Professor Seeks to Integrate Evangelism and Theology
When he first heard the call to ministry, Dr. Preben Vang read this quote on the cover of a book by Michael Green: "Most evangelists do not care much about theology, and most theologians do not care much about evangelism."
"I for my part care deeply about both," Dr. Vang said.
Dr. Vang, professor of Biblical and theological studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, feels his background in ministry enables him to help his students understand the importance of both evangelism and theology, and to let those ideas guide ministry.
"What I do in teaching is to help people think theologically about reality," Dr. Vang said. "That plays into all things, and it goes both ways."
The road to ministry was not an easy one for Dr. Vang.
Growing up in Denmark, Dr. Vang's father was a pastor, and there was constant exposure to God's word. However, Dr. Vang felt at odds with his calling, and instead pursued a career in engineering, earning his bachelor's degree in electronics.
"All the while I was kind of struggling with the question of whether I should be full time in ministry," Dr. Vang said. "I was struggling with that call, sensing it was something I should consider."
When Dr. Vang accepted his calling and attended seminary in Denmark, he found himself faced with a new challenge.
"Suddenly I was studying language and theology instead of circuitry," Dr. Vang said.
For Dr. Vang, there was something lacking in the state church of Denmark, where attendance each Sunday is lackluster.
He decided to attend another seminary in the United States to see if he could learn anything to use at his church in Copenhagen.
"I wanted to have exposure to American Christian life and to a different seminary setting so I could bring something unique from that perspective," Dr. Vang said.
He found vast differences between Texas' freewill Baptists and Denmark's Lutheran church.
"I learned some things from worship styles, evangelism and outreach," Dr. Vang said. "I learned to approach things from a different point of view theologically. But I knew I couldn't transpose or just move the American setting over to Denmark. Part of the challenge was adapting my knowledge."
Dr. Vang earned his Master of Arts degree in theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, then returned to Denmark to apply his education to his leadership of the First Baptist Church of Copenhagen, the largest freewill Baptist church in Scandinavia.
Soon Dr. Vang was called back to complete his doctorate, and again after that to become professor at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas, where he helped establish a Christian theology program.
In 2007, he came to teach at PBA.
"I bring a strong ministry background to my approach to academics," Dr. Vang said, adding he believes ministry helps him "keep his feet on the ground" while teaching complicated subjects.
Currently, Dr. Vang is pastor at Grace Pointe Church in Lake Worth, where he said he has seen "good things happen."
Dr. Vang is working on a commentary of 1 Corinthians due out in the next couple years. He also co-authored "Telling God's Story," an examination of the Biblical metanarrative. This book is used as the primary text for the PBA class Exploring the Bible.
He recently contributed to a new Bible translation, some of which is available on www.hearthevoice.com. The translation targets a postmodern audience by utilizing artists and lyricists to bring the Bible to life.
Dr. Vang emphasizes that PBA does not teach "ivory tower theology," and everything is related to a practical application.
"If students prepare to do ministry, they must all the time see the connections," Dr. Vang said. "One of the biggest problems is that we have pastors and youth ministers who do not see the connection between what they do and how they think."