by Lois McKinney
Every day, through many means and in all parts of the world, God’s people are being equipped for ministry. At least 55,000 theological education by extension (TEE) students are studying in 360 programs in 80 countries.
Every day, through many means and in all parts of the world, God’s people are being equipped for ministry. At least 55,000 theological education by extension (TEE) students are studying in 360 programs in 80 countries.1 Thousands more are enrolled in residence seminaries. Hundreds of thousands of church workers are being prepared for ministry through church-based activities.
Winds of change have swept over these programs during the last decade. Ten years ago, evangelicals could claim only one or two graduate schools of theology in the Third World; today almost a dozen interdenominational programs are functioning. Ten years ago, there were almost no associations of theological schools in the Third World; today there are over twenty associations linking evangelical institutions to each other both nationally and internationally. Ten years ago, many theological education programs in the Third World were funded and directed by North American or European missions; today these programs are being increasingly staffed and supported by national church bodies. Ten years ago, most theological education programs were foreign imports; today, many programs are becoming attuned to the cultural context. Ten years ago, most pastoral training programs in the Third World were being carried on in traditional molds; today alternatives such as TEE, night schools, and internships are gaining acceptance. Ten years ago, few evangelical leaders in the Third World had pursued advanced graduate study; today international conferences are led by articulate Third World theologians, and an increasing number of books are being penned by them.
Encouraging as these trends are, they have not gone far enough or long enough or deep enough. In spite of the best efforts of theological educators around the world, the preparation of church leaders is not even beginning to keep pace with the growth of the church.
I began writing this article in Nairobi, Kenya, while I was attending a meeting of Conservative Baptist church leaders. Seven African nations were represented. A recurring theme was the need for church leadership development. Rev. Tite Tienou, Executive Secretary of the Theological Commission of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar, was a guest speaker. "If the Western church really wants to contribute to the growth of the African church," Rev. Tienou said, "it should send us teachers."
All seven countries agreed. Ivory Coast participants reminded us of the important role theological education had played in their own preparation for ministry. Leaders from Senegal shared examples of TEE’s effectiveness in evangelizing Muslims and discipling new believers. Malagasy leaders pointed out the role teaching had played in building stable, mature churches in their country. Rwanda delegates told us that they must prepare almost 400 leaders for their congregations over the next ten years. Their Bible school is graduating only fifteen students a year. Extension programs must reach the rest. Zairian pastor Bwingo Mateene told us there are 675 churches and chapels in the association he represents. New congregations are springing up every week. Hundreds of church leaders are needed. He pled for more theological educators. Kenyan leaders want to see 120 churches and preaching points begun over the next ten years. They are counting heavily on TEE to meet their leadership needs. The most poignant plea for help came from Uganda where there are 178 Baptist churches and not a single program to prepare leaders for ministry.
These reports were from just one mission and seven national church associations on the one continent. Facts and figures like these can be multiplied around the world. The single most important task facing missions and national churches today is preparing leaders for ministry.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO TEE
Both extension and residence programs are committed to this task of training leaders. The TEE movement continues to grow. I have just returned from a consultation in Vienna where a dynamic, inter-mission, interdenominational TEE program for Eastern European countries is underway. In January, I will be conducting workshops for a new TEE association in the Middle East. In Brazil, where I visited last February, the Assemblies of God have 7,000 students enrolled in an extension program. The Evangel Publishing House in Nairobi has distributed a quarter of a million TEE texts in English and Swahili. Translation projects are being carried on in forty-three other languages. These examples can be multiplied around the world. New TEE texts are being written, new programs are being established, and older programs continue to grow.
Quantitative growth has been accompanied by qualitative improvements in theological education. From its inception, TEE has been a renewal movement. It has focused the attention of educators around the world on the church and its ministry of teaching. It has created a greater openness toward alternatives to formal schooling. It has encouraged flexibility in time schedules, meeting places, teaching materials, and modes of evaluation. Many education concepts have been introduced to evangelical leaders through the TEE movement. Among these are continuing education, group dynamics, simulation games, case studies, individualized instruction, non-formal education, moral education, instructional technology, programmed instruction, growth contracting, competency- based evaluation, and many more. By teaching students in their own communities, TEE has provided learning in context. By integrating cognition, affect, and ministry, TEE has provided holistic instruction. The influence of the TEE movement has overflowed into many residence seminaries, community development programs, and health care programs.
In the light of these many accomplishments, it seems incredible, and quite paradoxically, that after only twenty short years this renewal movement is itself in need of renewal. The "substantial and significant changes . . . clearly destined to reform much of theological education overseas" which educators like Ward2 were predicting a decade ago have been only partially realized. The truth is that in spite of its growth, and in spite of its many accomplishments, the TEE movement, even to its strongest advocates, has been something of a disappointment. Changes have not gone deep enough or far enough. In some cases, the curricula and structures of TEE programs have actually become more traditional than those of the residence programs they have replaced. There has been far too much emphasis upon programmed instruction, text development, and behaviorist theories. There has been far too much missionary domination of the TEE movement. There has been an unfortunate polemic and defensive stance in relation to residence seminaries. Some ideologues within the movement seem more concerned about tearing down residence schools than they do about building up the church. TEE is a renewal movement that needs renewing!
RESIDENCE PROGRAMS AND ACCREDITATION
Residence programs in the Third World are no less in need of renewal. Many are small, undersupported, understaffed, and poorly administered. They are often patterned after North American or European models, and are bogged down by the weight of their own structures. They are not even beginning to meet the church’s need for leaders. No one will deny that radical changes are needed if these programs are to become what they can be.
Much of the impetus toward the renewal of residence programs is coming from an unexpected source: the emerging Third World accreditation movement. I saw far more concern for educational renewal at a consultation sponsored by the International Council of Accrediting Agencies in Malawi last month than I have seen in recent TEE gatherings. If these accrediting bodies are able to keep this spirit of renewal alive, they could well emerge as the single most important influence upon evangelical theological education in the 1980’s. They are In a position to promote cooperation among theological schools, the contextualization of theology and theological curricula, educational planning, institutional self- evaluation, and the spiritual formation of servant-leaders for the church. They can encourage the development of Third World graduate schools, professors, theologians, authors, libraries-all of this and much, much more.
Whether or not these lofty goals can be accomplished will depend to a large -degree upon the accreditation movement’s ability to resolve its own built-in tensions. The most serious of these is the tension between academic excellence and spiritual formation. Third World leaders want and need degrees, credits, and diplomas. If they are denied this recognition of their academic work, they may rightly accuse educators from the West of a new kind of paternalism, of a new effort to "keep the nationals in their place. " Sophisticated urban churches and advancedlevel theological schools throughout the world need national leaders with superior academic qualifications. With this we will all agree. The danger is in pursuing academic programs is not in diplomas or degrees in themselves-the danger is in what these programs can do to people. The elitist, professional pastors who emerge from some of our theological institutions are the antithesis of the servant-leaders churches need. Degrees can be helpful; elitism and professionalism certainly are not. Can we have one without the other?
If our answer to the above question is negative, then almost all of us who read this article are elitists and professionals, because almost all of us have passed through degree programs. If we do not consider ourselves to be among the professionally elite, how did we escape that mold? In my own experience, it was spiritual formation that made the difference. The Holy Spirit began his work in me before I went to seminary. He continued his work in my life during my seminary days. He is still completing his work in me. I thank God for the degrees I have earned. Each helped me to grow both spiritually and intellectually. Each has expanded my opportunities for service. I want Third World leaders to share in these opportunities for personal growth and expanded ministry.
I have reread what I just wrote. It sounds idealistic, and almost schizophrenic. I believe what I have said: Degrees are important; elitism and professionalism must be avoided; the Holy Spirit can protect our hearts and minds, even in the midst of a formal academic program. My lingering doubts grow out of my background as an educator and a communicator. If the medium is the message, then formal academic programs will by their very nature produce professionals. If we have some other products in mind, the schooling model itself may need to be challenged. We must not be so committed to any structure that we are unwilling to change it when it becomes counterproductive in terms of our ultimate goal of preparing leaders for the church.
The tensions I have just described are real. Third World accrediting associations are aware of them and discussing them. The ways in which these tensions are resolved will have a tremendous impact on the life and vitality of churches around the world for years to come.
EDUCATION FOR MINISTRY
We have seen that both residence and extension programs need renewal. We believe that renewal is possible and attainable. How can the renewal of theological education be brought about? What are some of the dynamics of this renewal we so badly need?
First and foremost, our concern for renewal must be focused upon the church. This is because the church and its teaching ministries are so inextricably intertwined. We agree with Richards that:
When we understand the nature of spiritual leadership for the church, we’re able to define the kind of persons pastors, missionaries, and other "full time" or "professional Christian workers" are to be. We are also better able to define the kind of training seminaries need to provide.3 Richards goes on to plead for seminary programs which grow out of "a theological appreciation of what the church is, and what learning in a Christian context is to be. . . "4
We need to train men to be models. We need to train men who understand how the Body grows, and who can lead members of the Body to discover their identity as believer-priests. We need to train men who realize that the health of the Body as a corporate entity is critical in fulfilling the church’s transforming mission-men who know how to build people together into a unity that reflects the unity we actually enjoy in Christ.5
One of the good things that came out of the TEE movement in Brazil was this kind of focus upon the church. During its earlier years, AETTE, Brazil’s TEE association, was concerned primarily with methodology. Most assemblies and workshops were spent deciding how to train center leaders, or how to write programmed texts. Then gradually, almost imperceptibly, the focus of our attention began to change. We found ourselves spending less time talking about mechanics and more time talking about the church. We found ourselves taking an exciting pilgrimage from the methods -cluttered periphery of theological education to its church-centered core.
To focus upon the church is to focus upon ministry. Ministry education is not to be confused with theological education. Theological education prepares scholars who develop and extend theological disciplines. Ministry education prepares servant-leaders for the church. Both theologians and ministers are needed. The problem arises when we fail to distinguish between the two in the educational programs we develop. Excellence in biblical and theological disciplines may be taught in an academic setting. Excellence in ministry must be modeled within a committed Christian community.
When we talk about excellence in ministry, both excellence and ministry must be underlined. We are making a qualitative statement about the kind of graduate we want to result from our program, and we are defining the institution’s task to be preparing that kind of graduate. This is a sobering thought. If the purpose of theological schools is ministry education, then the measure of a school’s effectiveness is not necessarily the number of books in a library or the percentage of its faculty with doctorates. The measure of a school is the effectiveness of its graduates as ministers of the church.
This emphasis upon excellence in ministry has profound implications for our programs of theological education. It means that our institutional goals will be clearly defined. We will know what kinds of leaders we are preparing for the church. We will know what our purposes and objectives are The China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong employs a holistic approach to theological education. The work of the academic dean, the dean of students, and the director of field ministries is carefully coordinated so that all aspects of the students’ growth and development are planned for and evaluated. Another good example of holistic planning is provided by the Japanese Holiness Church in Brazil. All of the educational activities of this church association, from toddlers’ Sunday school through seminary training for pastors, are planned and administered through a single, comprehensive program.
There is an all-important component of renewal in theological education. If programs for preparing leaders for ministry are to realize their full potential, they must become nationalized and contextualized. I have written on this subject elsewhere, so I will only mention it here.6 As long as Third World programs are looking to the North Atlantic for recognition, sending their professors to the West to study, and accepting heavy subsidies for libraries, buildings and even faculty salaries, they are still very far indeed from becoming nationalized. And as long as theological education programs in the Third World are saturated with information, ideas, thought patterns, values, curricula, educational structures , and leadership patterns from the West, they have not even begun to become contextualized.
So there it is, laid bare for all to see. In spite of many successes, and in spite of many encouraging events and trends, both extension and residence programs around the world are badly in need of renewal. The renewal of theological education will come about only as we focus our efforts upon the church, and make its ministry central. Education for ministry will help us to sharpen our goals, to develop appropriate curricula, to individualize instruction, to plan holistically, and to nationalize and contextualize our programs.
WHAT MISSION AGENCIES CAN DO
How can mission agencies participate in the process of theological education renewal? What is it that persons in positions of leadership in North American mission can do to enhance theological education around the world?
A logical starting place is to examine the depth and the breadth of our commitment to developing church leaders. Verbal statements are not enough; we need more concrete, more measurable yardsticks: What proportion of our ministries are involved in theological education? What proportion of our mission budgets are designed for theological education projects? What proportion of their time do missionaries spend doing things themselves, and what proportion do they spend in developing their national counterparts? How many articles in our mission journals during the last year focused on training? What books have we read recently? What journals do we subscribe to? Theological education around the world will never be renewed until mission leaders renew their commitment to this task.
Another important step toward the renewal of theological education can be taken by making sure that theological education missionaries are included in the mainstream of mission activity. More often than not, seminary professors, TEE workers, Christian education workers, and the like are considered to be supportive or auxiliary personnel. They are seldom thought of as being involved in the same mainline function or activity as evangelists and church planters. The failure to recognize discipling and developing church leaders as a part of the central task of missions has had disastrous results, both in the States and overseas. in the States, many educational missionaries find it difficult to raise support. Churches want to contribute to missionaries who are out in the villages doing "real" missionary work. They are not always convinced that their funds are being well invested in a missionary who spends his or her time in a Bible school.
On the field, the situation is sometimes just as bad. I’ve seen a subtle hierarchy develop within some field conferences. Evangelists and church planters are the missions elite. Health care workers, literature workers, and broadcast personnel are not far behind. Then, far down the ladder, near the bottom rung, if you look very hard, you’ll find the educators. This isn’t always true, of course. But I’ve seen it happen enough times in enough different situations to make me include a plea for change. If God’s work is to be done in God’s way, all of the gifts he has given to the church must be valued. Whatever missions can do to include theological educators among its church developers will contribute to the growth of the church around the world.
Still another means of renewing theological education around the world would be to provide continuing education opportunities for administrative staffs. Overseas secretaries and field directors are expected to supervise educational ministries. Few are prepared for this task. Providing in-service workshops, conferences, and reading programs would be one answer to this need. Some of the larger missions might be able to create a staff position for an educational coordinator or consultant. Anything that can be done to improve the educational expertise of mission administrators will have an impact on theological education overseas.
What has been said about the administrative staff applies to missionaries as well. Most missionaries, even those directing seminaries and TEE programs, have very little background in the field of education. They can tell you all about E0, El, E2 and E3 evangelism. They can define people groups. They can defend the homogeneous unit principle. But they can’t plan an educational program, develop a curriculum, prepare instructional texts or explain how people in another culture have learned to learn. They do not recognize that sub-Christian educational theories are influencing their educational practices. Even though strategies for church leadership development are at least as complex and at least as important as strategies for evangelism, the preparation of most missionaries includes very little emphasis upon teaching ministries. It is our responsibility as mission leaders to help them to fill in some of the gaps in their training. We can see that they have opportunities to attend workshops and conferences while they are on the field. We can steer them toward programs of study while they are on furlough. We can make sure that they are receiving journals and buying books. Providing these kinds of opportunities for missionaries is an obvious and practical means of improving theological education.
THE ROLE OF U.S. SEMINARIES
I can guess what some readers are thinking right now. You are probably saying, "Now wait a minute! Who is responsible for all of this, anyway? What about our Bible college and seminaries and graduate schools? Shouldn’t they be providing educational training?"
My answer is a resounding Yes! But the truth of the matter is that theological schools in the States are often miseducating the very missionaries they should be educating. If missionaries have experienced a traditional kind of theological education, they are likely to communicate these values as they develop leaders overseas. If their own involvement in ministry was postponed until their seminary program was completed, they are likely to be contented to work with young, potential leaders overseas. If their curriculum was designed around traditional disciplines, they are likely to duplicate that same curriculum. If what they learned was culturally irrelevant, they are likely to be insensitive to the cultural dimensions of their teaching. If they have been told what to learn and when to learn it, it is doubtful that they will encourage overseas students to assume the responsibility for their own learning and growth.
But if, on the other hand, the missionaries’ experience in seminary involved learning within a committed and caring community, they are likely to create committed and caring communities themselves. If their preparation for ministry was church-centered in their homeland, they will be likely to encourage their students to contextualize theology as well. If they learned to evangelize and disciple others in their homeland, they will teach overseas students to share and to care.
If this cycle of teaching as we have been taught is to be broken, North American theological schools must be renewed. Missions can have a powerful impact upon these institutions. Personnel men recommend schools to mission candidates. Mission boards appoint the school’s graduates. Overseas secretaries send missionaries back to school for
furlough study. You have the right to expect the very highest quality of preparation for your missionaries. Let Bible colleges, seminaries, and graduate schools know your expectations.
ROLE MODELS FOR MINISTRY
Implicit in what I have said so far is another task for missions – we must make sure that missionaries are modeling ministry. We don’t need more theologians, scholars, and professors in Third World schools (or in North American schools, for that matter). What we do need is role models for ministry. We need men and women who are both academically qualified and ministerially qualified. We need men and women who are as at home planting churches in an urban slum as they are when they are reading textbooks on ecclesiology.
This qualification for missionary service is important to bear in mind in screening candidates. I’m sure that many of you have had the same experience I have. It usually happens in a seminary. A bright young man has just completed a master’s degree with an Old Testament major. His favorite professor is encouraging him to go on to Brandeis for a doctorate in Semitiz languages. He wants to do this, even though he knows the Old Testament field is crowded, and he may have trouble finding a teaching position in the States. Oh, well. There’s always the mission field. What overseas school wouldn’t welcome him with open arms?
My advice to this kind of young person is seldom accepted. I tell him that if he really believes God is calling him to an overseas assignment, he needs at least two years of full-time experience in church-related ministry in his homeland first. Then, during his first term overseas, he should serve in a church in another culture, preferably under the tutelage of a national pastor. By his second term on the field, he may be ready for a teaching ministry. This isn’t what young people want to hear, but it is what all of our overseas theological educators need to hear if our churches are to be renewed through theological education. Missions must make sure that missionaries are modeling ministry.
There are still other ways in which mission agencies can encourage the renewal of theological education around the world. One of these is by supporting service agencies and international associations. At least twenty evangelical agencies and associations are making theological education their primary concern. The Committee to Assist Ministry Education Overseas (CAMEO) works closely with the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Fellowship and with the International Council of Accrediting Agencies. We also work with regional associations of theological schools in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, North America, and the South Pacific. We work with TEE associations in Latin America, the Middle East, Pakistan, India, and the Philippines, as well as with other regional and national associations and agencies. These organizations are chronically overextended, understaffed, and underfunded. They need your encouragement and support.
A concrete means of encouraging the renewal of theological education overseas is by supporting graduate schools of theology with personnel and funds. They need our backing and encouragement. The very least we can do is to keep our North American degrees and schools at home. The Third World does not need overseas extensions of our programs in the States. What Africans and Asians and Latin Americans do need is to become proud of their own theological institutions, and to look to their own associations of schools for credibility and recognition. Academic dependence on degrees from the West will only slow down this process. In my opinion, it is both unethical and strategically bad to offer a competitive North America degree in places where overseas institutions are trying to develop credible programs of their own.
May I suggest that we need a heightened sense of responsibility and more clearly defined policies in relation to international students who are studying in North America. I recently heard of a plan by one evangelical college in the States to bring a student from every country in the world to study there. My own conviction is that, as a rule of thumb, national churches, missions, and North American Bible colleges should discourage undergraduates from coming to the West to study. Opportunities are almost always available in the student’s home country or region. Even at the master’s level, theological study is available overseas. In specialized areas such as communication, Christian education, and missions, it may still be necessary to bring students to the West. This state of affairs is changing rapidly. Asian theological schools are projecting master’s level programs in each of the above specializations. Both Latin American and Asian schools are studying the possibility of offering doctoral programs through consortia. If present trends continue, the occasions when Third World leaders need to study in the States or Canada will become less and less frequent. When it is necessary for them to study here, it makes sense to keep the duration of the programs as short as possible. A relatively short time in residence can be arranged through a liberal use of extension courses, transfers of credit, field work, and independent research.
NEEDED: AN EDUCATIONAL POLICY
If only one conclusion could be drawn from the lengthy list of suggestions I’ve generated, it would be that each of our missions needs to develop a carefully articulated educational policy. The policy would be prefaced by a commitment to church leadership development as a primary task of missions. It would place theological educators in the mainstream of mission activity. It would provide in-service training for the administrative staff and field-based missionaries. It would call upon theological educators at home and abroad to model ministry. It would include recommendations regarding the qualifications and appointment of theological education missionaries. It would include a commitment to support educational service agencies, associations of theological schools, and graduate schools of theology. It would place the mission on record in discouraging efforts to proliferate North American degrees and programs in the Third World. It would include policies regarding study by Third World students in the West.
Undergirding this statement would be a deep commitment to Jesus Christ and to the mission of his church, accepting his Lordship and obeying his command to make disciples. May God help each of us to give ourselves and our means to this central task of missions.
1. Wayne C. Weld, The World Directory of Theological Education by Extension.- 1980 Supplement (Wheaton, IL: CAMEO, 1980), p. 1.
2. Ted Ward, "Theological Education by Extension: Much More than a Fad," Theological Education (Summer, 1974), p. 258.
3. Lawrence 0. Richards, A Theology of Christian Education (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), p 158.
4. Ibid., p. 161.
5. Ibid., p. 163.
6. Lois McKinney, "Serving the Church in Cultural Context: The Role of Academic Accreditation," Evangelical Theological Education in the 1980’s, ed. Paul Bowers (London: Paternoster Press, in publication).
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