Four men walked into a coffee shop

learningA Muslim Imam, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, a Roman Catholic Priest and an evangelical missionary. They got chatting about how they had got to their present positions.

 

The Imam talked about his early upbringing in Islam, his memorisation of the Qur’an and the beginnings of his formal training. He recounted his time at Al-Azhar in Egypt and his first post after seven years of training.

 

The Rabbi had come from an Orthodox family where Judaism was imbibed with his mother’s milk. In his Orthodox school he began to read the Hebrew texts and before he went on to Tertiary studies, he spent time in Israel so that Modern Hebrew would be his daily language. Then four years of study of the Tanakh and the Talmud began to equip him for his role as a Rabbi.

 

The priest told of a similar process of preparation. He had been brought up in a devout family where the priesthood was seen as the highest aspiration of a young man. He had served at Mass for years. He had struggled with the demand for celibacy, but eventually felt able to dedicate this part of his life to God. Having gone through Catholic school before he began the preparation for the priesthood. He studied theology and philosophy and other subjects as directed by the church. He attended different Universities, but most enjoyed his time in Rome as he learned Italian and got to grips with the writings of the Fathers of the church in Latin and Greek. After seven years of study he was ordained as a priest.

 

The evangelical missionary spoke of his secular home and how he had only become a Christian whilst studying Natural Sciences at University. There he had attended a large church where he had heard excellent sermons. After that he spent two years as a Lay Assistant at a similar church and he had attended a part time course that taught him more about the Bible. Then he felt that God was calling him to become a missionary to an unreached people group. He realised he needed some training in what it means to be a cross-cultural missionary and he found a college that would give him the basics in a ten week course. His mission agency reminded him of those dying without Christ and urged him to get to the field as soon as possible. He found language study difficult because he had never had to learn a language before. He was facing people who had a long established faith in their own gods and he wondered how to think through the Biblical message for their context. Perhaps he should have done more training before he went.

 

Ray Porter, Chair of Global Connections Board

This article first appeared on the Global Connections website on 17th Feb 2016