By Dr. Marvin Jones, Louisiana College
The training of preachers and pastors has a long-standing tradition within Christianity. Paul’s command to Timothy to “train faithful men” (II Tim 2:2) is an essential for the church’s spiritual health. This tradition of Christian education supporting the Christian church has continued ever since. My brief review of the Apologists and Monasticism will demonstrate the concept of pastor training and pastoral ministries support the health of the church. The review of the Apologists will show that a theologically trained pastor is healthy to a congregation as opposed to a theologically trained monk who provided limited leadership to the church.
The early church faced intellectual and spiritual challenges from the Roman culture, including attacks on the credibility of the gospel. The Roman strategy was not only to undermine the influence of Christianity but to prove it was spiritually and intellectually dismissive. These polemical battles for Christian truth were often fought in churches by competent pastors. The pastors were known as the Apologists.
The Apologists were a second-century product of the Christian church which interacted with its cultural counterpart. These men, using the Roman education system available to them, defended the Christian faith from heresy in order to evangelize. Their secular education was used to support Christianity. They “filtered out” the secular content and replaced it with biblical content while utilizing the medium of Roman rhetoric.
Several hundred years later, a different model of Christian education emerged. The collapse of the Roman Empire ushered in the decline of Western civilization. The moral decline of the populace demonstrated the church’s need to establish a countercultural lifestyle. The solution to society’s moral decay was to embrace, more formidably than it had earlier, monasticism.
The monastic approach to Christianity separated monks from the rest of the church. As a result, the overt emphasis on asceticism moved monks away from Christian engagement and with the culture. Consequently, monasticism led inevitably to isolationism, as evidenced by the requirements of voluntary celibacy, poverty, and even martyrdom, which ensured that monks had no social connection to the typical church member.
Monastic life had a debilitating impact upon church life. Theological speculation divorced from the ministry of the local church nurtured an environment that was ripe for division. There simply was no ministry accomplished in isolation. In fact, the Bible was never translated into the vernacular language of any culture. In other words, the language barrier meant that few people had access to the Scriptures.
The contrast between the Apologists and the Medieval church is evident. The early church declared faith to their cultural counterparts without compromise or withdrawal from society. The Medieval church, however, withdrew from culture, which in effect, allowed an elitists mentality to emerge. The consequence for ministry is that a trained monk did not have opportunities for service. That the early church flourished educationally, pastorally, and ministerially suggests that biblical/theological thinking supported the New Testament church structure.
The principle that emerges is that critical thinking founded upon biblical principles undergirds local church ministry. This fact is solidified as one considers that the first three hundred years of Christianity witnessed the most advanced theological achievements that the church has known. The fact is more impressive when one realizes that every notable pastor/educator was committed to local church ministries.
At Louisiana College, the Christian Studies Department will not repeat the mistakes of the past. We desire to produce students (who will be future pastors) who are capable of integrating their faith with their learning. They are taught to learn critical thinking skills, biblical principles, and theological formulations that will become the foundation for ministry.
The Christian Studies Department recognizes the call to equip pastors for churches is challenging. American culture is no less demanding than Roman culture. Therefore, we want to produce pastors, staff members, and capable leadership who can interact with culture with the foundation of a biblical worldview.
The Lord has provided men and women, who have been trained at the highest level academically, to meet the challenge of training faithful men and women who are called to be future pastors and leaders in Louisiana Baptist churches.
Our faculty includes Dr. Philip Caples, who specializes in New Testament and Preaching. He currently serves in churches as an interim pastor, is sought after for public speaking engagements, and is a friend and mentor to many pastors. Dr. Justin Langford is our New Testament professor, specializing in the Greek New Testament. He currently serves in the college and career department in his home church. Dr. Tylitha Whatley is our Christian Education faculty and she serves with her husband Dr. Glen Whatley at their church. Our newest faculty member is Dr. Russell Meek. He teaches Old Testament and Hebrew and is committed to serving the local church. I teach Theology and Church History and serve as pastor of a local church. Please know that our department is here to serve, assist, mentor, and help pastors train for ministry. The faculty desires to engage Louisiana Baptist in serving the purpose of Christ.
 This is not to say that monastic life made no positive contribution one such benefit is the preservation, by the Monks, of ancient Christian writings.