ADVERTISING
 
Tuesday, November 12   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Society
Should Christians join social protests?



SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Ashish Chrispal
 

Restoring missional vision in theological education

The need for transformative pastoral training in the majority world.

LAUSANNE MOVEMENT 11 OCTOBER 2019 08:41 h GMT+1
Photo via Lausanne Global Analysis.

At the outset I want to stress that I believe in scholarship, but with a purpose. I am reminded of my spiritual mentor Dr John Stott’s vision of ‘scholar saints’. I also believe in an ‘and . . . also’ rather than an ‘either . . . or’ way of looking at realities.



This analysis of theological education is based on my 44 years of involvement in ministry and theological training. My thinking has been sharpened by my involvement with 20 or more seminaries in various nations of Asia while serving with the Overseas Councili during the past twelve years.



It has also been shaped by exposure to the challenges posed by the first-generation new believers who are now forming the ‘emerging churches’ in India and many other nations in Asia and the majority world.



 



THE STATE OF THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION IN THE MAJORITY WORLD



Most of the emerging churches are made up of the first-generation believers. Therefore, they come with totally different sets of worldviews. They lack deep discipleship under the lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives, which would transform their worldviews.



The teaching of God’s Word, therefore, is of paramount importance. However, they come from downtrodden communities; hence, their education is minimal and discipling them must be our priority. There is a significant leadership deficit in many regions where the church is rapidly growing.



This leadership deficit has been quantified by research conducted by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.



Over 2 million Protestant pastors in the majority world lack formal, biblical training.ii



Ninety percent of churches worldwide have leaders with no formal training; and with the increasing rate of conversions, there is a global need of hundreds of new pastors every day.iii



While formal theological education makes a critical contribution to the long-term health of the church, non-formal approaches address the large and growing numbers of those needing basic pastoral training, but for whom formal training is neither accessible nor appropriate.



Most of the grassroots pastors or mission workers who can speak peoples’ heart language are also educationally deprived, but they are committed Christians.



They need training, but much of it must be orally transmitted through non-formal learning methods. The materials from traditional theological education place a heavy emphasis on reading and writing, which is quite difficult for oral-based learners.



They also carry different worldview presuppositions. Therefore, we need adaptable materials with a solid biblical base which are easily transferable according to the needs of people.



 



HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION



Theological education as it exists today in our theological colleges and seminaries is the product of the 18th-century Enlightenment. In many ways it follows the paradigm set by German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768 – 1834).



 



German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher. / Photo via Lausanne Global Analysis

He wanted church ministry education to be recognized by the university. Acceptance by academia led to the compartmentalized silos of Old Testament, New Testament, Theology, History of Christianity, and Practical Theology, with a dimension of the study of religions.



Schleiermacher’s philosophy was moulded by the academic heritage of Aristotelian logic and higher literary criticism of the Bible.



It is also the product of a ‘Christendom’ mentality and thus a majoritarian Christian worldview. This is not a biblical worldview that undergirds the reality for most Christians in the Global South, who live as religious minorities and need to address people of other faiths as the early church did.



The case study of Indian theological education starts in 1818 with the establishment of Serampore College, founded by William Carey, Joshua Marshman, and William Ward. It became a fully-fledged university by Charter of the Danish King (who sponsored the early missions in India) in 1827.



Serampore was followed by prominent denominational theological colleges and divinity schools in various parts of India, including Bishop's College (Kolkata), Leonard Theological College (Jabalpur), United Theological College (Bangalore), and the Orthodox Theological Seminary (Kottayam).



Because of their liberal theological antecedents these colleges were the preferred avenues for the ministry training of the historical-traditional churches.



As higher literary criticism became more prominent and as many nationals received their higher academic credentials from institutions in Germany and elsewhere in the West with a liberal persuasion, the colleges became the training grounds for ‘priests of the cult’, lacking missionary vision.



Christianity was slowly being taken over by pluralism as its vanguard.



 



Photo via Lausanne Global Analysis.



Against this backdrop, India witnessed the beginning of evangelical theological education. Most of the evangelical missions had smaller Bible schools for their training of national evangelists and pastors.



It was at Yavatmal, Maharashtra, during the spiritual revival of 1953, that the evangelical mission bodies came together to form the Union Biblical Seminary (now in Pune, Maharashtra since 1983).



The vision was formation for mission and ministry with academic excellence. The foundation was Christocentric, bibliocentric, missional, and ministry-oriented training. In the years to come, other Pentecostal and evangelical seminaries with similar vision took root in India.



One can recognize similar patterns in other Asian nations. A key feature of these evangelical colleges and Bible schools was that they had missionaries as their faculty.



A new era of nationals within the evangelical seminaries being sent to the West to study for higher degrees opened in the 1970s.



John Stott, as the Founder-Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship within Anglican Communion (EFAC), invited prospective scholars to come and study in the UK under evangelical scholars or scholars sympathetic to the evangelical cause.



By the end of 1980, EFAC became the Langham Scholarship which today is Langham International Partnership. This one servant of God, followed by many others committed to the cause of the evangelical scholarship, has left a legacy today of a great number of evangelical scholars in the majority world.



The evangelical institutions took seriously their heritage of training or theological education as formation for ministry and mission with academic excellence. This phenomenon saw the rise of respected evangelical leaders in India and many other nations during the 1980s and 1990s.



However, after the mid-1990s and into the new millennium one begins to detect a shift.



The divide between the church and theological education has widened. In the last 30 years in India there has been an explosion of church growth, much of it, especially in North India, through Christian workers who have no connection with the traditional denominations and seminaries.



As a result, these leaders are not being equipped by the seminaries, nor are the leaders of the seminaries well acquainted with the needs and challenges of the emerging churches.



 



Photo via Lausanne Global Analysis.



The students’ vision in many cases has changed. It is a normal pattern to hear at the graduation exercises that nearly 60% of graduates are aspiring to ‘further studies’, rather than ministry.



One also detects another pattern: students complete their first and secondary degrees in theology, serve in one of the Bible schools or seminaries for a year or two and then do a master’s degree with a view to being absorbed by one of the mushrooming seminaries.



 



THE CHALLENGES WE FACE TODAY



The real danger we face in evangelical theological education today is that it is being overtaken by academia, without the vision for mission and ministry.iv



In many countries such as Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines, and Thailand, governments have forced theological education to move into higher education or university frameworks.



This has dragged it further into academia, with an over-emphasis on cerebral learning rather than professional training such as is found in subjects such as medicine, law, and engineering.



Faculty are pressed either by governments or by the demands of scholastic careers to ‘publish or perish’. There is a weakening of the understanding of theological education as formation for mission and ministry.



Spiritual and character formation have become appendages. The requirement to publish and research is so overwhelming that discipling and mentoring of students are suffering.



As a result of this shift, the mission agencies and mega churches have started their own theological training programs, in order to keep their DNA alive. Some even say, ‘seminaries are cemeteries’.



One mission leader told me that his problem is that he sends a good church planter for training, but after finishing their studies they just want to settle down in a church with no more zeal for church planting.



 



A MUCH-NEEDED PARADIGM SHIFT



The time has come for us to recognize some key realities, if evangelical theological education is to be effective and not become a fossil:



1. Theology is for the whole church. Paul and other New Testament writers wrote for the grounding and rooting of the church in God's Word (Col. 2:6-7). It is not for the pursuit of the few to be elitist leaders within the church.



2. Theology as ‘Theos-Logos’(the study of God) needs transformation to ‘Theos-Eulogeo’—the praise of God. Today theological education has become a cerebral pursuit. Some even define theology as Christian philosophy rather than a way of life.



3. It is important to note that when Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus, his emphasis was on their character formation, undergirded by biblical theology.



4. The present paradigm of student fees, donations (fund-raising in the West), and expenses is no longer viable for two reasons. Firstly, students who can make a difference in society tend to be bi-vocational, as they are disillusioned by church leadership and want to avoid 3-4 years of residential theological education. Secondly, the new millennial donors are more interested in outcome and impact-based learning than the existing traditional theological degrees.



5. We need to re-envision theological education as ‘discipling the disciplers’. There is an urgent need to focus intentionally upon transformative theological education, with the focus on outcomes that are rooted in missional and ministerial formation.



6. Theological education needs to focus on the emerging churches where many new believers come from marginalized and oppressive backgrounds. The pastors who minister to them have minimal formal school education.



However, they speak the heart language of people and are able to present the gospel effectively to plant churches. What about their training? They need theological education in their vernacular, with oral communication as the key, while the growing mass of people at the grassroots need their learning patterns to be taken seriously.



7. I struggle with a question similar to that faced the early church: do Gentiles first have to become Jews in order to learn about and follow Jesus Christ? Do pastors, evangelists, and those interested in learning God’s Word first have to be English speaking, possessed of an analytical mind, and versed in Aristotelian logic?



The early church lived as a minority among the people of other faiths. They suffered trials and persecution and yet communicated the wisdom of God in both written and oral forms.



Most of the believers were from marginalized and despised backgrounds but they responded to the Good News. Is this not the reality of the present-day world and specially the majority world? Can we help people develop theological education that flourishes and takes shape in earthen vessels of different soils so that the living waters of the Lord may quench the thirst of many who are dying without Christ?v



So which direction will theological education take? We need a two-pronged approach, which comprises both formal and non-formal theological education, with the main focus on the majority world’s contextually nuanced styles of learning.



It is important not to be elitist and traditionalist, failing to recognize the need for transformation that will lead the church of our Lord Jesus Christ to be rooted and grounded in his Word.



Ashish Chrispal has served as a pastor in Ahmedabad and Delhi; as Academic Dean of Union Biblical Seminary in Pune, India; as Dean and Administrative Principal of the Kodaikanal International School; as Principal of the South Asia Institute for Advanced Christian Studies in Bangalore, India; and as the Regional Director for Asia with Overseas Council, a support organization for theological education in the majority world.



He now serves as the Senior Advisor for OC, a ministry of the United World Mission working for grassroots training. He received the Langham Scholarship for his PhD from Aberdeen University.



This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission. Learn more about this flagship publication from the Lausanne Movement at www.lausanne.org/lga



Endnotes




i https://uwm.org/overseas/



ii Editor’s Note: See article by Kirsteen Kim entitled, ‘Unlocking Theological Resource Sharing between North and South’, in November 2017 issue of Lausanne Global Analysis https://www.lausanne.org/content/lga/2017-11/unlocking-theological-resource-sharing-north-south.







iv Editor’s Note: See article by Brian Woolnough entitled, ‘Reforming the Preparation for Ministry and Mission’, in this issue of Lausanne Global Analysis.





v Editor’s Note: See article by Ramesh Richard entitled, ‘Training of Pastors’, in September 2015 issue of Lausanne Global Analysis https://www.lausanne.org/content/lga/2015-09/training-of-pastors.



 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Restoring missional vision in theological education
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels Julia Doxat-Purser: 25 years of EEA office in Brussels

An interview with the socio-political representative of the European Evangelical Alliance about how evangelical Christians work at the heart of the European Union.

 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Lars Dahle: Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’ IFES World Assembly: ‘Messengers of Hope’

Students, graduates and staff of the global evangelical student movement reflected together on how the books of Luke and Acts apply to today's universities.

 
Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission Christians at work - the missing link in fulfilling the Great Commission

Photos of the Lausanne Movement Global Workplace Forum, celebrated in Manila.

 
European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference European Freedom Network Bridge 2019 conference

Images of the fifth EFN gathering. Experts, activists, counsellors and church leaders met in Pescara, Italy.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Algerian Christians worship God as police arrives to close church Algerian Christians worship God as police arrives to close church

Video of the moment police officers enter a Protestant evangelical church near Tizi-Ouzou to close it. Church members do not stop singing, and peacefully resist later.

 
Porn exploits victims of human trafficking Porn exploits victims of human trafficking

The European Freedom Network launches a new anti-trafficking campaign: “You have no way of knowing if the porn you are looking at is from someone who chose to be there or not”.

 

 

 
What makes humans different to artificial intelligence machines? What makes humans different to artificial intelligence machines?

David Glass, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at Ulster University (Northern Ireland) analyses whether a computer can have emotions or a conscious experience.

 
A tent of hope for Venezuelan refugees A tent of hope for Venezuelan refugees

Thousands still cross the border to Colombia every week, and many continue on foot into the interior. Christian young people have set up an aid station along the road.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.