Just Watching – November 2017

Home-made Seminaries

While the Christian church was coming of age it developed a four-fold educational package that is still at work in many effective Christian homes, Christian congregations and in much of what is now its educational system for training church workers. That fourfold package involves: 

  1. Identifying and organizing the basic teachings of the church;
  2. A process for studying the Old and New Testament in order to determine their true meaning;
  3. Tracing God’s hand in His family’s pilgrimage from creation to today and beyond;
  4. Spelling out what God wants His children to do in His world and how He wants them to do it. .

In today’s accredited seminary world those four educational accents normally divide into a Systematics Department, an Exegetical Department, a Historical Studies Department and a Practical Studies Department.  What fascinates me is that over the centuries the same four educational accents shape the curriculum of what I call the “home-made seminaries” that parents, sometime aided by pastors and teachers of their day, developed and operated.

When Rich and I gather material for R and C Resources it’s not modern seminaries and their faculties we intend to encourage and support – though we are deeply concerned with declining seminary enrollment, with the age at which many seminarians graduate (where have all the flowers gone?), with too-many congregations and other important full-time ministries that are unsuccessfully seeking trained workers to help them with their harvests.  As important as that all is it is increasingly obvious to Rich and me that the church’s survival is not dependent on seminaries or organizational institutional structures but on the health of its homes and churches, parents and clergy.   The back story of the Bible is not one of deliverance through successful organizations and professional workers but of families and intimate religious communities, established by God, that are the frontline of man’s battle with sin, death and the devil. 

Over time that hasn’t changed.  Christian parents, clergy and church leaders were and are God’s “grunts” in His war with Satan.  As that war unfolds in today’s world the niche R and C Resources has carved out for itself is that of encouraging those servers chosen by God, who in words of the sainted Dr. Harry Coiner do their work, “…where the rubber hits the road”. 

And who knows more about both the rubber and the road than the Moms, Dads and family members who, assisted by a parish’s pastors and teachers, are the faculty that make home-made “seminaries” effective?  The curricular outline of today’s nationally accredited seminaries, (Systematic, Exegetical, Historical and Practical Theology), are older than the institutions that use it.  They had been previously developed over the centuries for use in the “home-made seminaries” of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s ancestors, all Old Testament families.  When it became Mary and Joseph’s turn do His work, Luke 2 tells us they established their own “home-made seminary” that turned out a number of great graduates not the least of whom was Jesus. 

Later stories of how the Gospel spread from Pentecost to the Reformation are filled with reports of faithful parents supported by pastors and teachers who established and conducted thousands of “home-made seminaries”.  

Lutherans delight in tales of how Katy and Martin Luther had their own home-made Wittenberg “seminary” that not only were their own family and guest boarders, Luther even produced a home-made catechism that he shared with others during his life.   As a tool for teaching life’s most important lessons, that nearly 500 year old catechism with its what-does-this-mean and how-is-this-done, is still a useful text book in today’s “home-made seminaries”.  

As I was thinking about this issue of Just Watching my mind turned to how my own parents, our pastor and parochial school teachers, mimicked their distant past and current academic betters by developing a Kansas version of a “home-made seminary”.  As I came of age it functioned at various Wichita, Kansas locations.  Classes were taught at 1151 S. St Francis (our home), 909 S. Market (our church) and 320 Ellis (our day school).  It was in session year ‘round, the earliest ones being the simple meal and bedtime prayers my parents taught me.  They introduced to Systematic Theology and that even a child can grasp that God is to be honored and that He cares about us.  

At different times and various locations I was taught bits and pieces of the catechism, learned hymns, listened to lessons and sermons and all while at Immanuel Lutheran School worked my way deeper into God’s Word, grade after grade.  

Back home, at our kitchen table my parents reinforced what I was being taught in church and school.  I was experiencing Christian team-teaching at its best.  Little did I know that as I was growing up I was quietly being introduced not only to Systematic Theology but  two other core elements of my “home-made seminaries” curriculum:  Historical and Exegetical Theology.  We didn’t call what we were doing by those names.  I didn’t know what Mom was reading to us from Egermeier’s Story Book was Historical Theology.  Or that the same thing could be said about Mrs. Brenneisen’s Sunday School lessons or the Bible history classes at school.  It all added to my grasp of what God had been doing across the centuries, and, more important, what He is still doing today.  

Woven into what we were learning about God’s hand in history was our introduction to Exegetical Theology, or to put another way, what the specific words in God’s Word meant.  Over time the meaning of words like sin, grace, forgiveness and hope were explained to me and I was taught how to mine for the meaning of terms like, “kingdom of God” or phrases like, “trust in the Lord”.  Some of our growing understanding of what the words God used in the Bible meant came from our study of different languages but a lot of it came from the life witness of those who taught in our “home-made seminary”. 

The final component of my “home-made seminary’s” curriculum is Practical Theology, a seminary topic that explores ways to apply in life what we have learned in His Word.  For me the catalogue of what that involves includes at least six components: worship, witness, fellowship, service, teaching/learning and stewarding.  It’s in those six areas that my commitment to walk God’s walk and talk God’s talk is put into practice.  My understanding of what that is and how it is done grew from my “home-made seminary’s” Systematic, Exegetical and Historical Theology studies. 

The bottom line for all this at my stage in life is that if my own “home-made Seminary” (defined in Joshua 24:15 as “me and my house”) isn’t accredited by God and functioning at its best I need to get busy and change my ways as a person, parent and grandparent – while I still can.  

If that be your desire, Rich and Charlie Resources pledges to help you or, failing that, pledges to help you find the help you need.   In any case we are here to encourage any and all who are determined to improve their “home-made Seminary’s” effectiveness.

That’s where I stand on October 31, 2017.  I am still enrolled in the home-made “seminary” I’ve long attended.  It is still taught by the shadowy remembrances of its outstanding faculty: Walt and Aurelia Mueller, Pastor L.H. Deffner and Teacher Harold Leimer.   But that’s not the whole of it. 

I’m determined to do all I that can to encourage Audrey and my children and grandchildren (plus our sixteen great grandchildren tykes already on the scene) to establish their own “home-grown seminary”.  National church bodies and internationally acclaimed Seminaries have come and gone over the centuries but God’s own “home-made seminaries” keep going year after year folding one into the next as we and the future He has in store for all moves toward His great finale.  What a day that will be!

Meanwhile, when and where is our “home-made seminary” class?