overlook?” and “Did we do anything that really required faith?” I think it will also keep the leadership team humble as they analyze their own performance in light of God’s standards.
If you’d like to find a Bible college or seminary to take a course or two, or even to get a degree, a pretty comprehensive listing of them can be found at Christian Higher Education Canada’s website.