Over the last almost 30 years, I have had the unspeakable privilege of lecturing, and teaching at three different seminaries. I am eternally grateful to God and to these institutions for the honor of having given me the time and opportunity to invest in the lives of men and women who in most instances are going to outlive me and take the gospel to generations that I will never see.
It is a thrill to know that students that I have taught, mentored, coached, inspired, frustrated, befuddled and befriended are now serving Christ on five different continents. I have remained in contact with many of them and in a very personal way, I consider all of them “my students” though, the reality is that I played a rather small part in their ministry development and passion for Christ.
Nevertheless, when I read the following quote from Leslie Newbigin in Donald McGavran’s essay “Making Doctrines Missionarily Effective and Biblically Correct” it struck me as a “bulls eye” moment of clarity. Here’s the quote:
“For a thousand years [ 1000 years = 7th to 16th centuries ] when Christendom was sealed off by Islam from effective contact with the rest of of the world, and was contracting, not expanding, it lived in almost total isolation from non-Christian cultures.
In this situation the illusion that the age of missions was over became almost an integral part of Christianity. The perpetuation of that illusion is revealed in our normal church life, in the forms of congregations and parishes, in our conception of the ministry and in the ordinary consciousness of churchmen.
Our theological curricula bear eloquent testimony to this illusion. Our church history is normally taught not as the story of the triumphs of the Gospel, but as the story of the internal quarrels of the church; our systems of dogmatics are not directed toward the non-Christian faith. The training of ministry is not for a mission to the world but almost exclusively for the pastoral care of established Christian congregations.” (Contemporary Theologies of Mission, McGavran and Glasser, 126-127, [ ] comment and underline emphasis added.)
All you need to do to confirm this observation is to think of the book of Acts. In Acts, Luke writes the first church history and it is the unbroken record of the triumphs of the Gospel. It is also a far cry from how we generally go about teaching church history, missions, doctrine, and training men and women for ministry in the 21st century.
Question: What can we do to change the way we train people for ministry so that the triumphs of the Gospel (past) and the glories of the Gospel (present and future) become the “ordinary consciousness” of all who call themselves Christians?