While I am still at the beginning of this series, I thought I share a little about my story and why blue collar theology (or theological education in the local church) is important to me.
I grew up in a home of godly parents and attended church faithfully from the day I was born. Both my mother and father are well-educated people, and my grandfather is an SBTS alumnus (1943), who by the way, was the first person in our family to graduate from high school and later college and seminary. Throughout my childhood, my parents pushed me to be the best student that I could be, and while I earnestly sought excellence in my studies, I realized that I had several challenges. These challenges included sports, entertainment, and a disdain for literature and reading.
I was told that from infancy, I had a ball in my hand. Growing up I played baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, volleyball, and ran track. Sports literally dominated my life. And when I was not playing sports, I was being entertained by television or a movie. Together sports and entertainment enveloped my childhood as a typical American kid. However, the third factor– a disdain for literature and reading–became a by-product of my way of life and was encouraged by the environment in which I lived. No one in my family read. No one read to me either. In elementary school, when each student sponsored the purchase of a book for the school library, I bought the book with the most pictures and least words (it was about snakes). This continued throughout high-school where, not only would I not read the assigned literature, I could not even muster the motivation or energy to read the cliff notes! I just hated it.
The end result of all of this is the fact that I did not read my first book until I was 19 years-old. If there was anything else I could be doing other than studying or reading, I did it. I never heard of C.S. Lewis, much less The Chronicles of Narnia. J.R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings was completely alien to me. Yet, the home was not the only place where the discipline of reading and study was undermined, but the local church did as well. Growing up, I went to your typical downtown First Baptist Church rich in history and settled in their ways. I won all the Bible drills, but didn’t know how to study my Bible. I knew that going to church and giving my tithe was important, but I didn’t know how to grow as a young and under-developed Christian. I could sing all the praise songs at our “youth chapel” on Wednesday nights, but I had no idea what the songs really meant. They were just fun songs to sing.
Then I realized God had called me to ministry, and things really needed to change.
During my first years of college, God began giving me an insatiable desire to learn, study, and grow in my knowledge of Him. I began buying every Christian book I could find, and unfortunately, the most accessible Christian books are usually the worst Christian books out there. So yeah, I quickly became a very confused and bewildered believer. No one had told me to avoid this author or recommend that book, and evidence of this reality is that I now have an entire bookcase full of books I am too ashamed to have for public viewing. I kept them to remind me of where I have been, what God has taught me, and the importance of investing in people so that they won’t have their own bookcase of literature they are not ashamed of showing.
Almost ten years have passed since I read my first book, and I have no idea of knowing how many I have read since then. What I do know is that God has taken a kid who had absolutely no desire for study or reading and infused a passion for truth and a greater knowledge of Him. While I love my parents and the church I was brought up, I went through 19 years of my life deprived of any real theological education (apart from my own Bible study and Sunday School classes). These past ten years have, in part, been a making up for (and catching up to) the years that should have been invested in training my mind to understand the truths of God rather than other exercises of futility and trivial pursuits.
So why I am passionate about theological education and the local church? Because I am example of someone who grew up never appreciating the truth nor valued the knowledge of God as greater worth than all the unprofitable exercise that comprised my life. Seminary, Christian colleges, and parachurch organizations are not the place where Christians find theological education to be important and essential. It should be in the home and in the local church–and that is where I hope it returns.
As I begin this series, I feel like it is important to let you know where I am coming from. I do not have 20 years of theological education under my belt. I have not seen the local church as “the pillar and buttress of truth” as she ought to be. Yet, I will not be content with an anti-intellectual, anti-theological bias dominating the ecclesiological ethos. So my plea is for theology and the church, truth and the glory of God, knowledge of God for the people of God.
My plea is for blue collar theology.