My interest was piqued during a recent morning commute as the radio DJ lamented that her teenager was “directionally challenged.” You see, her daughter had recently gotten into a small fender bender. Once the worried mother confirmed there were no injuries, she asked her daughter which direction she had been going on the highway. Her daughter paused, looked around, and said into the phone, “Mom, I have no idea. I was just following the GPS.”
This sparked a lively discussion among the DJs and call-in listeners. Each praised GPS technology and its convenience. The ability to type in an address and just go is a wonderful thing. And yet, each mourned the fact that a person can now arrive at their destination but not actually realize how they got there!
I attended NTS in the early 2000s and received my Master of Divinity. I’m currently in year two of the Doctor of Ministry program. I have been reminded often through seventeen years of pastoral, cross-cultural, and educational ministry of the many skills NTS has helped me develop. I know how to consult a commentary, counsel a couple preparing for marriage, write a sermon, and craft a worship service. I am grateful for these skills my education has helped me acquire.
But I am most grateful that NTS has helped me critically reflect on my ministry practice. More than finding quick solutions to ministry problems, NTS has equipped me to prayerfully reflect on self, Scripture, and context; to be able to look up, look around, and truly see, not just where I’m going, but how and why I got there.
The world, and the church, needs ministers who have more than quick access to answers and workable strategies. It needs people who know more than just how to name the destination. It needs servants who know the way; ministers who are able to prayerfully reflect on the deep things of God, discern where the Spirit is at work, and invite people to follow. The church needs what the late Eugene Peterson referred to as “contemplative pastors.”
Practicing this type of ministry doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t come by listening to a compelling podcast, attending an amazing conference, or reading a groundbreaking book. Like GPS, those resources and tools all have their important place. But they cannot replace the hard work of actually learning and practicing the way. This is why contemplative ministry only comes through the long-term formation of the heart, mind, and hands. I believe NTS offers fertile ground for this kind of formative work.
As we prepare for a new fall semester in just a few short weeks, I am excited to see a new group of God-called seminarians embrace the wonderful gift that is NTS. Would you join me in praying for them?
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Jason Veach
Director of Communications and Outreach