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A comment on Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Douglas Campbell, and Pauline Soteriology

Thoughts and resources on the future of theological education

A student sent me an email asking for my input. His email message is in bold and I intersperse comments.

It seems that a noticeable segment of the evangelical church is heading to what many call a "post-congregational" expression of Christian community. 

I probably wouldn’t say that but maybe you are referring to George Barna’s book Revolution where he suggests more groups are meeting in homes and workplaces instead of traditional churches—that may be true. I also think of nontraditional churches like Scum of the Earth Church or Church under the Bridge.

In light of this ecclesial structure shift, I'm wondering about the future of pastoral training and scholarship

I wonder if my paper on a theology of pastoral ministry might help here. 

Will the M.Div. remain?

Yes, as far as theological, biblical, practical training so that major heresies and errors of the past are avoided.

Will seminaries adjust?

There are some quite innovative seminaries out there. There are reports on the Association for Theological Schools website about other initiatives to tweak/transform theological education—see for example the latest issue of Theological Education. Consider too The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) of World Impact which is offering low cost quality theological education to indigenous (local) future pastors in urban environments. You might also be interested in Overseas Council which helps seminaries around the world with theological education. Leadership Network which is interested in innovative church ministry—primarily megachurch, multi-site, and church planting—has some articles on theological education.

Will seminaries adjust to a generation that isn't gathering on Sundays the way that past generations did?

People will still gather in communities (Heb 10:25 “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing”) for conflict resolution (Matt 18:15f), sitting around the Scriptures (Acts 2:42f, 1 Cor 14), edifying one another with different gifts (1 Cor 12), baptism, Lord’s Supper, and prayer; but boundaries will be porous so outsiders can observe the church’s life together (1 Cor 14:24-25). You may appreciate John Howard Yoder’s Body Politics

The "missional community" movement seems to be largely uninterested in trained clergy (not that trained clergy are absent from the movement), so I wonder if you have any thoughts about this.

I don’t think I know this “missional community” group. The missional church people (Darrell Guder, Craig Van Gelder, George Hunsberger) are hugely into education. Regent College where I did my MDiv has some anti-clergy, anti-ordination tendencies because of their rootage in the Plymouth Brethren movement which saw clergy as denigrating the gifts of lay people and using the power to administrate the Lord’s Supper as means to control people. Regent College professor Paul Stevens’s work such as The Equipping Pastor focuses on how pastors can equip laity for the work of ministry. Gordon Fee treats the Pauline material regarding leadership in the church in Listening to the Spirit in the Text. I think these Regent College professors are right to critique the idea of the pastor as the one leader/preacher of the church. John Howard Yoder would be close to that view as well—see his book The Fullness of Christ: Paul's Revolutionary Vision of Universal Ministry. The Urban Ministry Institute does good theological education with people who may not even have a high school diploma—attempting to avoid an overemphasis on academic credentials but also providing good training for urban pastors.