On Why I’m Not Ready to Give Up On The Seminary Yet: Gary and Me Again

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 .

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