Welcome back to the Systematic Theology series!
We are finally approaching the last subject to make up the Theological Encyclopedia, namely Ministerial Studies. This discipline takes up everything the student has learned about the Bible, History, and Doctrine and now strives to apply it to the life of the local church. The major subjects to study are Homiletics (Preaching), Liturgics (Worship), Pastoral Counseling, Missions and Evangelism, and Pastoral Theology (which includes such things as how to run a meeting, conduct a funeral, and even church education).
First, Homiletics is the discipline of sermon preparation, writing, and delivery. For seminary education, Homiletics should be found in about every course. The student must take an introduction to Homiletics so they can formulate the theme of a sermon and develop that theme through an outline, which is to explain the passage being preached. They must learn the biblical mandate for the Gospel to be preached, and then be equipped with the proper tools to preach the Gospel. A preacher should be acquainted with the science and art that is preaching.
The science is the technical aspect of developing the theme and points, while the art is the delivery. He must learn from those who have preached in the past as well as master the proper method for preaching today. He must also learn how to preach from the various genres in the Bible, how to preach at a wedding, at a funeral, ordination and installation service, and in other occasions where the Word of God is asked to be opened and explained. He must also learn how to preach catechetically for the education and edification of his congregation. Through it all, he must understand the glorious and yet terrifying reality that preaching is the way Christ communicates to His people today (Romans 10:13-14). It is the ordinary means of preaching that Christ saves people today.
Second, Liturgics is the subject of worship. Some have heard the term liturgy to speak of the order of service. There are really two types of liturgies. There is the liturgical service where you have the ordered service printed in a bulletin with information of where one is to turn in the Bible for reading, the Hymnal for singing or responsive reading, and even in confessional documents for responsive reading. On the other hand, you have those services where the people are simply led and they are told up front what to sing and it would seem there is no structure or order because it is not in print, but there is structure and order. Then, with the first group, there is even more to be said because they you have the high liturgy such as the Anglican church would use. This and more are all a part of the study of Worship. The student is required to consider the Bible’s teaching of Worship, namely that we are entering into the presence of God with His name upon our lips.
When studying Liturgics one must also consider the distinction between the elements of worship (Scripture reading, prayer, the sermon, singing, and giving alms) and the circumstances of worship (such as building, placing of certain elements, instruments, etc.) The elements are musts in worship, which the circumstances may vary from time to time and location to location. At the heart of it all, we learn worship is done in person. From the Bible and History, we learn that worship is the local gathering of God’s people to a centralized location for the purpose of hearing God’s Word and responding with prayer or singing. Worship is where the church gathers to enter the ageless divine dialogue, where God speaks to His people, and we respond to His good news. This cannot be done if one stays home. The sacrifice of praise is done in the local congregation with God’s officers overseeing the service.
Third, Pastoral Counseling is one of the consequences of good preaching. If the preacher/pastor does his job right and the Holy Spirit is at work in the preaching of the Gospel, then the pastor will be busy with helping his people apply the Word to their lives through pastoral counseling. There are two things to consider in this discipline. First, the pastor is to do this work. The example is Jesus and the Apostle Paul who ministered in corporate settings, from house to house, and even one-on-one giving to the people the very word of God to their specific situations. This too the pastor must do in every corporate worship setting, in family visitation, and in one-on-one counseling meetings. At the same time, the pastor is not alone in this effort. Paul tells Titus to encourage the older men to instruct the younger men and the older women to encourage the younger women. This is counseling done from those who sit in the pews. This relieves a lot of stress of ministry if the people would take up the Bible and help each other apply it to their lives. Counseling is best served when the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed, and the people are equipped and encouraged to help each other through the ministry of the local church.
Fourth, Missions and Evangelism are intimately connected even though they could be divided into two different classes. They are treated together on the most part. Missions is both foreign and domestic. Most denominations have a foreign missions and home missions committee. Therefore, we see missions in both the worldwide perspective, as well as the local neighborhood perspective. Considering the worldwide perspective becomes the focus of missions studies. This involves not only having a strong grasp of the Scriptures, but also knowing a great deal about the culture one is desiring to minister to abroad.
For instance, one would need to know the history of the country or peoples, the geography, language or dialect of the people or peoples, and even the local diet of the people. There is much training one must go through as they prepare to enter the mission field. This is truly no different form those who desire to plant churches in their home country though. They must learn the history of the city or state. They must learn the local geography. They must learn all that they can about the people they hope to minister to in the area. While Missions is on the broad scale, evangelism tends to be viewed in a more narrow, person to person, perspective. This view of evangelism is commonly called personal evangelism. Yet today many have confused evangelism with what only God can do. Our responsibility in evangelism is pointing them in the direction of where they can meet the Savior. It is not “getting them saved.” The confusion centers on the heart of preaching and the lack of understanding that all preaching is to be evangelistic, meaning Gospel centered, good news oriented. Instead people think just talking to someone on the street corner, convincing them they are a sinner, and thus “leading” them to Christ is evangelism. In the New Testament, evangelism, was leading them to Christ through the means of the local church’s ministry of preaching, fellowship, and hospitality. Inviting people to church so they can hear Jesus Christ from the pulpit is the greatest evangelistic technique out there for people to use today.
Fifth, Pastoral Theology is getting down to the everyday life and ministry of the pastor in the local church. This covers polity issues such as how to handle the various church meetings, how to go about church education, and even personal pastoral care. Some of these concepts are overlooked, but there is some magnificent work and insights in this field of theological study which makes for God glorifying study and ministry.
In our next article, we will close out this series by considering what is needed to properly study theology.