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April 1982 · Vol. 11 No. 2 · pp. 40–41 

Book Review

Called to Teach

ed. David Ewert. Fresno, CA: Center for M.B. Studies and M.B.B.S., 1980. 242 pages.

Reviewed by John Vooys

It is a pleasure to come upon a book which leaves one with a high and encouraging view of the gift, calling and practice of teaching in Christ’s church.

Called to Teach is a volume of twelve essays, each written by a different faculty member at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary. The essays are arranged under the headings: Teachers in Biblical Perspective; Teaching Agents in the Church; Significant Teaching Themes; and The Denominational Scene.

On the whole the essays are well written and easy to read. The most glaring drawback is the preponderance of typographical errors—unless of course I’m not aware of the “divine Scource” (p. 152), the “ar millenial system” (p. 201), or “the function of a minsiter” (p. 44). At least this avoids “boring artificality” (p. 31).

The articles under “Teachers in Biblical Perspective” clearly show that teachers filled a vital role, both in the Old and New Testament times. The Old portrays sages or wisdom teachers and priests, the first concerned with transmitting values and skillful living and the other with collecting, preserving and transmitting religious knowledge. In the New Testament, Jesus himself, whether judged by first or twentieth century criteria of what constituted a good teacher, may safely be classed as the teacher par excellence, the “master Teacher.” The Early Church, like Israel in the Old Testament” also had two kinds of teachers, the prophet and the teacher per se.

This section raises some questions which warrant further study and clarification: Can it be clearly shown that all pastors are gifted as teachers (p. 18)? If Jesus as the Master Teacher is to be our model, how does a human teacher measure up (p. 36)? How do we mesh the church’s affirmation of biblical authority with an openness to the continuing word of the Spirit without advocating a somewhat open canon (p. 59)?

The “Teaching Agents in the Church” that are discussed are parents, pastors and the church as a whole. George Konrad’s essay on parents as teaching agents comes as a real corrective to the trend leading away from this God-given role. He states that “increasingly the church of the past decades has preempted the role of Christian education of children” (pp. 69-70). He feels that the church’s responsibility to parents in this area is “to provide them both with the recognition of their {41} teaching role and the necessary support and training to become effective in their responsibility” (p. 84).

The Great Commission, Neighbour Love and Stewardship are included under “Significant Teaching Themes.” Hans Kasdorf gives an excellent exegesis of the Great Commission text and proceeds to stress the importance of obeying it if the church is to be true to its Lord and its mission in the world.

Beginning the section on “The Denominational Scene,” J.B. Toews sets the historical framework by stressing that during the first half century of the denomination the teaching ministry occurred in the context of the brotherhood fellowship not through a professional ministry or institutionalized programs. He asserts that over time the teaching process has been losing its interrelational character, due, in part, to the fact that “teachers and preachers are not born and trained in the bosom of the community” (p. 192), and some are not trained in our ‘own’ schools. These factors have tended to influence and change our theology and practice. One wonders what effect the long time retention of the German language and the presence of the dominant leaders in the churches may have had on younger men and that these factors, perhaps, caused them to leave the Brotherhood and study at ‘outside’ schools. Work needs to be done in this area.

The last essay, by David Ewert, surveys the process of “Preparing Teachers at the Seminary.” There are some basic requirements which the school looks for in its students and there are several programs available which allow for the student to develop and exercise his/her own ‘raw material’, using various patterns of theological education. He concludes by pointing out that the overall purpose of the Seminary is the training of men and women for ministry in and through the Brotherhood.

I recommend this book to all the members in the Mennonite Brethren Church. This volume is itself a teaching agent in that it instructs and exhorts the reader. Called to Teach both informs us of what is being taught at the Seminary, and also encourages us to proclaim and practice the same, wherever God has called us to teach.

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