March 19, 2009

future of christian learning?

... or viable alternatives.

There are all kinds of examples out there... The Disseminary, Word and World, People's Seminary, School of Servant Leadership, Underground Seminary, etc., but there is clearly many out there that are convinced that theological training needs to happen in a different way. For lay people and leaders. Rooted in context and practices. We've talked off and on about this here in San Diego. But... what should it look like? Is it needed? What doesn't work? What does? Why not just rely on the institutions that already do this? What are they missing?

You got answers?

I'm listening.


Anonymous said...

Tough question.

I wish I weren't at seminary (it's midterms).

Having spent the last several months in the first year of a traditional seminary program, I am both encouraged and discouraged.

Learning in community, formation for ministry among peers and working with all the tensions of living/studying/working together is both trying and wonderful.

The model that I am following seems less and less viable though. Seminaries are closing left and right due to lack of funds.

A big question: who is theological education for? If we only think about education for clergy/church employees we do a disservice to the discipling of the whole Christian community. That is why models like the servant leadership school are so compelling to me. I am discouraged that USD has given up on its Masters in Practical Theology program. The wealth of learning in that place is amazing, but hard to access for the San Diego area.

What would an organic, whole-community, center for Christian learning look like in San Diego? Are there ways to make it sustainable economically and otherwise?

These are questions I hope we get to live into together!

Eric said...

Well, I think the questions asked are what is the problem. Continue to ask questions like these and the focus always becomes a matter of what I or you are doing or should or shouldn't do. That leaves the One who wants to lead, out. Keeps the focus on us and NOT on him. When Jesus is truly at the "wheel", HIS teachings may look different every time. To us, it isn't a matter of what should we or shouldn't we do....It's more like, Jesus, what are you doing. Letting go and letting him teach in what ever way he wants to, I think, is where the focus needs to be.

Just my rant.

daniel so said...

J - Great discussion! I got permission from my friend Andrew who works with The Urban Ministry Institute of Chester, PA ( they're asking similar questions. I love that it's born out of their incarnational ministry and friendships:

In my opinion, the most important thing is the criteria that is used to determine who can take seminary level courses and be trained. The problem with traditional seminaries is that they determine largely who can take classes based on academics and/or whether they can afford it. They are not necessarily bad things, but those that cannot afford and/or don't have the academic requirements are excluded and I have seen God using them to do great things in ministry. They deserve to be trained if they are called by God....

Ultimately, God ordained the church to determine it's leaders, but we have schools determining who the future leaders of the church are largely based on academia and financial affordability. For example, I'd much rather have someone who understands the community and life of an inner city community because they live there to be trained and minister to their community than someone who has a PhD in ministry without the experience. Most of Jesus' disciples/apostles would not have been accepted into seminary today if they were alive. Just my 2 cents!

Jason Evans said...

Mike and Dan,
Good thoughts and questions. I appreciate it.

C'mon, man. That's a bit simplistic, don't you think. You can afford to say that since you've had the privilege of being under the discipleship of an extraordinary Christian mind. His insights have given you tools to learn from God in everyday life that many don't have the opportunity to have passed on to them. Following Jesus doesn't mean you can't ask questions.

Eric said...

J, You may be right...A bit simplistic. But isn't that what and who Jesus is? A very simple man. You put the efforts of mankind in the mix, and everything get complicated. I don't think following Jesus means not to ask questions. It's the type of questions that are asked. And Yes, I have had the privilage of that type of decipleship, and that is what my whole point boils down to. Instead of asking questions that put man in charge and trying to "figure" out what works and what doens't, we need to be able to, as you said, to "learn from God in everyday life". Everybody deserves to have this opportunity passed on to them, which I feel, the Church has done a good job at losing.

Love you, man. Hope we can catch up soon.

Andrew, Karen, & Christopher said...

Hello, my name is Andrew (the guy Dan mentioned). I find this conversation fascinating. I hope you don't mind me jumping in with my 2 cents, if that's ok.

In a sense, I agree with both Jason and Eric (good to meet you guys). Jesus was a simple man with a simple message. However, this world and society is complicated and the trick is to find a way to convey that simple message to a complicated world. In a nutshell that's what any type of Christian training should accomplish with the leading of the Holy Spirit. In my opinion, part of the problem with training these days is that all too often, one of the main goals is self-improvement. While that alone is not a bad thing, there is much more that solid biblical training should provide. I tell my students all the time that knowledge without wisdom is useless. Filling our heads with more knowledge is pointless if we don't know how to use it. In all of our classes, our students need to do a ministry project to apply immediately what they've learned in their ministry to complete the course. Taking courses should be more than just learning academics. It should be leadership development, empowering, equipping, learning what it means to represent your leaders and of course most importantly, using what God taught you to bring honor to Him.

There is a real danger in making Jesus more complicated than needed by our academic ambitions. But there is also wisdom in understanding the original context of what Jesus taught and learning to apply them in today's society and culture. A balance of the two is key, dictated by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

These are just my two cents. I don't mean to intrude on your conversations, but this is interesting to me.

God bless you and your ministry!

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