summer’s end

I realize that my friends at Southern Baptist Seminary are already approaching their mid-terms, but classes at GRTS don’t begin until tomorrow. Our late start coincides with the governor’s decision a few years ago to delay the start of our public schools until after Labor Day, so that the state can take advantage of the one growth industry we have left–tourism. Thanks to her, tourists on this Labor Day can enjoy the most beautiful beaches in the world, and they have them pretty much all to themselves, for the high today is all of 62 degrees. So yes, the water is warmer than the air, but you still may not want to go in.

I spent one of my last few weeks of summer at the Upper Peninsula Bible Camp. Did you know that you can drive 7 hours north and then west from Grand Rapids and still be in the state of Michigan? It’s true that the people make the place, and this camp is truly a wonderful place.

I also firmed up my candidacy for father of the year by spontaneously buying my children a puppy. I picked up the puppy at an Amish farm in Ohio, he licked my face, and that was that. My daughter exclaimed that this was the happiest day of her life (as you can see from her puppy dog expression), so no matter what happens with the potty training, this was totally worth it.

Finally, our faculty work days included a report from a survey that we conducted of pastors. We asked them what knowledge, skills, and character traits are essential for pastoral ministry, and then we asked them to rank the top seven in each category from most to least important. Nearly 700 pastors completed the initial, open-ended survey, and nearly 600 responded to our invitation to rank them.

Here are the rankings, from top to bottom:  integrity, Bible, loving, exegesis, preaching, theology, humility, teaching, interpersonal skills, resilient, leadership, self-aware, patient, impartial, pastoral theology and care, positive, cultural awareness, administration, counseling, church history, and languages.

There is much data here that we haven’t yet mined, but it’s interesting that “Bible” and “exegesis” are #2 and #4, while the biblical languages came in dead last. Somewhere in south Florida Gary Meadors is pouring himself a tall, cold one.

We also asked the pastors how these competencies are best acquired, and they said that formal theological education is the best way to gain knowledge of the Bible, church history, languages, and theology, and to acquire the skills of counseling, exegesis, preaching, and teaching (seminary was not listed as a top way to acquire any of the character traits needed for ministry). So, of the 8 competencies that seminary is best at, these pastors said that 5 were in the top 8 needed for ministry, while 3 were dead last (counseling, church history, and languages).

Forty percent of the pastors surveyed hadn’t attended seminary, so this may have influenced their answers (if you haven’t studied the languages or church history it’s unlikely that you would think they are essential for the vocation you are currently doing).







8 responses to “summer’s end”

  1. John Mulligan

    Soooo, Gary must be a member in good standing of the Young, Restless, and Reformed crowd?

  2. mikewittmer

    Actually, Gary’s my recently retired NT colleague who is pretty straight laced, so it seemed funny to tease him about a non-existent drinking problem. Sadly, the teasing has probably led him to start drinking (see how this works? It’s awfully hard to stop a good rumor. My advice is never to start one. Right, Gary?)

  3. John Mulligan

    Yeah, that was pretty much tongue-in-cheek regarding the current dust up between John MacArthur and the YRR crowd. I have a great deal of respect for MacArthur and for those that I have read in the YRR group (like Kevin DeYoung)

  4. Jonathan Shelley


    If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the “Bible” and “exegesis” it’s that Scripture is a community library that cannot be read flatly through the lens of dead, Western hermeneutical science but must be experienced through the Spirit speaking through the personal encounter of the individual in his or her specific context with the living person of Jesus Christ who challenges our Ceaser-centered reading of history to move us beyond our Platonic thought forms and presuppositions into the messyness and spontaneity of God invading our everyday lives and transforming us into Christ-followers in the kingdom of life here and now. Um… context. Social justice. Liberation. Deconstruction. Other buzz words. Pedro the Lion!

  5. mikewittmer

    Hey, is that you in the picture? Don’t you have a child about that age? And haven’t you obviously been in the sun a little too much? Perhaps lying down in a field in a downward slope, so that the blood rushes to your brain?

  6. Jonathan Shelley


    You can tell that’s not me in the picture – that guy is smiling.

  7. It is interesting that Bible and exegesis rank so high when the languages comes in so low. Parallel to this is that theology can come in #6 while church history comes in second to last. I suppose if they knew any church history they would recognize the significance of the biblical languages. Moreover, I have to question how well they know their theology if they relegate church history to such a low level.

  8. Gary

    On a more serious note, didn’t the puppy come with a dark, round hat?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: