Going Long (part 1)

I started out at Oak Hill studying for a BA in Theology and Pastoral studies back in 2006. Whilst I was there people like Mike Ovey, Chris Green and Dan Strange persuaded me and others to extend my studies into and complete an MTh (Master of Theology).

I’m glad they did. As I’ve mentioned before, there are huge benefits to “going long” in your training for ministry. Just as theological training is not a hobby to enjoy for personal benefit, nor is it a necessary evil to get out of the way so we can get on with the real stuff.

There are two good reasons for this and both are deeply theological.

  1. If everything we do is worship to the glory of God, then this must include theological training. We want to do it to the best of our ability.  Studying Greek and Hebrew, writing Doctrine essays, sitting exams in Biblical studies, completing exegetical papers are all acts of worship and not to be rushed. They have value in their own right.
  2. As Mike Ovey often said, we want our pastors, missionaries and church planters to be the best possible gift to the church. This is also theological because his understanding of theological training was rooted in Ephesians 4:11

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ”

The benefits of going long include

  1. More time to get a fuller and deeper grasp of the Biblical languages. This will help you in your sermon preparation and in guarding against false teaching as you are able to spot faulty exegesis that leads to error.
  2. The opportunity to be better equipped apologetically to defend the faith and to share the Gospel across religious barriers in a pluralistic world where we rub shoulders with people coming with strongly held beliefs. So, for example during my fourth year at Oak Hill I was able to study the Theology of Religions with Dan Strange.
  3. Time to think carefully, Biblically and theologically about leadership in a complex world where people are often ready to offer their quick fix answers on how to be a successful leader and grow your mega-church
  4. Space to consider how you will apply God’s Word to vital pastoral questions. This may well be through choosing an appropriate dissertation topic. For example, I chose to research and write about marriage and work.[1]

Those are all good reasons for opting into an MTh programme. Here are two more linked reasons.

  1. We want to encourage church leaders to be pastor-theologians. In other words, we don’t want to see theology as something that happens in the academy disconnected from the church. Theologians need to be pastors who continue to think about how their work serves God by serving the church. Pastors need to be theologians who reflect deeply on God’s Word as they prepare to teach and counsel so that they don’t just give superficial answers.
  2. As we continuously keep coming back to, there is a need to train people for ministry in the context of the local church and the local community this includes the need to raise up a plurality of elders in the local church and also pastors, missionaries and church planters who due to circumstances or personal learning style may find that heading off to a campus based seminary is the most helpful thing to do. This was one of the reasons we were encouraged to take the MTH so that we could help with theological education in our local contexts.

I’ve already mentioned the Oak Hill MTh programme which runs as a straight through 4 year programme.

Union also offer an MTh and it is possible to study this either at the campus in Bridgend or as part of the Learning Community here in the West Midlands.

[1]Marriage at Work is available to download on our publications page.