The Rev Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian –
has been Principal of Trinity Theological College since 2001 and is an Ordained Elder of the Trinity Annual Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore.
Theology is not the exclusive concern of pastors and theologians. This is simply because theology has to do with our understanding of and response to God. Each of us as believers, whether consciously or not, often responds to God and orders our lives according to our particular understanding of Him.
So it follows then, that if we have a distorted view of God, it could result in a defective spirituality.
If you are not a pastor or full-time ministry staff, but a lay person – that is, working in the secular sector, or a homemaker, or retired – allow me to share with you some compelling points on why theological studies are beneficial.
A wise theologian once said that for Christians, it is never the case of the presence or absence of theology: every Christian has a theology, whether he realises it or not. Theological studies can therefore ensure that we are well-grounded in good theology based on the Bible and the teachings of the universal Church.
There are several avenues offered by Trinity Theological College (TTC) for those working in the secular sector, but who wish to serve God more effectively in Church and the public square. The most convenient is attending the evening lay training courses by the Centre for the Development of Christian Ministry (CDCM).
Upcoming evening courses (Jan to May 2014), usually held once a week over eight weeks, include studies on the Books of Joshua and Hebrews, Christians and the Marketplace and Teachings from Great Theologians for Today’s Church.
“I had been praying about doing a theological study, so I went to a TTC Open House. At first I looked at doing the MTS, but found that it would be tough on my time. Hence, I took up an evening CDCM course and I chose the study on the book of Nehemiah, as the topic of spiritual leadership appealed to me. As a person in the marketplace, as well as serving in church, this course was invaluable. It gave me a lot of insights, as Nehemiah was a person who always sought the Lord’s instruction, and allowed the right person to lead – a very important attribute.”
- Mr Henry Tan is an accountant running a practice
The more intensive day-time Master of Theological Studies (MTS) course designed for laypeople can be taken part-time over five to six years, or completed on a full-time basis in two. Sixty-three credit hours are offered with a well-rounded curriculum of topics – from the Old and New Testament to church history, ethics, biblical interpretation, education in Christian faith communities, pastoral theology, mission and evangelism, as well as a choice of electives.
When undertaken prayerfully and humbly, formal theological education can broaden the mind and nourish the soul.
“The modular system of the intellectually rigorous and spiritually nurturing MTS programme allowed me to work and study concurrently. In my daily work, I am confronted with issues of suffering, social injustice and ethical dilemmas. As a result of theological training, I am now more confident in defending the faith, witnessing, evangelising, and in cultivating Christian charity. The programme is definitely highly relevant to those called to marketplace ministry.”
- Dr Tham Tuck Seng is a medical doctor in private practice
A lay person can cultivate theological acumen and discernment, as you would be immersed in the great theological traditions of the Church. Discernment is essential in a world where different philosophies, ideologies and spiritualities are constantly vying for space and attention.
Even as some sectors of the modern evangelical church appear to be incessantly chasing after superficial fads and the latest trends, Christians need theological foundations to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1), and to penetrate the surface-claims of these fads in order to uncover and expose their true motivations and objectives.
You will be equipped with a lens through which to look at and interpret the world, and help you think in a Christian way about society, politics, economics, science and values governing daily decisions. You will also have a keener and more profound sense of the meaning of the vocation that God has called you to – whether as homemaker, professional or retiree.
“The MTS programme has given me a critical thinking mind, and the ability to evaluate opinions and statements that people may make regarding Christianity and to read Scriptures in their proper context. I am confident that I will be a much better equipped servant of God.”
- Mr Tan Kim Lam spent 22 years in the corporate work environment and is now working part-time in a local polytechnic
When lay persons serve in the Church, they bring with them requisite skills, talents and competencies. With theological studies, these capabilities can be further topped up with a deeper understanding of the nature of the Church and her mission in society.
A Sunday school teacher must have a particular view of the Bible, and what it means to teach it. A worship leader must have an understanding of what worship entails and his role in the worship life of the congregation. And a member of the church’s executive committee must understand the nature of the Church and the sort of leadership he has been called to provide.
Service in the church requires a deep theological aptitude, a kind of profound spiritual intelligence and perceptiveness that theological studies may assist in cultivating.
“It has been an enriching experience since I joined the MTS programme – I strongly recommend lay leaders in church to consider setting aside time to be equipped theologically so that they can be effective leaders.”
- Ms Lim Cheng Cheng, previous employment at the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, is now in outreach ministry among Chinese immigrants on a voluntary basis
“Before coming to study at TTC, I was chasing after a dream of earning fame by intellectual discovery. But my pursuit was in vain and I sensed the call to pursue the MTS programme. I saw it as the most inconceivable idea I ever had, and even absurd, since it meant putting an end to my career. Nevertheless, I surrendered in the end. I feel greatly blessed during my study at TTC. God acted unexpectedly to draw me closer to Him. I have also regained the most valuable gems in my life – my family and my health.”
- Dr Aldar CF Chan is a Computer Scientist in a local research agency and comes from Hong Kong
Indeed, lay persons are already engaged in ministry at the marketplace. Our duty at TTC is to equip each and every lay person with sound and solid teaching to confidently preach and live the Word of God in their daily lives.
About Trinity Theological College
• A union college, founded in 1948 and governed by the Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches
• TTC students represent the large Christian family of evangelical, charismatic, pentecostal, independent and denominational churches
• International students make up about 35 per cent of the community
• TTC’s 23 full-time faculty members offer degree programmes in two languages (13 lecturers teach in English and 10 lecturers teach in Chinese)
• Alumni serve as pastors, parish workers, missionaries, para-church staff and theological educators mainly in the region
• Located at Upper Bukit Timah Road (near Dairy Farm Road), it moved from its original site at Mt Sophia in September 2001. TTC will be served by the Hill View MRT station in 2016
• Part-time study options include the day-time Master of Theological Studies (MTS) designed specially for lay persons to study over five years as they remain in their secular jobs, as well as evening courses conducted by the Centre for the Development of Christian Ministry (CDCM)
• Full-time degree courses include the Bachelor of Divinity (BD) and Master of Divinity (MDiv). TTC also offers Advanced degree courses such as the Master of Ministry (MMin), Master of Theology (MTh) and Doctor of Theology (DTh)
CONTACT: For CDCM courses: Ms Leong Ian Ming at 6761-3617 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For all other courses: The Registrar’s Office at 6767-6677 or visit our website: www.ttc.edu.sg
The Rev Dr Mark Chan teaches “Introduction to Biblical Interpretation”, which deals with issues and challenges entailed in understanding the biblical text, and provides foundational tools in cultivating skills in reading, understanding and applying the Bible.
Dr Edwin Tay teaches “Theology”, covering topics like: Christ and salvation; the person and work of the Spirit; the biblical and historical development of the Church and the mission of the Church in the world today.
Trinity Theological College graduates for the year 2013.
Pictures by Trinity Theological College
[Updated 20 March 2014]