From the Archives: Why Missionaries Should Be Theologians and Greek Scholars

Originally written July 8, 2015

As a Junior in Bible College I took my first class in Koine Greek [1] and was first introduced to The Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar by William Mounce. Over the next twelve months that textbook along with it’s exercises, vocabulary cards, and lexicon [2] helped me survive Greek I and Greek II.

To be perfectly honest after graduating from College and finishing my last Greek exam in Greek IV most of those books weren’t used at all…instead they just looked impressive sitting on my shelf.

But tomorrow that changes because according to Amazon at 1:00 in the afternoon a brand new copy of Basics of Biblical Greek and it’s accompanying workbook will be delivered to my front door. These along with a Greek vocabulary app on my phone [3] will be used to start learning Greek all over again [4].

At this point some of you may be asking the same question I asked myself while ordering the Greek books last night. “why am I doing this?”

The answer actually has to do with a discussion over breakfast in Chittagong Bangladesh where I was teaching students.  Since the Colleges president, as well as myself and the other visiting professor were all Missionaries, most of our conversations had to do with reaching others with the Gospel of Christ.

That particular morning over french toast the visiting professor explained that a huge reason why Churches aren’t growing and people aren’t being reached is Missionaries are no longer scholars. His point being we (Missionaries) are great students of practical ministry methods, but not theology or Doctrine.  

Oh we have the right Doctrinal position and understand what we believe….but when dealing with contemporary challenges to Theology many Missionaries (myself included) struggle greatly.

The more I thought about his point that few Missionaries are true theologians (or Greek students) the more it convicted me.

You see the Lord has blessed me with an ability to connect with others through speaking or teaching, or share truths in a way that can be directly applied to their lives. This is an awesome thing because of course Scripture SHOULD be applied to life!

However when I can do a four-hour workshop on “adapting to a foreign culture” and explain in detail the latest books on Church growth but don’t have a clear understanding of how our culture creates a false view of God there is a problem.

It isn’t enough to be a student of practical ministry.

Each of us as Christians must become students of Theology and the deeper truths of Scripture.

For this is the only way that we can truly wrestle with the challenges of a non-christian worldview.

Does this mean I will come to Church with my Greek New Testament and have long discussions on which of the eighteen uses of the word “and” is in a certain verse? No. But in order to truly explain the deeper truths of Scripture I must become a student of them myself.

  1. language the original manuscripts of the New Testament were written in  ↩
  2. dictionary of Biblical Greek Words  ↩
  3. it doesn’t look as cool as the vocab cards, but a lot easier for review  ↩
  4. as with most languages if you don’t review the words faithfully you’ll lose retention  ↩

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