In the previous post, a lively discussion ensued when I suggested that “the kinds of pastors we need” for the future church of post-Christendom West will have to be missionaries, people who can lead differently, are capable of supporting themselves and immersing themselves in a given context. I suggested churches/institutions pour their resources into training missionaries – a different kind of pastor. On that post, we all agreed that theological education will have to change. The cost structures, contextual basis of delivery methods, and amount of time devoted to study and ministry development all have to change. Yet some, in fact many, seemed to relegate seminary education to relic status – no longer making sense for the challenges we face in N America’s new post-Christendom.
Now I agree and disagree (full disclosure: I am a seminary professor). On the one hnad, certain kinds of seminary, following the rigid university models of Euro Christendom, definitely support and depend largely upon existing church structures. These structures make less and less sense although there is the possibility of “living off Christendom” to fund future missionary activity. Such “living off” however has to be discerned so as not to pollute future missionary work with Christendom based assumptions. On the other hand, whatever the future may hold, we will need educational organizations to train leaders into the teachings as passed on through the churches faithful. 2 Thessalonians 2:15. The grounding of the leader in the NT, OT, Systematic questions of theology, as well as the cultural issues of hermeutics IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT in the West given the cultural challenges of epic proportion. We will need, for instance, to understand the implications of Pauline scholarship, the history of protestant interpretation of Paul, even to get at why we understand salvation the way we do and then to navigate (hermeneutically) the new territories for the salvation in Christ Jesus. It is doubtful whether unconferences, local institutes, church based teaching can meet the challenge. For centuries, even in the poorest of mission fields, seminary like institutions have been birthed to train leaders into the depths of the faith for its passing on. Seminaries seem most positioned to play this strategic role in the furtherance of the gospel. They do however have to change! We at Northern are working on a 5 year M.A. CM Missional Church Studies program where you spend Mondays at the seminary only – one course, full library access, very low cost, for those who can drive in. This will lead to localized cohorts. Other seminaries are also reinventing!
On all of this, see the video below of Gary Nelson and I talking about these issues as filmed by Bill and Imbi Medri Kinnon and subscribe to their Missional Channel on Vimeo for more videos (alot of good stuff).
Nelson/Fitch – Theological Education in the 21st Century from Bill Kinnon on Vimeo.
P.S. If you want to join in discusssions about shaping your church for mission, and the challenges, come to the Missional Learning Commons coming up. If you’re already coming, register, let others know via the facebook page. It’s a non conference, meaning no paid speakers, and it’s free (except for 10 bucks to help for children’s care). Check out some of the speakers here and here Quite a lineup!! Of course I’ll be speaking a couple of sessions on leadership and money, and leadership as submission. There’s 9 presentations – 12 minutes each – delivered in rocket fire format. And then discussion, questions, open session. best part? hanging out with other missional leaders for a day and a half. Do you need a lift, encouragement? new ideas? I invite you to join us. Check it out : the Missional Learning Commons .
Missio Alliance Comment Policy
The Missio Alliance Writing Collectives exist as a ministry of writing to resource theological practitioners for mission. From our Leading Voices to our regular Writing Team and those invited to publish with us as Community Voices, we are creating a space for thoughtful engagement of critical issues and questions facing the North American Church in God’s mission. This sort of thoughtful engagement is something that we seek to engender not only in our publishing, but in conversations that unfold as a result in the comment section of our articles.
Unfortunately, because of the relational distance introduced by online communication, “thoughtful engagement” and “comment sections” seldom go hand in hand. At the same time, censorship of comments by those who disagree with points made by authors, whose anger or limited perspective taints their words, or who simply feel the need to express their own opinion on a topic without any meaningful engagement with the article or comment in question can mask an important window into the true state of Christian discourse. As such, Missio Alliance sets forth the following suggestions for those who wish to engage in conversation around our writing:
1. Seek to understand the author’s intent.
If you disagree with something the an author said, consider framing your response as, “I hear you as saying _________. Am I understanding you correctly? If so, here’s why I disagree. _____________.
2. Seek to make your own voice heard.
We deeply desire and value the voice and perspective of our readers. However you may react to an article we publish or a fellow commenter, we encourage you to set forth that reaction is the most constructive way possible. Use your voice and perspective to move conversation forward rather than shut it down.
3. Share your story.
One of our favorite tenants is that “an enemy is someone whose story we haven’t heard.” Very often disagreements and rants are the result of people talking past rather than to one another. Everyone’s perspective is intimately bound up with their own stories – their contexts and experiences. We encourage you to couch your comments in whatever aspect of your own story might help others understand where you are coming from.
In view of those suggestions for shaping conversation on our site and in an effort to curate a hospitable space of open conversation, Missio Alliance may delete comments and/or ban users who show no regard for constructive engagement, especially those whose comments are easily construed as trolling, threatening, or abusive.