Of Microwaves and Crockpots: Quicker Isn't Always Better
"When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he
offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay
my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter answered: “May your money perish with
you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no
part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this
wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a
thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may
happen to me.” (Acts 8:18-24, NIV)
I've been thinking about a career change. Brain or heart surgeon has a nice ring to it don't you think? Another area of possible vocation for me might be computer analysts on future outer space flights. Before you get all concerned, I believe that viewing a few youtube videos of how these jobs are accomplished, I can be successful if I watch them closely and take a few notes. I want to go cheap and quick so I can jump right into my desired field and begin practice right away. Y'all are shaking your heads right now. Aren't ya? Thankfully, I am kidding.
It was with some trepidation and a little ire that I read an article in the local paper of a person officiating at his friend's wedding. I wasn't upset at the awesome opportunity that was offered to the fellow. I think it an honor to walk beside a man and woman as they contemplate marriage. What caused my consternation was the way in which the article transpired regarding the fellow's clergy credentials.
Having gone through a rigorous series of educational opportunities which included 128 credit hours of under graduate study and 90 credit hours of Master's Degree training and additional vetting by my church denomination, I found the article offensive and condescending. The article celebrated the condensed and inexpensive means to get credentialed for ministry. As if watching a few youtube videos would qualify as education and practical application. It doesn't.
Apparently, one (anyone) can go online and obtain a Master's Degree in Divinity free of charge to be able to perform weddings and if desired to start their own church. I had already known this pathway existed for ordination and had thought it cheapened and undercut ordination as something superficial and shallow. The article did nothing to change my mind.
The universal life church (ulc) website promotes the practice and notes among their 'graduates' people like Stephen Colbert, The Rock, Lady Gaga, and others. Once again, I have no ill feelings toward these folks and believe they are free to obtain the degree. I question their level of cognition regarding theology and covenant born out of a orthodox view of scripture.
My issue is in the quote from the AP writer when they said, "in a process that was surprisingly quick, I was ordained as a minister.... I printed off my certificate....checking off my first item on my to-do list." Wow! Wished I knew about this option back in 1997. I could have saved great sacrifices toward my family, inordinate amounts of money on education, books, and travel, and a host of other essential aspects of theological training.
Remembering the long arduous journey I personally traveled to gain degrees and be recognized by my denomination, I savor each of the 14 years I invested and each class of training. I liken my time in academia as that of a crock-pot. Granted, there were times I wanted to get the education and denominational vetting over with, much like a microwave, but instead enjoyed the journey.
While microwaves get us food quickly, if we're honest, we'll take slow cooked food that has all the flavors intermingled and savory. Waiting, while a hindrance, produces better outcomes and yummier food. In education, time devoted to study and research provides a rich and fertile place for learning and practical application to occur.
I took the opportunity to visit the website of ulc and saw another piece of angst when they said, "Plus, unlike traditional religious organizations, we don't require years of training or expensive courses to become a member of the clergy. Becoming ordained is free, and can be done entirely online." (www.ulc.org)
Going back to my hankering to become a surgeon of brains and hearts or an integral staff member that pushes buttons for spaceship liftoff, I can imagine the human resource supervisor when I tell them I've watched a few youtube videos and therefore feel qualified to take a shot at the above vocations.
Those who are called of God to become shepherds of the church are handling and caring for the souls of people and that in itself is a delicate vocation that requires something more than a thin understanding of God's order and covenant. Rather than go cheap and quick, I'd expect those responsible for walking beside someone in their greatest times of spiritual need to have appropriate education and vetting to mark them as reputable for the work of the Gospel. Not dismissing the ulc but simply saying there is a better, slower, and deeper way to credential people and it begins with the nature of the call toward ministry. The call cannot be dismissed or diminished as unimportant in pursuit of degrees in ordination.
In Acts 8, Simon wanted the same power as the apostles and was willing to pay to get it. In God's spiritual economy, it doesn't work that way. The grace of God, redemption by Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit comprise those pieces of our faith. Investing into the study of the Bible is where practical application can go forward.
"A Musing Pastor"