You see, I recently had a very rewarding experience. I was searching on the “Yahoo! Answers” website for the answer to a question that had somewhat puzzled me. As I did, I came across another question there someone else had asked on an entirely different subject.
That individual had asked about a story that she had read over forty years ago in a grade school reading book. It happened to be the same story I had read, as we had obviously used the same first grade reader. (By the way, the story was titled “Mark Park”, and was in the book, Real and Make Believe, by Harper and Row Basic Reading Program, 1966. Cf. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110501230355AAGgRsw).
Needless to say, the lady searching for this story and book was very happy to get this information, and ultimately to find the answer to the question for which she had been searching for so long.
Obviously, it was also very rewarding for me to be able to help her. It was not that I necessarily knew more than she did. It was just that I was able to direct her to the resource she needed because I too had searched for that same story and book from my own childhood years earlier.
I have reflected much on this little experience. In many ways, it represents one of the roles I play as a pastor – to direct people to the appropriate resources they need. I have a file in my computer’s Outlook program titled: “Answers to Theology Questions”. On a fairly regular basis, I receive e-mails from church members asking me for help with some question they have regarding either the Bible or some given aspect of doctrine.
For my part, I do not necessarily profess to have all the answers. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I do not. Sometimes I may have searched out the same question or issue earlier myself. At other times, however, I am completely stumped by the question, and have to begin the process of searching for an answer myself.
As I work to help people with their questions about the Bible and/or theology, I am reminded that part of what God has blessed me with is the opportunity to have received a formal theological education.
Because of this, very often, I am familiar with the questions I am asked. Often, these same questions were asked by me in my own educational pursuit while I was in seminary. At other times, these questions have been asked of me at some prior point in my ministry.
But even when I am stumped in regard to a given question, at least I know where to turn to begin the process of seeking an answer. I thank God regularly for the Godly teachers He has given me down through the years. And also for all the various books and other resources to which they have directed me. Like many pastors, I have accumulated a rather large theological library over the years – somewhere around 30,000 volumes.
Lately, though, I have come to see my ministerial library as more than just a personal collection of books. I have come to see it as a tool for ministry. The treasury of knowledge contained therein is not intended to be hoarded away; but rather to be used in the service of the Kingdom.
And I have thanked God for both my education and my library, and also rededicated both of them to Him, and asked Him to use them both for His glory and honor. Otherwise, they really serve no purpose.
One last thought. Dr. Price and I were having a meal together and we discussed the fact that one day, somewhere out there in the future, we will each need to find a way responsibly to disperse our respective libraries.
When my time on earth is through and my ministry is complete, this collection of information will invariably be passed on to some other servant or servants of God. I pray even now that God will glorify Himself through these volumes in that day even as He has done through them in my day.