Theological Training: A Risk Worth Taking In Service Of The African Church

by Priviledge Tafirei

A few weeks ago, I shared a reflection on my undergraduate studies at the Gospel Coalition Africa. I unpacked three pitfalls that students must beware of as they pursue theological studies. Theological training is so enticing that one faces the danger of missing the purpose of engaging in the discipline of theological study. Most students enter theological training because they desire to serve the church, helping God’s people to grow in their knowledge and love for him. However, as one’s brain starts to be massaged with deep theological thoughts, it’s easy to forget the fundamental reason for theological study: to serve the local church.

Thus it’s important for theological students to be reminded that deep theology cannot stop in our heads. For it’s so easy to fall into theological pride, settling for intellectual prowess without spiritual progress. Deep theology should lift our eyes up in awe and wonder at God, driving us to our knees in prayer and melting our hearts in love. In short, it should lead us to worship God and love our neighbours. Only that isn’t always the case.

After reflecting on the various pitfalls for theological students, it might be tempting to conclude that it’s too dangerous. That we’re better off avoiding higher studies entirely. This is certainly one of the ways we might read James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” However, this verse can also be understood as an exhortation to take the Bible teaching seriously.

To do that, we shouldn’t flee from theological training but humbly enter into it

I am of the view that every Christian should be a theologian. The numerous pitfalls are warning signs. Not to ward us away from theological training but to approach them soberly and seriously, navigating them in a healthy and fruitful way. There is a great need, especially in our motherland Africa, for more men and women to devote themselves to the discipline of theological education. Our continent is desperate for faithful brothers and sisters who can engage with theological ideas and help contextualise those truths for their people.

Someone once said to me, ‘We know better when we worship better.’ But I think the opposite is more accurate: We worship better when we know better. And for us to know better, we need more men and women filled with the Spirit of God, who give themselves to studying theology to help the church know God better and worship him well.