I’ve always said that my main calling is not to teach at a seminary but to help the church better read and live Scripture (which includes teaching at a seminary). In 2019 my ministry expanded further beyond the seminary through theological mentoring for pastors and preaching elders, teaching an overview of Scripture for more local congregations, and involvement in the theological and ordination committee for our denomination.
My teaching at the seminary continues, in a way, as usual, the same-old same-old. But new students arrive and graduated students move on to the next thing in life–hopefully some form of ministry. That’s where I can see that it’s not actually the same-old same-old.
Jana’s cousin Draho and his wife Zuzana are both former students of mine at the seminary. Last August they moved to Wheaton, IL so that Draho and his wife Zuzana could begin Wheaton’s Master’s program in Marriage and Family Therapy. It’s exciting to see students (and family) moving forward in ministry training and becoming equipped for a much needed ministry in Slovakia. We’re looking forward to having them back in Banská Bystrica!
This year we also graduated my star Hebrew class. Somehow this class was the perfect storm because there were three excellent students who fell in love with the Old Testament (that’s about three more than usual). They each did a Master’s thesis on an Old Testament book (Psalms, Daniel, Proverbs) and all of them would like to continue in PhD studies. I think that for the rest of my career I will look back on the exegesis of Proverbs class I had with them as the most fun I’ve ever had teaching a course.
The best way to translate biblická magistrála is “The Bible’s Trunk Road.” A magistrála, in Slovakia is a main, through hiking path, usually one that follows the ridge line of a mountain chain from one end to the other (like the famous Appalachian Trail). When you follow the magistrála through the Tatra mountains, you don’t go into every valley or up every peak, but you go from one end of the Tatras to the other and take in the views of the whole chain of majestic mountains.
For the past few years I’ve been teaching courses for lay people designed to help them 1) gain an overview of the biblical story and 2) gain the knowledge and skills necessary to help them learn to read and live Scripture on their own. Each time I teach this I think it improves and I’m hoping this will develop into an effective tool for training all God’s people to read and live Scripture in everyday life.
This past year I finished up a one year course in our local church, taught some weekend seminars in Svätý Jur (January and October) and Bardejov (December), and taught three seminars at our denomination’s annual gospel conference (March) and youth conference (September). I also enjoy being in the rotation to teach the fifth and sixth grade Sunday School in our local church.
Theology and Ordination for Our Denomination
In 2019 I accepted the challenge of joining the Theological Committee for our denomination. This committee is responsible for the ordination of new pastors and also for addressing theological issues that arise in the denomination.
I’m looking forward to being a part of this ministry since it will help me get to know our pastors better and it will force me to apply my theology to the life of the church.
Along with the Bible’s Trunk Road or biblická magistrála, which is geared for lay people, I was pretty heavily involved in the coaching or mentoring of local church leaders (pastors, elders, small group leaders, etc.).
In Nitra, for example, I trained small group leaders in the book of Genesis to help them prepare for a study on the first book of the Bible (May). I also taught a weekend seminar on the book of Acts in Michalovce (June). That seminar was to help their preachers (elders and lay men) prepare for a sermon series.
These kinds of weekend seminars are important because not everyone in Slovakia knows English and we don’t have an abundance of materials translated into Slovak. These weekend seminars help bridge that gap.
I also helped out this year with a weekend seminar on preaching the book of Genesis (November), mentoring a young church planter (monthly), taught a seminar at the European conference for EFCA missionaries (July), and met with a small group through Skype to talk about Genesis and creation issues (February).
Research and Publishing
Even though my publication output has not been what I hoped it would be and some of the joy is taken away by the pressure to keep up with accreditation and financing requirements, I still see research and publishing as an important aspect of my ministry to the church.
My big research project continues to be two creation project articles I owe for the research grant I received a few years ago. In these articles I’m exploring the Bible as a literary work and, at the same time, a work of history. Literary works express truths figuratively while historical works are supposed to be objective and literal. So how can the Bible be both literary and historical?
To answer that question I’m trying to correct a philosophy of mimesis that is engrained in our western thinking and that creates a chasm between literary and historical texts. My series of posts on the Evangelical’s Creation Conundrum is an exploration of this topic at a more accessible level (article six on the structural symmetry in the six days of creation is the most popular article on our web site).
As has become my custom, I attended the big theological conferences that take place in the States every November. This year I was invited to give a paper on the coherence of the two creation accounts in Gen 1 and 2 and I also organized a session on the dating of the Pentateuchal sources.
Looking Forward to 2020
I guess that’s a pretty good summary of my ministry in 2019. In a way, it’s not much more than a list of activities. Throughout the year my goal is to share some of the stories behind that list of activities so you can be better prepared to pray for us and God’s kingdom here.
Thank you for partnering with us to build God’s kingdom in Slovakia!