Joe helps out with Soul Action half-a-day a week. He is currently working hard to get a Theology degree at London School of Theology and we thought we’d pick his brains briefly on what it’s like to study the bible full time…
So, Joe, what are you up to right now?
Currently I am just about to finish my second year studying theology and music.
Amazing – how is it?
Over the last two years I have been blessed to be able to study the bible and my eyes have been opened again and again to just how amazing our God is. The first thing I realized about studying theology is the depth we were able to reach in a week of lectures compared to one sermon on a Sunday. This is mainly because of time, we get to spend a lot more time poring over one subject; for example I have just finished 6 weeks on the Gospel of Luke.
I love it; the more you dig the more you find! The more time you spend on a subject the more you’re stretched and challenged. Not only do you gain the benefit of being in a class learning together but also you gain the tools and confidence to use the Bible effectively. Whether that be in your personal study, preparing for a cell group, a sermon or even just a chat in the pub.
Why did you want to do theology?
I didn’t really give it any thought until my second year doing A levels. I love football so as a kid I naturally wanted to be a footballer but then as that dream didn’t come to happen, I wanted to be a sports physio. It was only in my first year of college where I started leading worship for my church, and a passion to use music as a tool for people to come into the presence of God started to rise and build until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Nothing gets me more excited then seeing people singing their hearts out to God in praise. I felt God speaking to me about pursuing this passion and that led me to study theology and music. I wanted to do both because I wanted to further my musical skills but the theology part of the degree was so important to me because I wanted to know as much about the God I worship as possible. It’s impossible to lead people to God if you don’t know who he is yourself.
What’s the best bit?
The best part of it is that it challenges you. For me it makes me think on my own –what do I actually believe? Why do I believe it?
I grew up in a Christian family and have gone to church all my life so naturally I heard a lot about who Jesus is and what he has done. The last couples of years have reaffirmed those beliefs but I’ve also been pushed to try and understand why. I can’t claim to know all about who he is, what he has done and why he has done it. He’s God and I’m clearly not, but there is a joy in wrestling with ideas, discussing this with people with more wisdom and knowledge then me. Ultimately it results in a deeper relationship with God.
And what do you find hard about it?
Sometimes, even with subjects I enjoy studying, there comes a time, especially around essay deadlines and exams, where I seem to forget the reason why I like that subject. This can be dangerous in any subject but I would dare say this is even more dangerous for me as a Christian when studying theology.
I would say most people are driven to study theology because of their love of Jesus and their desire to learn more about him. However when the stress levels rise and the deadlines approach, its easy to forget this and focus on just the academics, instead of enjoying the journey of learning which makes you want to worship God even more.
So is everyone who studies theology a Christian? What’s that like?
No not everyone who studies theology is a Christian, and people study it for a range of different reasons.
For me, I chose to study at a Christian Bible college as opposed to a secular university although I’m sure both have their strengths and weaknesses.
I have enjoyed my two years of studying with other Christians seeing God reveal himself even more to my friends. I love the unique community that a bible college brings. For me and for others this has been a blessing as well as a struggle at times. The phrase ‘Christian Bubble’ is often a frustration to many. It’s great to be around Christians but its important to get out their into the real world as well!
As Martin Smith says ‘Christianity works best when its shared beyond the walls of the Church’ and in my case the classroom as well.
So you basically study the bible all the time right? What’s that like?
Far from it! I read my bible and study it but definitely not all the time.
The great thing about the Bible is its alive! Yes I’m aware its not crawling on four legs, but it is the inspired word of God and it speaks to us today. It was relevant 2000 years ago and it’s just as relevant, for any man, woman or child, for any walk of life, today!
The beauty of studying theology for me is that the bible takes on a deeper reality; it’s not just words on a page or fictional characters, but real people and real stories.
The passionate letters from Paul urging the church to press into God; the simple stories of ordinary men and women like me and you saying ‘I will follow’; God making a nation from Abraham, the beginnings of the Israelite kingdom through Saul and David and the start of the Church through Jesus disciples. You become aware of the big story and sheer immensity of Gods overall plan. Jesus is there through it all, in every page, it’s amazing.
I particularly love reading the gospels, learning about Jesus, hearing His wit and humor and majesty as he both challenges his critics and at the same time reveals the Fathers love.
If people are thinking of heading in to full time theology, what advice would you give them?
Pray about it, ask for God’s direction in where and when. Don’t be put off if you don’t want to be a vicar, pastor or worship leader. Its important for all Christians in all careers and walks of life to have strong foundations of what they believe about God.
For some people it will be that you feel you’re not academic enough to study theology – rest assured it’s not that bad. Sure they use big words and like to put ‘ology’ on the end of everything but you get used to it. Believe me I am probably one of the least academic people going, but God has used others to help me and he will do the same for you.
My last piece of advice would be, use it as time to go deeper in your personal relationship with God. There won’t be many opportunities to devote yourself to understanding the Word of God so deeply. Strive to do the best academically but more importantly strive to have an intimate relationship with the living God.
Brilliant – thank you Joe, we really appreciate your time…