While the world is shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, this could be a great opportunity to not panic, stay home, and sign up for an online course in theology!
Recently, I signed up for a course on Missiology from St. Cyril’s Coptic Orthodox Theological College in Australia. It was an online course and I am still going through the lectures. In the few lectures that I have heard, I have been challenged to grow so much!
Here I am – a missionary in Zambia for over 13 years – and I begin to think I know everything on mission! What a shock I was in for when I took this course! I still have so much more to know and to learn and to grow.
Being Coptic Orthodox from birth, I also thought I knew everything on our Faith. But what another surprise I was in for when, a few months ago, I signed up to study my Masters of Theology from Agora University. I have learned many more truths about our Faith and have been challenged to continue to grow.
Studying theology is helping me in my Faith journey but also helping me in my mission and service. It feels amazing when I can take the things that I have learned and guide my little ones or my church family. Personally, I am growing leaps and bounds and I am being challenged to a depth I have not had before. Learning theology is about life, meaning, belief and identity at the deepest level.
There are many benefits to studying theology. When a belief, a book, or different practice comes out and people begin to follow it, the person who stands on a strong theological foundation will not be so easily swayed. Even from studying Church History, you can see leadership struggles and challenges in the Church from the beginning. Therefore, when something occurs in your Church in modern-day, you won’t be quick to run away knowing your Church History and standing firm on a Church that remains strong in spite of challenges.
And of course, studying theology should never be head knowledge only but for you to grow from the learning. That it should impact the way we live and deal with others. If you are studying and you have not seen a positive change in your life, then something is not connecting to your heart. I should not become more elitist or superior and I should still learn from the child. I always have to check myself to make sure I am letting what I learn transform me into more of the image of Christ.
St. Evagrius Ponticus, a famous theologian and desert monk in Egypt said this: If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian.
Theology will not be learned through studies alone. It will be learned through silence and being in the presence of God. That is exactly how the Early Church Fathers were able to be teachers of theology. They were not trying to be theologians. However, they became theologians because they spoke out of the abundance of their hearts. Their hearts were full with a life of prayer, holiness, and silence. They were in the presence of God and through that, He gave them the theology and depth of knowing Him. Through their relationship with the One who speaks to them, they experienced, tasted, and saw Him.
If you are serious about Mission in our modern day, I challenge you to take any theological and missiological courses that can grow and challenge you. Force you to read more. Force you to think and grow more.
St. Paul, in his words to his disciple St. Timothy, said clearly, “. . . give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. . . Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16). St. Paul knew the importance of devoting one’s life to reading and meditation.
We give attention to many things. We grow in many things. But the one thing we should give attention to is spiritual learning and growth, just like St. Paul advised St. Timothy.
If there are no courses physically near you, there are many Orthodox churches and seminaries that offer courses online. Find one and sign up today! There is never a good time and it does require time but it is so worth it! For your spiritual life, your family, and those you can impact in the world around you.
My Prayer before beginning this journey about 6 months ago (found in The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware):
0 Saviour, who hast journeyed with Luke and Cleopas to Emmaus, journey with thy servants as they now set out upon their way, and defend them from all evil.
I pray the Lord continues to guide my journey and guides yours as well.
Mission Assignment: Sign up for a course to study in theological or missiological studies at an Orthodox seminary. Here are just a few that I know of that offer courses online (feel free to add more schools in the comments below):
Also if you haven’t already, challenge yourself with reading more during this Lent. Here are some recommended books (in addition to your Bible!). Feel free to add more books in the comments below of what you are reading.
A Silent Patriarch: Kyrillos VI Life and Legacy by Fr. Daniel Fanous, who is the Dean of St. Cyril’s Coptic Orthodox Theological College. We recently “met” online when I took the Missiology course. Great book about an amazing man of God that Fr. Abraham & I have just started reading!
Putting Joy Into Practice: Seven Ways to Lift Your Spirit from the Early Church – I am excited to start this book by my good friend Tasoni Phoebe.
Tools for Theosis: Becoming God-like in Christ – This has been a wonderful read to refresh my spiritual practices.
The Crucified Jesus – I read this last year with a group of girls and it was really great!
Missionaries, Monks and Martyrs: Making Disciples of All Nations – I like reading the short biographies that inspire me for mission and spirituality.
Parenting Toward the Kingdom: Orthodox Christian Principles of Child-Rearing – I know it seems funny to add a book about parenting but this has great spiritual thought and practice that is helping me! My friend, Tasoni Laura, at Coptic Dad & Mom has a “Tea with Tasoni” series where she discusses the book, which is helpful.
To challenge the kids, here are some resources:
Great Lent Journey – I am sad we couldn’t get this but will definitely get it next year when I am in the States for a visit!
The Road to Lent Leads to Easter Lesson – I am doing this board game with the kids this year.
For more resources, check out my friend, Tasoni Phoebe’s blog for her Lenten reading list for her and her children: https://beingincommunity.com/my-lenten-reading-list-for-2020/Tags: journey, missiology, Mission, online, seminary, service