Wednesday, October 27, 2010



If you were brought to this post by a link from the Augustana College website, the correct post, the one in which I wrote about Dr. Levin can be found by clicking here.

The Diakonia program is a two-year school of theological education for laypeople. The twelve courses that make up Diakonia each last five weeks and are typically taught by pastors. The subject matter includes the Old and New Testaments, Practical Ministry, Theology, Ethics, Lutheran Confessions and Church History. Classes meet once a week for three hours. Obviously this represents a considerable commitment  on the part of the students.

I am a big supporter of the Diakonia program.

A handful of ELCA synods have a Diakonia program. The Northern Illinois Synod, of which I am a part, has five sites at which Diakonia classes are taught. I have now taught the New Testament course three times. I find it gratifying to teach people who are so interested in exploring their faith more deeply. Most recently I taught at a brand new Diakonia site. Although I did not accomplish all of my teaching goals, I was pleased to watch the eleven students pull together into a community of support.

Our synodical Diakonia director has said that the program can cause a crisis of faith for some students. Looking closely and critically at the Scriptures may lead some students to question things they had previously assumed to be true. Learning that the Bible was written by human beings, and that those human beings did not always agree with one another, comes as news even to some lifelong Christians.

Hearing that Diakonia might cause some students to have a crisis of faith gave me pause. I had to ask myself whether I, as a pastor, should be in the business of causing faith crises. Most often my job involves inculcating faith or shoring it up. After due consideration, and some discussion with my students, I concluded that my mission as a teacher is to tell my students the truth. A crisis of faith, hard as it may be to go through, can lead a person to a stronger and more informed faith.

Of course, a crisis of faith might also lead to a loss of faith. It is hard for me to say this, but, in some cases that, too, might be appropriate. If taking a clear look at the Bible leads someone to lose their faith, then their faith was misplaced to begin with. They were putting their faith in the Bible, not in God.

Diakonia is a Greek word meaning "service." It is the root of our English word "deacon." St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was a deacon, appointed to assist the Apostles in the administration of the church in Jerusalem. His story is told in chapters 6-8 of Acts. I found the picture of St. Stephen above here.

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