The missional discipleship movement has the potential to restructure and revive the American church . I wholeheartedly believe this movement is being led and directed by God. Though the idea is not that revolutionary, since it is a return to our roots that is led by Luke 9,10, and Matthew 28. Though these passages are just the beginning as we continue to see this movement grow with Ephesians 4, and others , there is an area for me that I feel is lacking.
Before I explain, let me remind my readers that I have a lens that I decipher and see life through. This is called my epistemology , and as a bi-vocational Pastor I have a tendency to lean toward such ideas. This does not suggest all must be like me, however I do see how this is vital for certain things to happen in ministry. If you would like to know more in regards to this read Hugh Halter and why their church has bi-vocational Pastor’s. With that said, what I would like to suggest comes again with this background in mind. So my bias does shape my ideology and the methodology that I will be forming. Albeit, I do not believe my thoughts with my lens are wrong, yet, I know they are not the only way to live.
As church leaders are deconstructing and restructuring their praxis and their focus, and the church function shapes itself into a new paradigm, the question remains how will the pedagogy and it’s structures reshape themselves? For too long the teaching aspect of education has been shaped in our seminaries and our bible colleges. Now though I have come through one of these avenues, I for one wish another existed.
Now some churches as I have seen and discovered are reclaiming this vital piece of ministry. With regards to the up,in, and out, shaped by Mike Breen and his team at 3dm, and with the Apest or Apept shaped by Alan Hirsch and his book the Permanent Revolution, many churches are beginning to take this call seriously. That is the calling to educate in community as part of the process of discipleship, or apprenticeship, as Hugh Halter calls it. Churches such as Austin Stone in Texas , and programs like Antioch are trying to lead the way in such programs, lest I forget though, education in the church has been a large part of the Assembly of God churches within their Berean program. However, the Berean program has fallen short. Let me explain. In regards to this new paradigm we are seeing take shape, the Berean program still solely focuses on transfer of information , and not transformation rooted in community again in relation to Up, In, And Out. So now to return to the matter at hand…
Church ministry has been shaped in such a way that without the proper education, from some times the right accredited school, their is no placement for possibly the right person for the job. Now, before you become critical of my suggestion, let me return. Education and the ability to handle the word of God rightly should be the upmost importance of those in ministry, however some like myself, do not wish to add the heavy load of debt education requires. This debt then travels with you to a job that barely pays or the limits the ability to be bi-vocational, which frees money for the church to use. Part of my lens is structured and led by Dave Ramsey. I believe that debt is not God’s plan for us, and the burden that education holds coalesced with the debt it requires, seems to not fit the plan God has for those called to ministry. When those in Israel held debt over others, God was not happy. We can look at the year of Jubilee, or Nehemiah Chapter 5, and both illuminate that debt does not fit his role for his people. Especially when others in the faith are holding debt over their own again clearly portrayed in Nehemiah 5.
So, as church Pastor’s reshape and restructure church ministry in such a way where it’s not all about information, but transformation, where discipleship is much more than just knowing God’s word, but doing what it says. Again, rooted in God, rooted in community, and rooted in the world. Then how are our seminaries and bible colleges teaming up with this new vision for the church?
I do know that some seminaries are restructuring their programs so that they are not solely information gathering, but again this aligns with the new paradigm, but still suggests filling up on debt. As many Pastors have taken the role of Bi-vocational leadership which has freed others to join in with a five fold leadership, what are teachers willing to do?
Again Ephesians 4 suggests he gave some as teachers. What teachers are teaching in their churches? Most, I would say are not accessible unless you go to their school, and not offering themselves to their churches to teach what they teach for free. As the Pastoral ministry is being reshaped, what lengths are the teachers in our universities, bible colleges and seminaries willing to take? These are my questions, to which I have no answers. But let me suggest some other routes to educate yourself…
For those of you who do not wish to accrue all the debt that schooling requires, some suggestions. First get rooted in some discipleship/apprenticeship program. This is extremely vital, because what I am going to suggest next needs to have accountability or else you will be all over the place with knowledge that needs shaping to be balanced. So with that stated. Secondly, you can go to ITunes U. This allows you to take courses from all different schools in all different areas and listen in on their classes. There is no cost to this, and of course no accreditation. Also, a lot of these iTunes u courses allows you to download the syllabus, and then you can read the books that they read too. This has been greatly influential in my life. I have taken twenty to thirty different courses this way. And the amount of books I have read has been also as beneficial. Thirdly, I suggest to listen to those farther along and leading the way to reclaim the church, by visiting their blogs and pay attention to their suggested readings. Dave Fitch, Scot McKnight, Mike Breen, Alan Hirsch, Hugh Halter, and a whole load of others are out there to follow. These are people that have the education but more importantly are humble enough to share with others pieces of their life’s experience in helping those still traveling the journey. Not that they have arrived, but are farther along. So here is where I end, but I hope that those in the pedagogy will rethink how they can help reclaim the teaching piece without all the debt, and a better format for community life.