I try to practice a series of Yoga excercises on a regular basis because Yoga, more than any other excercise routine of which I'm aware, has a knack for balancing strength development for opposing muscle groups. Thus the quadriceps and hamstrings both get challenged to stretch and strengthen. Many excercise routines develop imbalances in the body, and eventually (around 49 years old apparently) these imbalances start showing up in little quirks and pains. And so the issue of balance comes to forefront, as I recognize that health has nothing to do with unlimited development of one area at the cost of others.
I'm thinking about this issue of balance these days for another reason: we're retooling the structure of our internship program at Bethany. This restructuring stems from a concern that training for ministry is, in many places, out of balance. In general there is a heavy emphasis on theology, certainly born out of a concern that leaders be discerning and protective of truth. It is good to have the capacity to learn Greek and Hebrew, to recall the pressing issues present throughout church history, and to understand both the dangers and opportunities in a pluralistic and post-modern culture. But if this is the exclusive, or even the major focus in one's preparation for leadership, the reality is that several other vital components will be underdeveloped. So what are the components that need developing, and that need to be developed in balance with one another? We've identified four, and hope that each person who interns with us will be learning and practicing in:
1. Theological Discernment
It's vital that those who are involved in leadership learn to use their minds, open their hearts, absorb truth (from many sources - creation, culture, Bible, history, conversation, and more), sift it, digest it, re-articulate it, receive it, personalize it, contextualize it for one's community, weigh it against the prevailing tides of culture, and much more. Towards that end, helping people become students in all these arenas becomes an important part of any internship.
2. Missional Practice
It's wholly inadequate to believe that simply absorbing truth leads to fruitful living. In fact, the testimony of the God's people throughout history is that one of our greatest weaknesses is our tendency to equate intellectual acquisition with spiritual advancement. The reality, of course, is that Jesus commends people, not for what they know, nor even for what they say, but for what they actually do. Towards that end, those who are with us need practical ministry components, practical ways of expressing their giftedness, and testing what gifts they may or may not have, and making a great priority of linking that which is learned in the book with action.
3. Spiritual Formation
The volume of noise and activity in our culture has a cumulative effect of dulling our sensitivity to the voice of Christ, draining our souls, hardening our hearts, and leaving the landscape of our hearts ravaged by drought. Streams of living water are available to change the landscape, but requires intentionality in the realm of spritual formation. Towards this end, each student will be encouraged to develop a spiritual practice - a set of activities that become the means whereby our hearts are opened to receive from Christ.
4. Community Living
One can do all these things, but still fail in effectiveness because, when the day is done, the single most important component of our life in Christ is our commitment to loving one another. Thus the relational components of confession, truth telling, forgiveness, encouragement, celebration, and service will be vital parts of the experience.
All of these areas are vital, and only as one's life experience and ministry experience are challenged in all of these areas will one's potential for ministry be maximized. But of course, this isn't about vocational ministry and internships. This is about ministry (no matter what one's occupation) and all followers of Christ. We need balance! More on this later...