Seminaries that use computers in teaching are often tempted in one of two directions. They either oversell the importance of the technology or underutilize it. They either promise the congregational equivalent of a flight simulator, or else use PowerPoint as a glorified overhead projector.
Flight simulators are able to train pilots because the pilot’s actions have predictable results. Ease back on the yoke and the aircraft mounts a majestic climb. Lower the flaps and the plane descends. A pastor cannot count on such predictable results. Initiating an outreach program does not guarantee new members. Stellar sermons on stewardship will not necessarily increase giving. People are not as predictable as planes. So there will never be a Sim-Congregation. We cannot show cause and effect in ministry. We can only provide a space for students to reflect on the work of ministry and to cultivate wisdom—with no guarantees that such wisdom will ensure success.
Scott Cormode is the Hugh De Pree Professor of Leadership Development at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasedena, California. He previously taught at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California.