Church and the Marketplace: A View from Two Worlds
By Dan Draney (PhD '96, MDiv '87)
There was a day in the not-so-distant-past that a seminary degree meant you were headed for a vocation in the pastorate or in missions or in Christian education. There was something simple and unifying about that older vision. It had the clarity of simplicity and the unity of purpose needed to build institutions. Doubts about the relevance of theological education could be submerged into the unifying vision of ministry, missions, and education. There was a certainty and a confidence, as everyone worked toward a common goal.
It seems to me that all that began to unravel in the 1960s. The din and cry of social relevance, the expanding horizons of knowledge and technology, the diverse multiplication of alternative ecclesial organizations, all contributed to ferment and soul searching in theological education. It seemed no one was quite sure what a seminary should be doing.
My own life story is perhaps emblematic of these changes. I entered seminary in the early 1980s with an intention of becoming a pastor. I worked in a sales profession during my student years to pay the tuition bills. I discovered that I liked the study of theology and church history, and so my goals changed, and I began work on a PhD in church history, while continuing to support my family in the business world. To this day, after 12 years as a working student at Fuller, I still find myself straddling the worlds of business and theological education.
I am grateful that I have been able to move in and out of these worlds that often seem so removed from one another. In the old model there would have been no place for me. My life trajectory would have been judged a failure from the point of view of a seminary's goals, because I never made it as a pastor. But today, with an increasing diversity of vocational goals among Fuller's student body, my life experience is not so unusual and presents opportunities for understanding and fulfillment that would never have existed years ago. For example, in my line of work in the food industry, I often interact with orthodox Hasidic rabbis regarding kosher food regulations. This is an experience that very few of my pastor friends know anything about.
There was something nice about the old vision: it was simple and comforting, a safe box of social convention. But I like where we are today, with all its attendant feelings of uncertainty and experimentalism. It may not be for everyone, but I feel the better for it nonetheless.