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The Seminary of the Future, Focused on the Marketplace?

by Kent Humphreys - What would happen if seminaries redefined their mission in light of Ephesians 4:11, 12? What if seminaries prepared our future church leaders to be equippers of the saints for the work of the ministry and not just trained pastors to be teachers and preachers? What would happen if we no longer just emphasized the mental, but prepared students to relate to other community leaders before they ever graduated from the seminary? What if every student could have long term mentoring relationships with workplace leaders, pastors and church staff, and existing faculty? These relationships could not only deal with spiritual or religious issues, but with the whole person including the family, the finances, and the practical issues of the stresses of leading others. Could long term relationships be established that would last for decades and provide deep friendships which are so rare among pastors today?

Since Jesus emphasized the importance or relationships and community in John 15 and John 17, could we add that dimension to our seminary training? What if every student was involved for a year, two years, or three years in a small accountability group? What if these groups, scattered throughout the community, would mix seminary students in with real people who are struggling in their families, as parents, financially, and in integrating Christ into every part of their lives? What if these students experienced true vulnerability, transparency, and accountability that few pastors experience as they are leading a local congregation? What would happen if we modeled Jesus’ pattern of relationships with the twelve as we designed our seminary programs?

Certainly Jesus taught in the temple and preached on the hillside, but most of his time was spent in relating to the twelve and modeling His relationship to the Father to those disciples and a few other men and women followers.

What if we begin to spend money in our Kingdom work where it would get the best return? If it costs $25,000 for one salvation decision using church staff and only $1,700 per decision for workplace chaplains, then why do not we redirect our staffing and funding?

If one marketplace chaplain will lead 28 people to Christ a year and most churches do not baptize that many adults in a year, then why do not do what Jesus did? Why not just go to the marketplace where the lost people are everyday just as Jesus did? Jesus knew that most of the lost people would never go to the temple, so he went to them where they lived, worked, and played. What if seminaries trained thousands of workplace chaplains and encouraged pastors to have every workplace executives to hire those chaplains in their public and private workplaces? If people are no longer being drawn to the local churches, then why do not we just train chaplains, workplace leaders, and ALL of our members to love and serve the people in their sphere of influence? Since most people come to Christ through ORDINARY followers of Jesus, then why all the emphasis on buildings, programs, and professional staff instead of the everyday average follower of Christ?

What if seminaries, local churches, Para church ministries, and workplace groups joined together to train, prepare, and equip the seminary student for real life and real grass roots ministry? Once the student understood how ordinary believers live out Christ and share Christ in their normal sphere of influence, then that student will be much better prepared to equip these ordinary believers when they leave the seminary. What if the seminary no longer considered their students as “special” or “set apart”, but as leaders training for the position of an “equipper”? That equipper is not more spiritual than other believers, but that man or woman has been given the position by God to be a leader and to equip the rest of the saints to be FULL TIME ministers of the Gospel where they live, work, and play. What if those in the pew no longer considered themselves as “second class citizens” but all FULL TIME followers of Christ who are not on the church payroll? What if seminaries prepared soldiers for the front lines instead of preparing them to lead institutions? What if seminaries were the leader in breaking down the walls of DUALISM and everything that would seek to separate the spiritual and the secular? What if the laity could also receive training at the seminary and such training would no longer be just for the professional or the clergy?

For many of us as business leaders, ministry leaders, donors, and non-professionals, we really believed that the seminaries would be the last place that would change. However, overseas these changes have already started. The lines of the professional are not as clear in Asia and other places. Those seminary leaders understand the move of God in the workplaces. In the United States many of the functions of the denomination and the seminary have been taken over by the mega churches which have formed their own training programs, networks, and conferences. So, while denominations are struggling, churches are closing, and attendance is declining, seminaries must now act or die. I believe that some seminaries are actually going to be the leaders in this new move of God to return to the methods of Jesus and the tearing down the walls of religious infrastructure. The future is now. Seminary leadership, churches, Para church organizations, business leaders, and other community leaders are JOINING TOGETHER to form new alliances for the equipping and training of our future leaders. Yes, mentoring, small groups, the workplace movement, marketplace chaplaincy, and other methods of Christ, formerly NOT emphasized by the seminary are taking place in our most progressive and biblical institutions. Will the theology, languages, and biblical teaching be abandoned? NO! But, our future leaders of our churches, mission organizations, and religious institutions will be much better prepared to lead because we have more closely followed the model of our Master Jesus Christ.
Kent is the longtime leader of Fellowship of Companies for Christ International, a great group that is looking to connect business and ministry together. I encourage you to check out their website by clicking here.

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posted by Justin Forman | 7.26.2009 - 2:00 PM

5 Comments:

Kent continues to be a visionary writer and speaker for the body of Christ. I always enjoy and get a lot out of reading his thoughts.
al
commented by Blogger Albert, 1:22 PM  

Kent continues to be an insperation to me. I learn alot about what God is doing and get a clearer view of business role in the great commission

al
commented by Blogger Albert, 1:24 PM  

Coming from the marketplace (Procter and Gamble, Quaker Oats, Sara Lee, etc.) into ministry, and experiencing both a bricks and mortar and online seminary as I have, I might have an even greater appreciation for the thrust of this article than some. I've long lobbied for intentional bivocationalism as a seminary track, and an acknowledgment of the true value of incarnational ministry in business.

The constant stream of questions was somewhat off-putting though. But maybe that is precisely the place we are in designing seminary education for emerging culture - far more questions than answers.

I'll sum up a whirlwind of other thoughts by saying that if I had it to do all over again, I would have pursued my call to pastor by intentionally seeking a secular vocation by what measure of influence that job had in the community and how wide the circle of that influence was. Teachers, social workers, law enforcement, medical professional - those sorts of careers would have made a lot of sense. And seminaries could partner with other institutions to offer dual degrees to make it happen.
commented by Blogger David Wilson, 1:30 PM  

The article is quite provacative. And I agree with the author. We must now do more with less. The intentional bivocational option makes sense. Having theological and business training continues to be the challenge. I wonder what demominations are operating this way? Are there any examples? How are they working. Any responses?
Lawrence
commented by Blogger LMH, 11:31 AM  

Great article. I truly believe that there is not a group of servant leaders more in need of practical management and leadership skills than pastors. Virtually no seminaries provide this type of training to their students. When they begin their ministries, pastors either inherit whatever dysfunctional system already exists in the church they join or, in the case of new churches, struggle to build a management process from the ground up. Is their interest and demand for this type of training, absolutely. I like the "bizministry" concept which combines the best practices of business with the passion of mission. Let's keep up the dialogue.
commented by Anonymous Skip Torresson, 2:30 PM  

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