The Christian army is the only one that trains just its chaplains and band directors

Few schools of theology have ever taken the laity seriously. Certainly the one I was studying at 20 years ago didn’t. There, one of my senior professors complained that some of his students were not planning to go into the ministry after graduation, and suggested they should be charged a higher rate of tuition. Still another professor objected to the fact that the school had women students (all of whom were laypersons in those days), and refused to acknowledge their presence in his classroom.

And so it went. A few crumbs were allowed to fall from the seminarian’s table for the occasional benefit of the laity—but then only rarely.

Today, the situation is radically different. Nearly every seminary in America offers special courses and degree programs for those not planning to go into the ordained ministry. But generally speaking, these are little more than appendices to programs developed for the clergy. Their focus is seldom on the distinctive needs of the laity; and few schools have developed programs that aim to equip the laity for the ministry. In fact, the majority of laymen and women have not yet had the opportunity of serious theological education.

Although the church generally seems to agree that “the ministry” belongs to the whole people of God and not just a special caste of professional Christian workers, it is apparent we still have a long way to go in the implementation of this essential theological conviction.

Lay Theology: Its Importance

The profound need for a vital theology in the life of today’s church is reflected in the following comment by William Diehl, recently retired from a top management position with Bethlehem Steel and ...

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