Seminary Blog

Personal Organization for the Sake of Fruitful Ministry

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 14:09

Some people may think it weird or merely the sign of an obsessive personality, but I get butterflies when I walk into an Office Depot.  Even the thought of notebooks, filing cabinets, planners, and binders gets me excited.  Oh for more sticky notes and file-folders with reinforced tabs!  And, for those who think I am stuck in a bygone era of space-devouring paper goods: yes, I love Evernote and Pocket and Dropbox.  I’ve even been known to block out serious chunks of time (like, on the calendar) to organize my MacBook’s files and de-clutter the desktop.

I have a passion for organization.

But not everyone shares my enthusiasm for drawer dividers and label makers.  Through conversation and general observation over the years it has become clear that there are people who find an overly-organized work environment stifling when it comes to their creativity and productivity.  Others have concluded that setting aside time to index their notes, catalog their books, assemble all their files according to appropriate categories, and establish a system of “productivity processes” actually takes away from time in which they can be creative and productive.

While I do not want to quarrel with those whose personality seems to require a certain amount of, shall we say, workspace flexibility, I do want to challenge the assumption that careful attention to organization kills creativity and productivity.

In fact, I would contend that organization is an indispensable key to both.

Ministry and Organization

When it comes to ministry, then, Christians should give some serious thought to organization.  If we are called to be fruitful and rich in good works—a calling that involves both creativity and productivity—then we should gladly embrace any means that enable us to abound in these things.

Take, for example, a well-organized desk.  The effort it takes to plan and maintain an orderly desk may be significant, but the payoff far outweighs the time and energy required to set up your workspace and routinely return everything to its place.  More to the point: an organized desk enables you to do a greater amount good for others than you could do with a disorderly desk.  In his discussion of promoting effective productivity practices, Matt Perman makes this important link between organization and fruitfulness.

First, good productivity practices reduce the friction in doing good, thus making doing good easier and more likely.  For example, I have a series on my blog about how to set up your desk.  I think it’s pretty fun to have your desk set up well.  But what’s the ultimate reason a good desk set up matters to me?  Because setting up your desk effectively helps you be more effective in serving others.  It means that instead of having your stuff all over, getting in your way and creating friction in your life, you can operate in a smooth and efficient way to focus on what you really need to get done” (Matt Perman, What’s Best Next, 87).

So, the cultivation of effective organizational habits is not merely for your own convenience; it is for the good of others.  When we, as Perman observes, “remove the friction in doing good” by maintaining an orderly workspace, we are freed to serve others more effectively.

But it doesn’t stop at your desk.

Consider the other areas of your life in which your ability to readily and intentionally meet needs would be enhanced by giving greater attention to organization.

Your Finances

If you maintain an orderly budget, keep track of your spending, itemize your savings, and intentionally set aside funds for specific uses, you can know exactly how much you are able to give when urgent needs arise.  You will have a keen grasp on how much you take in each month, how much you need to live on, and how much you can give away. In this way, organization does not stifle generosity; it encourages it.  And in the long run, a Christian who maintains an orderly budget will most likely give more than the person who thinks they are being more “spiritual” by giving according to their spontaneous impulses.  It’s counter-intuitive, but a person who only gives “when the Spirit moves” and never gets a handle on their finances usually won’t give very much over a given year.  They might think they are generous, but in terms of actual numbers, they are surprisingly stingy.

Your Possessions

When you maintain an orderly living space, you are able better to provide specific goods to those who are in need.  You need a sleeping bag for a mission trip?  It’s in the garage on the second shelf from the bottom; I’ll have it to you by tomorrow.  Do I have any books on eschatology?  Yes, in the attic, the two boxes on the far left.  I’ll bring you a stack on Sunday.  Clothes for an 18 month old boy?  In a bin near the front of the closet upstairs; you can swing by on Wednesday to pick them up.

On the other hand, when your possessions are unaccounted for and left in disorderly heaps around the house and garage and attic, you are unable to quickly and effectively supply needs.  Moreover, disorganization can lead to a poor stewardship of your finances as you repurchase things you already own—whether for your own needs or for the needs of others.

Your Time

Your time is much like your money: if you want to be generous with it, you must get organized.  Take a given week for example.  If you neglect to plan how you will use your time each day, you will most likely waste a lot of precious minutes (which add up to hours and days and years) that you will not be able to spend serving others.  You will also be unable to determine how much time you can spend on a particular project or with a person to whom you are ministering.

In the latter example, if you are unwilling to organize your schedule, you might find that the time you spend with people is often characterized by several “watch checks” and the inability to really concentrate on others because you are weighed down by the anxiety of not knowing exactly how much time you are able to give to a particular situation.  Knowing how much time you are able to give to a person in need allows you to concentrate fully on and listen carefully to them.  Granted, there are times when God will stretch our schedules and keep us in one place for longer than we planned; but, generally speaking we will find that we enhance our time with others when we keep an orderly schedule.

Your Study

When I ponder the importance of disciplined, orderly study, I am reminded of John “Rabbi” Duncan, a man who, though godly, never reached his potential as a theologian due to his inability to organize his pursuit of knowledge.  In the introduction to Duncan’s brief biography, we learn that despite his great teaching ability, his failure to impose structure and exercise intentionality in his studies significantly limited his contribution to the Christian world.

These [teaching] endowments, however, were counteracted by certain weaknesses which hindered his usefulness.  There was a lack of any plan in his acquisition of knowledge.  He had a fatal tendency to miscellaneous.  He was often carried away intellectually with some engrossing mental problem or absorbed spiritually with some enquiry into the state of his soul.  Furthermore, he was utterly unmethodical in everything but the arrangement of his thoughts.  The greatest defect of his character, however, was, as Dr. Moody Stuart points out, weakness of purpose.  ‘You could not name any living man whom you could so easily turn aside in judgment from what he had approved, or in execution from what he had intended.’  This irregularity in work was fatal to his potential power as a professor and scholar.  In this realm he was rather a great possibility than a great realization.  (‘Just a Talker’: Sayings of John (‘Rabbi’) Duncan, xxix.)

Sadly, Duncan was not as fruitful as he could have been due to a simple lack of organization in his life.  And how many of us, who read much and study much, because we are unwilling to establish an effective note keeping and retrieval system, are limiting our contribution to our families, our churches, and our schools?  How much valuable truth and useful knowledge are you now unable to pass along to others because you never troubled yourself to write it down and file it away?

These are not a questions of personality—whether we consider ourselves a “Duty Fulfiller” or an “Idealist” or a “Doer” or a “Thinker”—these are questions of stewardship and how we are using the resources God has entrusted to us.  Organization may come more naturally to some, but it is needed for anyone who desires to effectively serve others.

So, even if you don’t consider yourself an organized person, I encourage you to consider the ways your ministry to others and your capacity to do good would be enhanced by a little more attention to where you keep your pens and how you track your budget.

The post Personal Organization for the Sake of Fruitful Ministry appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Book Reviews

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 13:46
Before you Hire a Youth Pastor: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding the Right Fit. By Mark DeVries and Jeff Dunn-Ranking. Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 2011. 124 pp. $7.99.

The search for a youth pastor can be a tedious one. While many churches have a plan in place for replacing their departing youth pastor, often times, those plans are executed ineffectively, and can even lead to the wrong hire. Thankfully, youth ministry experts Mark DeVries and Jeff Dunn-Rankin have put together a book to prevent those unfortunate situations. In Before You Hire a Youth Pastor, the authors put forth extremely practical tools and advice for moving the pastoral search process forward in a way that honors God, empowers laypeople, and guides a church toward the right youth pastor hire.

DeVries and Dunn-Rankin consider all aspects of the youth pastor search process, such as selecting the correct members for a search committee, settling on a theological vision for youth ministry, establishing a search timeline, analyzing resumes, interviewing candidates, asking the proper questions, and everything in between. They provide examples of searches that have gone both well and poorly and provide practical advice that will help the desperate youth pastor search committee. The authors agree that searching for a youth pastor can be a difficult venture, and their hope is that they can enable churches to find the right youth pastor in a manner that is efficient, effective, and ends with the proper person(s) in ministry leadership. Helpfully, the authors make this process step-by-step (38 steps to be exact), and leave no stone unturned. They include numerous appendices of sample job descriptions for both full-time and part-time staff, a candidate tracking sheet, a sample rejection letter, guidelines for interviews, and many others. These appendices comprise almost half of the book, and will no doubt save search committees time and stress. While it may appear that DeVries and Dunn-Rankin advocate a “cookie-cutter” approach to the search process, they understand that not all churches are in the same place theologically, financially, or administratively. They are sensitive to the ministry needs of all churches, and go to great lengths to help committees move the search process along smoothly.

As leaders of Youth Ministry Architects, DeVries and Dunn-Rankin have several years of combined experience in the field of youth ministry. They readily understand the needs of churches and youth pastors alike. DeVries has authored a number of similar works, such as Family-Based Youth Ministry and Sustainable Youth Ministry that come alongside youth ministers in the journey to effective youth ministry practices. The present text is no different, and is an extraordinarily practical, punchy, and quick read. The authors refrain from technical jargon, giving the book an exceptionally readable quality. While its intended audience is lay people who need guidance on moving through the search process, potential youth pastors will benefit from understanding the thought process of those on the other side of the search. It will certainly help search committees avoid the potholes that generally plague the search process. I strongly recommend that every church, even those with thriving youth pastors, add this book to their collection.

Benjamin D. Espinoza Director of Youth and Community Life Covenant Church Bowling Green, Ohio 

 

The Indispensable Youth Pastor: Land, Love, and Lock In Your Youth Ministry Dream Job. By Mark DeVries and Jeff Dunn-Rankin. Loveland, CO: Group, 2011. 173 pp. $15.99.

There is no lacuna of books written about the call to ministry, but books on the call to youth ministry are few and far between. Even more rare are books that discuss the implications of that call to youth ministry; specifically, how to find a ministry position and flourish in one’s work. The Indispensable Youth Pastor is one that fills this gap and more. Mark DeVries and Jeff Dunn-Rankin take the potential youth pastor on a journey from discerning the call to youth ministry, to finding the perfect ministry position, to becoming an indispensable youth pastor.

In the beginning of their book, the authors seek to help service-minded people discern a call to full-time vocational youth ministry. From there, the authors spend considerable time on the process of finding a youth ministry position. DeVries and Dunn-Rankin offer priceless advice about this process: the need for a sturdy résumé, securing good references, nailing interviews, and dealing with search committees. Next, the authors deal with “locking in” your ministry position. Their goal in this section is to “help you keep your job for as long as you and God had in mind were called” (57) and to help a youth pastor become “indispensable.”Again, DeVries and Dunn-Rankin offer wisdom on issues, such as listening to the needs of youth and the congregation as a whole, understanding healthy growth, exceeding expectations, dealing with parents, the art of “woo,” and much more. Finally, the authors explain how to maintain ministry enthusiasm after many years of youth ministry service. The book’s final pages include two appendices related to the youth ministry search process.

The present text serves as a companion text to Before You Hire a Youth Pastor (Group, 2011), which explores the youth pastor search process from the perspective of a church committee. The two should be read together in order to bring a fully-orbed picture to the process of matching the right personnel with the right ministry position.

The Indispensable Youth Pastor covers a lot of ground with regards to life in youth ministry, such as identifying the call to youth ministry, networking, being on the same page as the senior pastor, and much more. While the authors do not depend on scholarly sources or data to strengthen their advice, their leadership in Youth Ministry Architects enables them to speak with quite a bit of authority in matters related to seeking youth ministry positions and thriving in youth ministry. They offer plenty of anecdotes from their own time in youth ministry, as well as stories from those with whom they have interacted over the years. With many years of combined youth ministry experience and working with churches, DeVries and Dunn-Rankin have authored a text that belongs on the shelf of every youth minister, from serious volunteer youth workers to veteran youth pastors.

Benjamin D. Espinoza Director of Youth and Community Life Covenant Church Bowling Green, Ohio

 

Croft, Brian and Cara. The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013. 176 pp. $16.99.

Calvin Miller wrote a book that spoke to the plight of shepherding among evangelicalism: its title, “O Shepherd Where Art Thou?” The Crofts have, in large measure, written the same for the pastor’s family. Shepherding has fallen on hard times—both in the church and in the home. Pastors are shepherds; husbands are shepherds; fathers are shepherds. Pastors with families must be shepherds—thrice over. The church needs books like this; ministerial families pray for books like this.

A number of aspects of this book require praise. First, the correct overarching paradigm for ministry, both to the flock and the family, has been upheld, namely, shepherding. A pastor is fundamentally a shepherd. Against the American proclivity to elevate preaching as the defining duty of a pastor, Croft has rightly held both public and private ministry under the umbrella of shepherding (cf. Acts 20:20 & 20:28). Any pastor discharging less is a hireling (John 10:11-15).

Secondly, Croft has rightly placed the problem within the soul (45, 49). A pastor’s problem is not ultimately the demands external to him. “In the heart of every pastor is an innate wiring, a tendency to fulfill his desires and meet the demands of life in broken, selfish, and sinful ways” (43). It is only that which comes out of the heart that defiles a person (Mark 7:20-23). Even sinful people (or circumstantial suffering) can at best only squeeze out what was already within. Croft refuses to diminish the death of Jesus for anything less than sin (see below). Therefore, he points pastors to the only solution, namely repentance (52). Pastors, like all believers, need a redeemer, not a therapeutic healer (cf. Titus 2:14).

Thirdly, the sections urging pastors to pastor their children are helpful and practical. For example, Croft rightly holds children accountable for their response, while admonishing pastors to not exasperate them (138-39) and then gives five concrete ways to prevent parenting by absentia (141ff.).

One facet of the work remains enigmatic, however—how to respond to Cara’s running commentary. At times, her insertions were insightful, while at others awkward. Assuming the Crofts complementarians, Cara would be writing to the spouses of pastors in a book that is principally addressed to the pastors. Furthermore, in light of Cara’s preference for works of fiction rather than systematic (85), one wonders how to respond to her practical theology. Finally, the Appendix delineating Cara’s depression seemed out of place in a book about pastoral ministry.

Two other limitations also bear mentioning. First, Brian rightly decries sinful desires while failing to eliminate “felt needs” theology (cf. 55). He laments pastors who, “Rather than…believing that God will meet his needs, he tries to meet his own needs for acceptance, significance, approval, and friendship” (45, cf. 74). To permit a “needs mentality” is to ensure slavery—to the very problem Croft bemoans. “‘Needs’ or ‘rights’ lead irresistibly into fear of man. We’ve seen that whatever you think you need, you come to fear” (Ed Welch, When People Are Big and God is Small, 87).

Moreover, one should not go to God to get those inordinate desires unmet by others. Martha tried the same and was rebuffed by Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). Welch again, helps here:

She knew that the answer was not to turn to Christ to meet her felt need. That would have made Jesus her personal talisman or idol. Instead, her answer was to put to death her selfish desires and to learn to fear God alone. As a result, her question began to change. It was no longer “Where can I find my worth?” but “Why am I so concerned about myself?” It was not “How can God fill my needs?” but “How can I see Christ as so glorious that I forget about my perceived needs?” (Welch, 233)

Clarity is desperately needed when countering the wisdom of the world that has crept into the church.

Secondly, real help for the problems astutely identified lies within reach—but untapped. The pitfalls uncovered could be better avoided through a paradigm of ministry more collegial than hierarchical. A hierarchy allows “the counsel of my associate pastor” to be ignored by the senior pastor (140). Associates do not hold seniors accountable. An equal, however, cannot be avoided. If all pastors were generalists, discharging all duties equally (including preaching), then all would be humbled by the calling, not just “senior pastors” (cf. 60) and each pastor could spend time with the church, counseling etc. (79-80) and with family during the worship service (166)—and perhaps even some of the temptations like the “great fear and anxiety” of becoming a senior pastor’s wife, not experienced when merely an associate pastor’s wife, could also be checked (cf. 155).

The church should demand all her pastors read and heed books like this. Books like these are vital—but more is needed. May the Croft’s keep refining and reworking a thoroughly biblical pastoral ministry to glorify The Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.

Jim Fain, Ph.D. Executive Director Rod & Staff Ministries Greenwood, IN

 

Harney, Kevin G. Organic Outreach For Ordinary People: Sharing Good News Naturally. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009. 256 pp. $14.99.

All Christians are called to be salt and light to a dark and dying world, yet many professing believers cringe at the thought of evangelizing. There is no doubt that evangelism is difficult, yet true followers of Christ understand that God has commanded us to evangelize the lost. For those who have been convicted to be obedient to the Word of God, pastor-author, Kevin Harney, has written this book to encourage us to reach out and share the good news of Jesus naturally. His focus is on ordinary people engaging in natural conversation and sharing God’s love and grace (16). Harney has written a practical book to help us grow in our desire and ability to evangelize the lost.

Harney writes in a useful manner using a simple, yet effective outline. The book is divided into three parts. In part one (pre-evangelism), he builds a foundation based on having a heart for God. Because we are image bearers of Christ, our motivation for reaching the broken and lost must be shaped by the love that God has for His people. In part two, Harney “investigates some of the different ways that we can be part of God’s amazing work of scattering and watering the seed of the gospel” (89). In this section he challenges us to reach out and connect with unbelievers regularly. Part three speaks of the ultimate work of salvation through the outreach of God’s people. The author leaves no misunderstanding—salvation is a work of God alone, in the heart of man. He reminds us that the credit is not ours, yet the Holy Spirit works in and through us to accomplish God’s plan of salvation.

This book contains a wealth of information, however, two points stand out. The first is prayer. For outreach to be effective, we must begin with a high view of God and have a total dependence upon Him, and we show this dependence by being prayerful people. Harney has beautifully described the image of prayer by announcing, “We unleash heavenly power when we pray for lost people. When God’s people pray, heaven shakes, strongholds are broken, and power is unleashed” (97, 99). The author leaves no doubt that to make a dramatic change and impact on our evangelistic outreach, the Holy Spirit will have to be intimately involved. We must be engaged in prayer on a consistent basis if we are to be tools that God uses to bring people into His kingdom. Harney teaches us several ways to engage in prayer to experience afresh the grace of God. One method I immediately placed into my own prayer time was ‘Triple-Five Prayers’ (101).

The second point is interaction with the lost.Throughout the book, Harney presents questions to invite us into a deeper spiritual conversation with non-believers. Harney rightly offers warnings to Christians to periodically check their motives to ensure that they are (1) operating from a pure desire to be salt and light in the world, and (2) that they are influencing people with the truths of the gospel, and not allowing themselves to get sucked back into sinful living. The author offers many suggestions for providing a conduit so that unbelievers can come together naturally with followers of Christ and engage in the regular activities of life. Additionally, each chapter ends with a practical section of questions designed to challenge the reader in their own personal growth.

One weakness that I see in this book is that when Harney speaks of the gospel message he leads off with the good news of God’s love, rather than the person’s need to be poor in spirit and thirsting for righteousness because of the sin that separates him from God (Matt. 5:3-6; Isa. 59:2). To be fair, he never disregards these truths; they always flow right behind God’s graciousness and love. However, I am under the conviction that nobody can fully understand the powerful grace that is the gift of God’s love unless they know exactly how bad their need for a Savior is. The gospel message includes, and is predicated on several factors, not just one. (1) A warning about sin and the consequences of sin (John 16:8; 2 Thess. 1:8-9). (2) God’s solution for sin—the good news of the gospel (Rom. 3:21-26; Eph. 2:1-9; 2 Cor. 5:21). (3) Finally, it includes the clear call to repent (Mark 1:15; Luke 13:1-5; Acts 17:29-31; Rom. 1:16). We are not interested in simply satisfying the outward desires of people’s lives. The full gospel message is one that has the power to transform lives from the inside out, and we should never neglect offering the full gospel.

This book was written for the person who is ready to thoughtfully and prayerfully step up his evangelism and be a beacon of God’s grace and love. The author concedes, “Evangelism is not about a magic formula. It is about the power of God and the faithfulness of His people, people like you and me. We scatter the seed, but He brings the growth” (149). If we desire a closer relationship with God, we have to get ourselves out of our comfort zones and engage in the world as salt and light. I highly recommend this book.

Tim Jarvis, MABC Biblical Counselor, Compass Bible Church Aliso Viejo, California

 

James C. Wilhoit and Leland Ryken, Effective Bible Teaching, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012), 193pp. $21.99.

Would you classify much of the Bible teaching at your church as little more than “poor lay preaching?” If you were honest, how would you describe the teachers under whom your people sit week after week? Is their material full of biblical content, but dry, disjointed and unconnected to real life? Or, is their teaching illustrative and witty but touching upon the Scripture only long enough to glean only the smallest seeds of truth? Perhaps you are a pastor or lay-teacher who feels like you fit into one of these two categories. Whatever the case, whether you are a pastor hoping to cultivate a strong teaching ministry in your church, or a lay-teacher struggling to communicate the truths of God’s Word in a way that is both useful to students and faithful to the text, Wilhoit and Ryken’s Effective Bible Teaching has much to offer you.

The authors, James Wilhoit, professor of Christian Formation at Wheaton College, and Leland Ryken, professor of English at the same institution, are convinced that poor Bible teaching can be remedied. “The premise of this book is that it is possible to diagnose with precision what goes well and what goes poorly in the classroom. It is also possible to prescribe a cure for every ailment” (14). The hope that one’s teaching can transition from dull and lifeless to stimulating and fruitful is a welcome encouragement for many teachers of the Bible, I’m sure.

Wilhoit and Ryken are persuaded, however, that in our attempts to correct instances of unfruitful teaching in our churches we have looked “too much at the teacher and not enough at the educational process and the content” (15). While not ignoring this “human component” completely—Chapter 4 is dedicated to discussing the traits of an excellent teacher—the authors concentrate their efforts on what is taught more than on the one who teaches it. Their aim is to help instructors craft textually grounded, theologically insightful, well-organized Bible studies that not only convey spiritually nourishing truth in a compelling manner, but also motivate students to think, study and learn on their own. Many good teachers may regularly accomplish the former, but only an excellent teacher will find consistent success in the latter. Indeed, the notion that genuine learning is self-motivated learning is a principle that underlies the entire book.

We must never forget that all true education is self-education. No teacher can make students learn, a fact that is ignored in contemporary approaches to education that pamper students and ask teachers to shoulder the entire responsibility for education….Students need to be engaged, not infatuated, and that is why we emphasize learning-centered education. Our focus must be on fostering and promoting deep and significant student learning (31).

In order to promote this kind self-motivated learning, Wilhoit and Ryken find great value in facilitating Inductive Bible Studies where students are encouraged and expected to interact with, ask questions about, and formulate their own judgments about the biblical text at the guidance of the instructor. This approach to Bible teaching is distinguished from Directed Bible Studies. Although the various components of the teacher’s preparation are the same under each approach, what happens in the classroom is notably different. “A directed study replaces group discovery with the leader’s sharing of his or her insights into a passage. Inductive study is radically democratic. It gives every member a vote. Directed study lets the leader do more of the talking” (110). Wilhoit and Ryken do not mean to imply, however, that inductive Bible studies are always advisable. Some groups are too large while others are too unfamiliar with the material to benefit from an inductive approach. In such cases, the teacher should implement a directed study method so that the students will be exposed to educated teaching rather than the collective ignorance of the other students.

Regardless of how you might assess the validity of the inductive method for conducting Bible studies or whether or not you believe it would work in your particular setting, the principles outlined by Wilhoit and Ryken will serve as reliable tools to help you adequately prepare and present faithful and stimulating Bible teaching. I shall mention a few.

Perhaps most important among the principles discussed by the authors is their exhortation to “come to grips with the text” (17). In order to avoid drifting into the comfortable territory of one’s hobbyhorses or to keep from waxing eloquent on theological issues not related to a given passage, teachers must draw their lessons from the text itself. Yet, remaining tethered to the text is not enough. “To teach a passage effectively, a teacher must be able to communicate a sense of its unity” (59). In order to grasp a passage’s unity, one must identify its genre—is it narrative, exposition, poetry?—and locate the “big idea” of the passage. Accurately identifying the genre guards one from wrongly interpreting the passage. Discerning the main idea keeps the teacher from missing the conceptual forest for the exegetical trees. Both practices help “impose a unity” on the passage that will help the teacher and his students better understand the biblical text.

In fact, because Wilhoit and Ryken are convinced that proper interpretation depends upon one’s ability to classify the kind of literature they are studying, they discuss the matter of genre in multiple places throughout the book, dedicating two chapters to specific genres: narrative (Chapter 13) and poetry (Chapter 14). Even in the chapter devoted to helping the teacher recognize and convey the main idea of a passage (Chapter 6), Wilhoit and Ryken give several examples of what this looks like as the teacher comes in contact with the Bible’s various genre.

The authors also outline several indispensable principles for sound biblical interpretation (see Chapter 8). Among these is the reminder to “operate on the premise that the Bible is God’s revealed word, inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore without error” (92). Keeping this foundational premise in its rightful place helps the teacher properly reverence Scripture as he works his interpretation of various texts.

A second principle a teacher must keep clear in his mind is that “the biblical canon…is an organic whole in which the parts fit together harmoniously” (93). Unfortunately, as it relates to the work of interpretation, the authors understand this principle chiefly in precautionary terms: “Accordingly, one should interpret individual passages in an awareness of what is said elsewhere in the Bible. In the case of difficult or obscure passages, the interpreter should give precedence to biblical passages where the doctrine is clear” (93). The canon acts as a set of guardrails to keep the teacher from driving into a doctrinal ditch as he handles tough passages.

There is more, however, that should be drawn from this principle; namely, that Scripture’s nature as an “organic” document implies that much theological and pastoral treasure can be quarried from understanding how various themes, doctrines and types unfold over the canon and find fulfillment and development as God’s plan of redemption is revealed in greater and greater detail. Although Wilhoit and Ryken mention the progressive nature of Scripture on the following page (94), they do so only to offer a general reminder that teaching in the Old Testament is often clarified in the New.

The implication, then, is that, while incredibly helpful, Wilhoit and Ryken’s book should not be the only book that Bible teachers read in their quest to grow in effectiveness. Books other than those that delineate the mechanics of biblical interpretation and the methods of teaching should find their way onto the teacher’s reading list; works of biblical theology in particular. An effective teacher will not only be able to deal rightly with a given passage, he will also be able to place that passage within the grand narrative of the biblical storyline and show his people how the truth of that particular text relates to Christ and unfolds (or has unfolded) over the canon. In short, an effective Bible teacher will be able to show his students how the whole Bible fits together with Christ at the center. And when students really see this, their desire to learn will be insatiable.

Derek Brown, Ph.D. Pastoral Assistant Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley

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Categories: Seminary Blog

JDFM Forum: An Interview with Mark DeVries About Family-Based Youth Ministry, Twenty Years Later.

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 13:18
  1.  Why did you write Family-Based Youth Ministry? Tell us about the process by which this book came into existence.

So many youth workers, including myself, were heartbroken over the disconnect between kids who participated in youth group and those who continued to live out their faith for a lifetime. It set me on a search to discover the key factors that lead to lifelong discipleship. I met for a few days with my dear friend and seminary classmate, Larry Coulter, one of the most creative pastors I know, to sketch out the outline of a book. During that week, we met with a young man named Walt Mueller who was in the early stages of a ministry he was calling “Headfirst,” which after being confused for a birthing center, changed its name to the Center for Youth Ministry Training. What was clear in many, many conversations and studies is that parents played an unparalleled role in the faith formation of teenagers. Like most first time authors, I got my fair share of rejection letters, until a friend who had published with InterVarsity Press made an introduction for me.

  1. What have been the primary changes you’ve observed in youth ministry since the publication of Family-Based Youth Ministry?

I am delighted to see the ways that youth ministry has grown up. Though still true in some places, fewer and fewer churches are looking for the relational savant to lead their ministries. Popularity with kids is important, but I’m grateful that more and more churches are realizing that they can’t build a ministry on “hip.”   I’ve been delighted to see the growing anchoredness of youth pastors who seek out deliberate spiritual direction, who read more than the latest Christian fad book, who are actually integrating research, theology, and discernment.

At the same time, as the noise of marketing has become louder and louder and the options for teachers have multiplied dramatically, it has been easy for families to jettison regular involvement in the life of the church. This has led youth pastors to spend more and more time “marketing” their ministries through texting, email, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest. We’ve now got incredible resources, but the sheer volume can be overwhelming to the normal youth pastor.

When I first started out, there were a handful of churches doing mission trips. But over the last decade or so, the “mission-trip industrial complex” has become a multi-million dollar business, raising the obvious question of whether the overwhelming cost of “spiritual tourism” and “service learning” is worth the investment.   I am gladdened to see a deeper conversation around these issues, even though I feel certain it will effect the way we do ministry and missions in my church 10 years from now. 

  1. What do you see as the primary causes of the surge of interest in family ministry over the past decade?

The National Study of Youth and Religion along with the Sticky Faith project have both made the unequivocal (re-)discovery that no one influences the faith of adolescents like their family—for better or for worse. Add to this cocktail the fact that many, many churches are seeing their own extinction on the horizon, and they want to do whatever they can to recalibrate their ministries not only to lead young people to stay in their church but to lead them to lifelong discipleship. Since David Kinnaman’s book UnChristian came out, we have been more and more aware that this generation of young adults is not, by and large, coming back to church as they move into young adulthood as previous generations have.

With the rampant and growing isolation of youth into their own generational ghetto, Family-Based Youth Ministry has stood as a guardrail for churches who feel compelled to simply go along with the culture and isolate and abandon youth within the church in the same way the culture done. One other factor—whenever we see leaders on all sides of the theological spectrum saying the same thing—from Richard Ross at Southwestern Seminary to Kenda Dean at Princeton to Kara Powell and Chap Clark at Fuller, as well as Doug Fields and Mark Yaconelli—it may just be a sign that the Spirit is at work, moving in a wave that is larger than a single ideology.

  1. If you were to write Family-Based Youth Ministry today, what would you say differently?

 The one corrective I would like to bring to most teachers of family-based youth ministry is this: The modern nuclear family, as we know it and often teach it, is a far cry from the biblical family. The biblical family, though not monolithic, was much more of an extended family, with lots of adults pouring into young people, rather than mom and dad feeling the total weight of responsibility (think Jesus’ parents’ journey away from Jerusalem and not even noticing that their 12 year old was missing for an entire day).

If our goal is to create mature Christian adolescents, then maybe we should focus only on moms and dads. But our goal is not adolescent disciples. It is adult disciples. And adult disciples are shaped, as they move into adulthood, not simply by their parents’ faith. When I asked groups of adults, “How many of you had at least one person in your life, outside your mom and dad, who had as much or more influence on your faith than your parents did?,” always more than half the room raises their hands. An exclusive focus on the faith maturity of “teenagers” during their teenage years can be short sighted.

  1. What are the most significant contemporary challenges in youth ministry?

I’m beginning to believe that we are getting better and better at training youth pastors for positions that will, by and large, not exist in 20 or 30 years. The full-time youth pastor (and perhaps even the full-time pastor) may go the way of the dinosaur as the “death tsunami” of those who have historically given so generously to the church die off. I’m concerned that we are now training people for a way of doing ministry that may not be possible. I think it’s possible that we can do things in the next 20 or 30 years to be prepared for this shift, but I’m afraid that most churches will be totally surprised and paralyzed in a few decades when these changes happen. (By the way, I’d be happy to be wrong about this. If I am, and we’re ready for it, all the better. But if I’m right, it’s time to start re-imagining the economics of ministry while we’ve still got time).

  1. What would be your counsel to a young person today who senses a call to youth ministry?

I would praise God to hear of one more kindred spirit in this work. I would remind him or her that Mike Yaconelli was right, that youth ministry is a “suffer-calling.” Don’t get into it if you don’t want your heart broken. I would also plead with them, “above all else,” to invest in and guard their own hearts by finding coaches and counselors who can keep them growing. Sadly most people in ministry, not just pastors, haven’t learned much of anything in the past decade. They may read a book or two each year but nothing changes in them or their ministries. And change seldom happens unless we increase our capacity—not just our skill, but more importantly, our capacity to love, to persevere, to cling to the strength that is only found in the joy of the Lord.

On a practical level, I would encourage them to start a little side business that can eventually support their ministries. My prediction is that if a normal youth pastor spent 5 deliberate hours building a little side business, in ten years, that business would be able to fund his ministry if (and when) the church runs out of money.

  1. What brings you the most joy as you look at the impact of Family-Based Youth Ministry over the past twenty years?

It brings me great delight that the Spirit has used the principles of Family-Based Youth Ministry in all kinds of churches, all kinds of schools, all kinds of families. Though I am a Presbyterian pastor, these principles have rung true among the Mennonites and the Roman Catholics, among the United Methodists and the Southern Baptists, and just about everything in between.

That God would use a goober like me to point to what our God seems to be doing on the horizon is evidence that God’s sense of humor and delight in using his children to do things they cannot do.

But my great delight continues to be having the chance to see young people from our ministry step alongside, no longer as recipients of ministry but as partners in the gospel with those who have been their great cloud of witnesses for so many years.

The post JDFM Forum: An Interview with Mark DeVries About Family-Based Youth Ministry, Twenty Years Later. appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Have You Been Asking the Right Question?

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 12:00

What is my purpose in life? This is a question that plagues each and every one of us. The Westminster confession puts the question this way: "What is the chief and highest end of man?"

Countless books and blogs have addressed this question. But are we really asking the right question? ...

 

 

Categories: Seminary Blog

Appreciative Reflections on the Impact of “Family- Based Youth Ministry”

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 11:42

I first read Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries when I was just a couple of years into ministry.  As a 20-year-old student pastor, that book shaped my thinking in crucial ways.  In those early days, I was well-intentioned, but I had in my immaturity developed a subtle bias against parents.  I saw the problems with the parents, but I had thus far failed to see them as part of the solution.  When I read these words, I was convicted: “There is no such thing as a successful youth ministry that isolates teenagers from the community of faith.”  Twenty years later that message still shapes the way that I approach Next Generation ministry in the church.  I’m grateful for the spark that Mark helped ignite (along with others) that has grown into a movement of churches who take seriously the call to connect the church and home for the glory of God and as conduits of the gospel.

Jay Strother, Contributing Author to Perspectives on Family Ministry and Trained in the Fear of God, Campus & Teaching Pastor, The Church at Station Hill, Thompson’s Station, Tennessee

When you hear the words “Youth Ministry”, one of the first names that one thinks of is Mark Devries.  I can honestly say that for my life and the lives of many other youth ministers, few people have had the impact on us and on youth ministry over  the last 20 years  than Mark. I do not know Mark personally, but his books and his seminars have been a breath of fresh air to me and to my ministries at FBC, Houston, Tx. and Travis Avenue BC, Ft Worth, Tx. and now at Southwestern Seminary as a Professor of Youth  Ministry.  Thanks is not enough to convey my thoughts on Mark.

Johnny L. Derouen, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Student Ministry, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, Texas

In 1986 I co-authored a book called Ministry with Youth and Their Parents. But back then, trying to move youth ministry more in the direction of the family was like shouting on the beach during a hurricane. Then along came Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries. That was the match that fell in the gasoline. This seminal book started the broader conversation that continues to grow today. A smartphone seems like a simple idea . . . unless no one has ever thought of a phone that could contain a powerful computer. True visionaries think thoughts others have not had. Some of the nuances of ministry with families came first from Mark. Those thoughts seem almost omnipresent now, but someone had to think them first. And Mark did.

Richard Ross, Professor of Student Ministry, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth Texas

 

The post Appreciative Reflections on the Impact of “Family- Based Youth Ministry” appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Perspectives on Christ- Centered Family Disipleship

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 11:04

In this article I will argue that Jesus has given believers a “key” that promises to help them glorify God in their families. It is a priority that is plainly spoken, but one that is easily missed when well-meaning Christians sinfully put their family above God. Though this “key” may at first seem to be at odds with loving our families in a way that glorifies God, it will be shown that only by loving Christ in a way that looks like hate towards our families can we actually glorify God in loving our families.

From two passages in the Gospels, I will show how Jesus’ call to discipleship, “to hate [one’s] own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters” is the key to glorifying God in family relations. While the Bible does not guarantee that our discipleship will result in the conversion or improvement of our families—sometimes it promises the opposite (Matt 10:34–35)—God’s Word does promise that when Christians abide as true disciples, God will produce fruit in their lives (John 15:5, 7–8), often with positive effects on their family.[1]

The Key

The key to glorifying God in the family is found in two parallel passages.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:37-38)

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

For those who care about the family, these words seem shocking. Since the family was God’s idea, we might expect Jesus to say something more like this: “If anyone comes to me and does not love his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters cannot be my disciple.” Or, “Whoever loves father, mother, son or daughter is qualified to serve in the church.”

After all, why would Jesus want disciples who hate their family?  Certainly, the church searching for a family minister would be greatly concerned if they heard an impressive candidate say: “Yes, to answer your question, I hate my parents, my children, and even my wife.”

Context must be taken into consideration, but even then, Jesus’ words are shocking!  They demand an explanation, but not at the expense of missing the force of his hyperbole. Indeed, if we explain away his words too quickly we neuter their power to produce fruit in our lives and Christ’s presence in our homes.

What we need to see is how Jesus esteems family relations, especially with children, and then to see how this call to hate mother and father, child and wife fits into the larger framework of Christian discipleship and family relations. Therefore, in the following section, I will examine Jesus’ positive sentiments towards children. Then, I will show how these two statements from the Gospels clarify the way believers glorify God in their earthly families. Last, I will show how this principle can be applied in life through two personal illustrations.

The Treasure of Children

In the Gospels, it is evident that Jesus placed special importance on receiving children.[2]  Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the way Jesus interacted with them.[3] Therefore, before considering the temptation children can create for doting parents, we must consider how Jesus himself loved children.

Matthew 18:1–4

In a section of Matthew’s Gospel that considers “life under kingdom authority,” Jesus confronts the arrogance of his disciples.[4] Matthew records,

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (18:1–4)

In this encounter, Jesus calls a child to himself. He puts him in the middle of the disciples as an example of the kingdom. He does not ostracize or belittle him.[5] Instead, he warmly commends the child as a model of Christian discipleship, saying “unless you turn and become like this child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”[6]

It is important to note that Jesus does not mean citizenship in the kingdom depends on being childish or be uninformed (cf. 1 Cor 14:20).[7] Rather, childlikeness is a matter of humility: “Whoever humbles himself like this child in the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (v. 4). He recognizes the humble, dependent nature of children, and he says that this is the kind of posture we must adopt to enter God’s kingdom. We must forsake self-reliance, self-exaltation, and humbly rest in the arms of our loving father.[8]

Steeped in the traditions of Israel, Jesus’ view of children reflects that of the Old Testament, where on numerous occasions God’s people describe themselves as children before God. For instance, in 1 Kings 3:7 the regal Solomon says, “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.” God hears this prayer and blesses him with wisdom, wealth, and power. Clearly, Solomon is not a gullible and needy child. He is a mighty king. But before the Lord, he recognizes his child-like dependence. In fact, it was his failure to retain this posture that cost him and his sons the kingdom.

Likewise, Psalm 131 says:

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;

my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

 

O Israel, hope in the LORD

from this time forth and forevermore.

What a beautiful picture of the Christian. No longer crying, wrestling, and fighting their heavenly father, but resting, comforted, suckled and secure. The dependence of an infant on his mother pictures our dependence on God the Father.[9]

With Jesus, it is apparent that he delights in this child as a reflection of humble trust. In his dependent humanity, he displays a beautiful reality that can only be sustained and enjoyed at length in God’s heavenly kingdom.

Matthew 19:13–15

Something similar transpires in Matthew 19:13–15:

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away.

While Jesus’ disciples rebuke the people—presumably parents—who brought their children to Jesus, Jesus rebukes his disciples.[10] He commands his disciples to bring the children to him. Again, he compares the children to those who will inherit the kingdom. To be clear, his comparison does not affirm that all children are saved or citizens of the kingdom. It does indicate that followers of Christ must be absolutely dependent on the Father, just like little children.[11]

More than that, Jesus’ words carry the weight of what he had said earlier in Matthew 18:5–6: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Thus, in these two passages (Matt 18:1–6; 19:13–15), Jesus shows the way he treasures children. He models before us how we should treat children. He doesn’t neglect them, look beyond them, or get upset by their presence. He neither ignores them nor considers them a nuisance. In fact, “Jesus had a great interest in children,” something we should not overlook.[12] Morris highlights the significance of Jesus’ love for children:

It is not easy to think of Muhammad as concerned for little children, or Gautama the Buddha. But the Gospels make it clear that there were often children around Jesus. He observed their games (11:16–17), spoke of them in his teaching, and clearly was genuinely interested in them.[13]

Indeed, being informed by the Old Testament, Jesus considers children a blessing from the Lord (cf. Pss 127, 128). At the same time, with eyes fixed on eternity, he sees in them glimpses of his coming kingdom (cf. Zech 8:5). He esteems their humble dependence on their superiors as a typological model of the citizens of his own kingdom. As Christ-followers, we too should love children like Christ did.

Loving Children Like Christ Loved Children

When we behold the next generation, we must let the gospel inform our love. We must see in them two things at once: They are image-bearers created by God for his glory (Isa 43:6–7), and they are sinners whose nature offends God (Eph 2:3) and whose unbelief invites his wrath (John 3:36). Therefore, to love them like Christ, we must do more than simply express kindness; we must share with them the gospel of the kingdom.[14]

Practically, we must ask ourselves: What can I do to introduce this child to the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ? How can I walk before her so that she can see a model of God’s fatherly love or Christ’s sacrificial service? How can I tell him about the Son of God who died for sinners like him? Created by the same maker, we have an onerous privilege to share Christ with the next generation (Ps 78:1–8). In this sense, our love for them must be more than sentimental; it must be Christ-like. While we cannot save them by our actions or even by our faithful disclosure of the gospel, we must believe that God desires that all children would come to a saving knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). We must share the gospel with them in sincere hope that they will one day trust Christ.

In contrast to a world of adults who look to improve their image among their peers or increase their status among superiors, the followers of Christ reach down to the little ones, receiving children, adopting children, having children, and looking for ways to lay down their lives for children. As Jesus loved them, so must we. And still, in all our counter-cultural efforts to prize children, we must beware of an insidious temptation that can poison the very love we have for our children, making an idol of them.

The Temptation of Making Children an Idol

If it is a ubiquitous fact that Jesus loved children, what follows may seem impossible or at least counter-intuitive. The key to loving our children best is loving Christ so much that by comparison our love for them looks like “hate” (Luke 14:26). This kind of language is, of course, hyperbolic, but overstated as it may be, Jesus knew what he was doing with his words when he compared his disciples love for him with their love for their loved ones.

As we have seen, Jesus loved children, and yet, in order to stress the importance of our commitment to God as his disciples, Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. If you do not hate your own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters . . . you cannot be my disciple.”  Why does he say that? Let me suggest two reasons.

First, Jesus is the most central person in the universe.

Ephesians 1:10 says that all heaven and earth are united in Christ, and in his hyperbole found in Matthew 10 and Luke 14 Jesus stresses his own centrality.[15] He is not simply any son; he is the Son.[16] He is the archetypal Son, the one through whom every family derives its name (Eph 3:14), the one who perfectly embodies and reveals the Heavenly Father (Matt 10:27).Therefore, he makes no apologies for his Lordship. In speaking of his mission to the earth in Matthew 10:34–36, he clarifies his purposes:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

These are the words that precede Jesus’ insistence that his disciples must love him so much that their allegiance to their families looks like hate. Only by prioritizing him, can his disciples enter the kingdom. And only by loving him most can his followers actually learn to love their families. As Peter Schemm has noted, “The Christian household, while important, must never become more important to us than the church or the kingdom of Christ. Such a belief would undermine the primacy of the gospel of Christ and oppose the plain teaching of Jesus.”[17]

This is the key to a life that glorifies God: the triune God must be our greatest love. He must be our greatest possession, our greatest thought, our greatest song, our best friend, our wisest counselor. He must be our all in all, such that in our families Christ retains the position of highest authority and greatest value (cf. Matt 13:44–46). While we cannot guarantee the material or emotional “success” of our families, through unswerving faithfulness to God in Christ we can glorify God in our families. By abiding in Christ and being a faithful witness to him, God can always be glorified in our homes—regardless of the present circumstances we experience.

Second, Jesus tells us not to make family an idol.

When God made the world, he called it good. When he introduced the first family—Adam and Eve—he called it very good (Gen 1:31). It is of this goodness that Jesus warns us. In a world without sin, this command—hating your loved ones—would be unnecessary. It is only necessary in a Genesis 3 world. The fall has taken the “very good” gift of family and turned it into an object for idolatry.[18]

This makes great sense. The greatest idols are the gifts that most closely resemble God and his goodness, and few things possess the potential to take our heart away from God like the relationships intertwined in a family. Pressing the point further, after Christ, godly parents, loving wives, and faithful children make some of the best gifts God can give. And accordingly, they become some of the most enslaving idols.[19]

What makes this teaching so hard is that it is honorable to put family first. Many churches are built on how they care for the family. Paul condemns the man who fails to care for his family (1 Tim 5:8). Yet, such a constant pursuit of family, if it is not watched carefully, can quickly turn Jesus into a family’s servant, instead of their Lord.

As much we want to focus on the family, we must focus on the Father and the Son first. Unless we seek them first and above our own families, we will never be the son or daughter, the mother or father, the brother or sister that God calls us to be.

So here is the counter-intuitive truth Jesus gives to his followers: if you want to love your family, you must hate your family. And by hate, I mean what Jesus means. Your love for and commitment to Christ must be so superlative, that everything else looks like hate.[20]

More importantly, to faithfully shepherd one’s children or bear witness to Christ in the context of the family, a family member (be it a parent, child, sibling, or cousin) must put Christ ahead of their family. As long as a son, a mother, or a brother remains more important—as indicated by one’s schedule, decisions, commitments, and customs—Christ will have no place in the family. But for those who are willing to put Christ ahead of their family, there is great reason to believe that he will impact the family for good.

Putting Christ First: What Does It Look Like?

By itself this teaching is difficult. Even if we can understand it cognitively, the emotional ties we have with family can make it seem unbearable to choose Christ at the expense of family. Moreover, in the matrix of faith and family, it may be difficult to see what it looks like to keep Christ at the center. For that reason we are helped when we can imitate the faith of those who have gone before us (cf. Heb 13:7).

A Son Choosing to Suffer for Christ’s Sake

First, Richard Wurmbrand tells of the terrible and wonderful account of a father and son who suffered together for the sake of Christ. He writes,

A pastor by the name of Florescu was tortured with red-hot iron pokers and with knives. He was beaten very badly. Then starving rats were driven into his cell through a large pipe. He could not sleep because he had to defend himself all the time. If he rested a moment, the rats would attack him.

He was forced to stand for two weeks, day and night. The Communists wished to compel him to betray his brethren, but he resisted steadfastly. Eventually, they brought his fourteen-year-old son to the prison and began to whip the boy in front of his father, saying that they would continue to beat him until the pastor said what they wished him to say. The poor man was half mad. He bore it as long as he could, then he cried to his son,”Alexander, I must say what they want! I can’t bear your beating anymore!” The son answered, ”Father, don’t do me the injustice of having a traitor as a parent. Withstand! If they kill me, I will die with the words, ”Jesus and my fatherland.’” The Communists, enraged, fell upon the child and beat him to death, with blood spattered over the walls of the cell. He died praising God. Our dear brother Florescu was never the same after seeing this.[21]

When I read that in 2001, years before I had sons of my own, tears collected in my eyes. But now with three small children, it takes on greater weight. I can only imagine the father’s horror to see his son beaten for his faith in Jesus. And yet, what tearful joy to know that the son he had raised to know Christ would spend eternity with their Lord.

Wurmbrand’s story reminds us of the murderous activity of the evil one. It should make us pause to pray for Christian parents and their children in places like Syria, Sudan, Iraq, and North Korea. In those countries, violence is done to Christian families that we in the West may never know. But just the same, in experiencing such familial loss in this world, they teach us what real gain is—life in Christ in the family of God.

Father, I pray for our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church and for their leaders. At times is seems as though evil is winning the day. Strengthen these believers, encourage them, and grant miracles of provision and deliverance. Cause the gospel to spread like wildfire. In their homes strengthen fathers and mothers, and grant repentance and faith to their children. Give them so much joy, peace, and love that their persecutors will be convicted and fall down and worship you. In these hard places, let your fatherly love be seen in the parents who tenderly raise their children to love Christ more than life itself. Amen.[22]

When we consider the source Florescu’s son’s courage, we have great reason to believe that he witnessed parents who loved the Lord more than life itself (Ps 63:3). In Communist Romania where the whole civilization was trained to deny God and hate the Bible, this boy had seen his father love Christ first and foremost. Therefore in his father’s moment of weakness, his son stood strong in his faith—faith that was empowered by God’s grace but faith that had also been modeled by his father (cf. 2 Tim 3:14–15).

To most Western Christians such a vision of family seems remote and unwelcome. But in light of eternal glory, this story speaks volumes about genuine faith. To see a child choose Christ in the face of death is to be deeply challenged by this fact: the sufferings of this age are light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory. Oh, that more fathers, under God’s gracious hand, would instill in their children such a singular passion for Christ.

A Parent’s Choice to Love the Savior More Than Her Child’s Salvation

Closer to home the command to love Jesus more than one’s own family was reiterated to me earlier this year. A mother and father came to my office broken-hearted about their adult child. They yearned for the salvation of their child and his family, and were grieved by the lifestyle choices they had seen them make. Like any parent who worried about and prayed for the salvation of their children, this couple expressed a deep belief in God, the gospel, heaven and hell.

However, as we talked, it became apparent that in the midst of pleading for God to work in their family, they had put their children’s salvation and their well-being ahead of God himself. Functionally, their children had consumed their thoughts, and even as they prayed for their salvation, their love for God had languished. Bitterness had poisoned their hearts making generous love to their children almost impossible. While doing so much good for their children, they had come to a place where they could do no more because their sole focus had been on their family.

As strange as it sounds, liberation came for them when they realized that they needed to repent of their focus on their children’s salvation and to return to the Savior. Why? Because as Jesus’ words in Matthew 10 and Luke 14 tell us, as long as a man or woman loves their mother and father, husband or wife, sons and daughters more than Jesus, they are not worthy of his companionship. Even more, those who put their families first will be unable to love and serve and witness to their families for Christ. In a word, idolatry becomes impotence when love for family displaces love for God.

The Key to Glorifying God in the Family

The key to glorifying God in our families is loving Christ so much that by comparison everything else is of little importance. Our love for Christ should be in full color, while our love for the world is in black and white. Christ’s love for us should overwhelm us so much that when we are hurt by others, we have resources to love in return. Our amazement with his forgiveness is what enables us to forgive others. And God’s unconditional acceptance of us in Christ is what empowers us to continue to love others, by not abandoning them and continuing to point them to the center of the universe, Jesus Christ.

In summary, the family is not ultimate. God is. Jesus did not come to save your family. He can save your family and we should pray that he would, but he might not. This is the sobering but necessary effect of believing Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34–39: He did not come to bring peace but a sword. Part of the Christian’s surrender is the liberating process of giving children, spouse, siblings, and parents to the Lord, and trusting him with them.

In loving God and our families, we must come to know and embrace the fact that just as the universe is centered around the Sun, so all life is centered around Jesus Christ. History exists for him. Families exist for him. Therefore, when Jesus came to earth, he came to save his family, not ours. As he says in Mark 3:35, his brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers are any and all who do the will of God. In this sense, Jesus is a family man, but ultimately the gravitational pull of his family aligns itself with the eternal purposes of the triune God.

Sometimes this means he will redeem and restore an entire family. Other times, he will draw his sword down the middle, splitting it wide open. Why? It is hard to know. He has his good and perfect reasons, but this side of glory they are hidden. As with earthly families, children are not always privy to the decisions of their fathers. But that does not mean that the Father cannot be trusted. Just the opposite: God offers to all the chance to be a part of his family—if you are willing to put him first (Matt 6:33) and stop racing around to all your families needs at the expense of Jesus (Luke 10:38–42).

As strange as it may sound: The key to a family that glorifies God is not getting God’s help to prioritize your family; the key is living out your life in the family of God. If you prioritize that family relationship, God will become your trusted Father and Jesus Christ will become your elder brother who will enable you with his Spirit to live and love in a way that resembles the triune God. God will move in your heart and your home to do all he wants to do in your family. This is the good news of the gospel, and it is the key to being a disciple who glorifies God in your family.

 

[1]On the relationship between putting Christ first and its impact on familial strife, see Timothy S. Lane, Family Feuds: How to Respond (Greensboro, NC: New Growth, 2008).

[2]Although not centering his ministry on children (“children per se were not at the heart of Jesus’ priorities”), “Jesus placed special importance on receiving with kindness and hospitality the least important members of society: children” (S. C. Barton, “Child, Children,” in The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992], 101–02).

[3]Ibid., 100–04.

[4]D. A. Carson, Matthew, in vol. 8 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 395.

[5]Leon Morris (The Gospel According to Matthew [PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992], 460) distinguishes the difference between modern feelings about children and society’s sentiments in Jesus’ day: “In modern Western societies children are often seen as very important, but in first-century Judaism they were not . . . In the affairs of men children were unimportant. They could not fight, they could not lead, they had not had time to acquire wisdom, they could not pile up riches, they counted for very little.” Certainly, Jesus’ illustration with the child does not make Jesus the equivalent of a braggadocious suburban father. From first to last, Jesus was kingdom-centered. Nevertheless, by using the child’s humble and dependent nature as a model for heavenly citizenship, he endows the child with inherent worth, something out of step with his ancient culture.

[6]Carson rightly observes, “The child is held up as an ideal, not of innocence, purity, or faith, but of humility and unconcern for social status” (Matthew, 397).

[7]Ibid.

[8]Michael Green, The Message of Matthew, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000), 190–91.

[9]On the use of feminine imagery for God, see John Frame’s helpful discussion, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2013), 107–115.

[10]In Jesus’ day Hebrew parents would often bring children to rabbis for blessing (Carson, Matthew, 420).

[11]David L. Turner rightly observes, “Jesus does not choose a child out of a sentimental notion of the innocence or subjective humility of children, since children may already exhibit in seed form the traits Jesus speaks against here. The childlike character trait that is foremost in the simile of becoming like a child is [objective] humility.” He then elaborates, “Children are not innocent or selfless, nor do they consistently model humility. Rather, children have no status in society; they are at the mercy of adults. Similarly, repentant disciples admit that they have no status before God and they depend solely on the love of the heavenly Father” (Matthew [BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008], 435–36).

[12]Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 486.

[13]Ibid.

[14]A tremendous example of how to share the gospel with children can be found in J. C. Ryle’s sermons to children (Boys and Girls Playing and Other Addresses to Children, ed. Don Kistler [New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1881; reprint, Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1996]).

[15]Jesus does something similar when he speaks about the poor in John 12:8: “For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

[16]“No mere man has the right to claim a love higher than that for parents or children; it is only because he is who he is that Jesus can look for such love” (Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 268).

[17]Peter R. Schemm, Jr., “Habits of a Gospel-Centered Household,” in Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective, ed. Randy Stinson and Timothy Paul Jones (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011), 191–92.

[18]Timothy Keller (Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters [New York: Riverhead, 2009], 204) gives a representative list of ten possible idols. One category he lists is “relational idols,” which he defines as “dysfunctional family systems of codependency; ‘fatal attractions’; living your life through your children.” Although importing terminology and concepts from the realm of psychology, this category well-describes the kind of family idolatry outlined here. To change only one of his prepositions, as a pastor I see a great deal of Christian parents idolizing their children by living their lives for their children. Without denying any Christian doctrines or affirming any heresies, parents dedicate years (if not decades) prioritizing their children over God. While such praxis is normal among many parents, it is a sinful form of idolatry.

[19]“We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god [i.e., an idol], especially the very best things in life” (ibid., xix).

[20]Loves [in Matthew 10:37] is a significant word; it points to the warmest affection. Jesus does not bid his followers love their parents or their children (nor, on the other hand, does he forbid warm affection in the family). He simply assumes that family members will love one another. But he is concerned that they must not value their attachment to the members of their families so highly that he is pushed into the background” (Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 267–68).

[21]Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ (Bartlesville, OK: Living Sacrifice, 1998), 34.

[22]An adaptation of “A Prayer about God Overriding Our Unbelief,” in Scotty Smith, Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 138.

The post Perspectives on Christ- Centered Family Disipleship appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Why doesn’t church discipline ever seem to work?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 09:54

 

I remember right where I was—leading a Bible study in my living room. The conversation moved into the practice of church discipline. I had previously mentioned that “of course the goal of church discipline is always repentance.” What I meant was that we always want the sinner to be restored into full, healthy communion with God and with the church.

Then someone asked the question: “Why doesn’t church discipline ever seem to work?” By that this person meant, “Why haven’t we seen any of the excommunicated members repent and be restored?” This person had heard my previous statement about the goal being restoration and had assumed that restoration was the only goal, or perhaps even the primary goal. This is not the case. In fact, there are several goals in mind when a church practices discipline.

Numerous goals of church discipline

A goal in church discipline is to be motivated by love.

Whenever a church must discipline someone, they must ensure that love is their motivation. Love is the only proper motivation, as the Lord himself illustrates: “The Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Heb. 12:6). We likewise are called to restore our brothers with a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1), that they might come to repentance (1 Cor. 5:5). A goal of church discipline is to guard the church’s purity.

A goal of church discipline is to guard the church’s purity.

When churches fail to practice church discipline, a subtle moral laxity can creep in. A little leaven, when left to fester instead of being removed, will leaven the whole lump. Conversely, when the church practices discipline, church members will soberly reflect upon their own sins and will take seriously Christ’s call to holiness.

A goal of church discipline is to guard the reputation of Christ.

When churches stop practicing church discipline, they begin to slide. They become worldly. Their light begins to dim and their salt begins to lose its saltiness. Once their salt becomes worthless (Matt. 5:13), their witness to the community goes with it.

Ultimate goal

The ultimate goal of discipline is to obey the Lord, regardless of whether repentance occurs.

Jesus empowered, indeed commanded, local congregations to exercise discipline among their own congregation. In Matthew 16:16–19 and 18:15–20, Jesus gives to local assemblies the keys of the kingdom for loosing and binding on Earth.

Paul likewise speaks about this discipline process in 1 Corinthians 5, Galatians 6:1, Ephesians 5:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 1 Timothy 5:19–20, Titus 3:9–11, and other places. Regardless of whether the sinner ever repents and restores, believers are to humbly obey Jesus (and Paul) and follow through with discipline. The outcome does not change the obligation for the congregation to faithfully obey.

Resources

Here are some resources on church discipline:

___________

Jon English Lee serves as minister of education and administration at Morningview Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University in Montgomery, a master of divinity from Southern Seminary, and is currently a PhD candidate in systematic and historical theology at Southern. He has served several churches in Kentucky. Jon enjoys reading, scuba diving, and most any other outdoor activity. He and his wife, Rebekah, have three sons: Jonny, Jack, and Graham.

 

The post Why doesn’t church discipline ever seem to work? appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Death at Work in Us

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 09:30

Grief in the Shadows

Recently, I visited my childhood home to attend the funeral of my dear aunt, a quiet and meek servant of Christ. She passed away at 53. You know the questions that come after such a parting, the ones that race in your mind without a checkered flag. Night and day, the soul is in anguish, longing for some relief, some answers, some comfort. The shadow cast by death veils the sun. Those shadows are more noticeable when death claims someone close.

By all appearances, the sun is not even there, but we who believe know better. The fixed attribute of shadows is that they shift. We are not to be deceived by that which is seen, but to trust what God has revealed to be true of the unseen. The comfort of God is that He does not shift like shadows (James 1:17). The light has not moved. He is constant, but the darkness of the shadows of death produce a grief that is real. The grief that accompanies death does not have to be sinful. To grieve is to acknowledge the reality of death, that the relationship lost was deep, and that humanity has a true enemy.

A Real Enemy

Suffering is a normal part of our post-Fall human condition, and chief among those sufferings is death. The skirmishes of human suffering are the drum beats of battle, and death is the enemy’s call to charge. Death invaded the garden paradise to stake claim and pronounce judgment for sin committed. But, this enemy stands opposite the armies of God and has lost the war ever since Christ arose victorious (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

Death reveals our human frailty. Weakness is uncomfortable and is not an enviable state for our flesh. Emotional instability in the form of fear and worry are more pervasive when we are aware of our own mortality. Sadness makes a preemptive bid to take up residence so deep within that numbness seems preferable. Death is a reminder that we are still at war, and combat is always accompanied by agony. Yet, in the gruesome aches of war, we must know that the Lord is using suffering to work in us for our good and His glory.

Death is at work to…

Reveal the nearness of our Lord

Death is one of many contributors to a broken heart. Since death is our enemy, and death breeds brokenness, we falsely identify our despair as an enemy. A broken heart is not our enemy. God does not despise a broken heart (Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 66:2). Rather, He heals the brokenhearted, binding their wounds with the salve of His promises (Psalm 147:3). The Lord is near in death because death crushes. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). He has promised to be with us always, even unto the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He demonstrated His willingness to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death by being obedient to the point of death on the cross. Although death intends to crush our spirit, it works instead to produce a brokenness that beckons the nearness of our Great Shepherd. His nearness is our good, for in Him we find our refuge (Psalm 73:28).

Produce Patience

For me, to die is gain, because death has lost its sting. But when we lose a loved one, the loss still stings. We do not grieve like those who are without hope, but we still grieve. Through that pain, we are more vigilant to pray that the Lord come quickly and rid us of this life filled with pain and suffering. At those intense moments of pain, we cry out with urgency for Jesus to come and make all things new. There is nothing at all wrong with that prayer and desire, but we must wait patiently for the Lord, as the farmer waits for the harvest (James 5:7-8). There is difficulty in waiting, but suffering produces a patient endurance that builds a hope that will not lead us to shame. So we do not lose heart, but we wait with confident expectation for the coming of the Lord (Psalm 27:13-14). We know that in His coming, He will wipe away every tear and make all things broken whole again (Revelation 21:4-5). So death works in us a patient but eager longing for the return of Christ, the victor over our great enemy (1 Corinthians 15:25-26).

Recalibrate

Circumstances can be an enemy of faith or its primary builder. Our fallen human nature yearns to believe by sight. We are continually tempted to believe reality is made of only that which is seen because painful circumstances make a strong and convincing case for reality. When our senses are bound to seen things, we see but do not see, and hear but do not hear. Circumstances are like a puzzle box that is half full. When the pieces are put together, they help to form a picture, but because several key parts are missing, we cannot make sense of the whole.

Our minds tend to contemplate eternal things when death is near. Those temporary pursuits slide a few notches down on the priority list. Thoughts of death’s finality act as a probe searching the soul for any transitory hopes that cannot bear the eternal weight of glory. We lose heart when reminded that our outer man is decaying if our inner man is not being renewed. However, the inner man can only be renewed as we focus on the unseen to make sense of what is seen. Now death is at work to sturdy my heart upon a hope that will not disappoint. These blows to the soul fracture the fragile jars of clay that we are so that light will shine out from the darkness of our inner affliction. We are struck down, but not destroyed by the circumstance. So death is at work in us to make evident the light of Christ through our mortal life.

Death at Work in You

Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? Or better yet, have you looked at an old photo of yourself from a decade ago? While home for my aunt’s funeral, I was reminded that this summer marks 20 years since I completed high school. The 20-year-old graduation photo on the wall of my parents’ home looked more like my eldest son than me. Our bodies really are decaying. For many of us, that thought is too morbid a territory for our sanitary minds. Since life’s allotment is but a vapor, we must consider the ways that death is at work in us.

There is no need to fear the facts revealed from our old photos. While death remains a consequence of our sin, Christ can bring beauty from the ashes of those who are His (Isaiah 61:3). He has made death His subject to work in us courage, strength, endurance, character, and a patient hope that is more sure than death itself. So we let death work in us to produce steadfastness, that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, because our trust is firm in His promises. “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!”

Categories: Seminary Blog

Death at Work in Us

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 09:30

Grief in the Shadows

Recently, I visited my childhood home to attend the funeral of my dear aunt, a quiet and meek servant of Christ. She passed away at 53. You know the questions that come after such a parting, the ones that race in your mind without a checkered flag. Night and day, the soul is in anguish, longing for some relief, some answers, some comfort. The shadow cast by death veils the sun. Those shadows are more noticeable when death claims someone close.

By all appearances, the sun is not even there, but we who believe know better. The fixed attribute of shadows is that they shift. We are not to be deceived by that which is seen, but to trust what God has revealed to be true of the unseen. The comfort of God is that He does not shift like shadows (James 1:17). The light has not moved. He is constant, but the darkness of the shadows of death produce a grief that is real. The grief that accompanies death does not have to be sinful. To grieve is to acknowledge the reality of death, that the relationship lost was deep, and that humanity has a true enemy.

A Real Enemy

Suffering is a normal part of our post-Fall human condition, and chief among those sufferings is death. The skirmishes of human suffering are the drum beats of battle, and death is the enemy’s call to charge. Death invaded the garden paradise to stake claim and pronounce judgment for sin committed. But, this enemy stands opposite the armies of God and has lost the war ever since Christ arose victorious (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

Death reveals our human frailty. Weakness is uncomfortable and is not an enviable state for our flesh. Emotional instability in the form of fear and worry are more pervasive when we are aware of our own mortality. Sadness makes a preemptive bid to take up residence so deep within that numbness seems preferable. Death is a reminder that we are still at war, and combat is always accompanied by agony. Yet, in the gruesome aches of war, we must know that the Lord is using suffering to work in us for our good and His glory.

Death is at work to…

Reveal the nearness of our Lord

Death is one of many contributors to a broken heart. Since death is our enemy, and death breeds brokenness, we falsely identify our despair as an enemy. A broken heart is not our enemy. God does not despise a broken heart (Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 66:2). Rather, He heals the brokenhearted, binding their wounds with the salve of His promises (Psalm 147:3). The Lord is near in death because death crushes. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). He has promised to be with us always, even unto the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He demonstrated His willingness to walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death by being obedient to the point of death on the cross. Although death intends to crush our spirit, it works instead to produce a brokenness that beckons the nearness of our Great Shepherd. His nearness is our good, for in Him we find our refuge (Psalm 73:28).

Produce Patience

For me, to die is gain, because death has lost its sting. But when we lose a loved one, the loss still stings. We do not grieve like those who are without hope, but we still grieve. Through that pain, we are more vigilant to pray that the Lord come quickly and rid us of this life filled with pain and suffering. At those intense moments of pain, we cry out with urgency for Jesus to come and make all things new. There is nothing at all wrong with that prayer and desire, but we must wait patiently for the Lord, as the farmer waits for the harvest (James 5:7-8). There is difficulty in waiting, but suffering produces a patient endurance that builds a hope that will not lead us to shame. So we do not lose heart, but we wait with confident expectation for the coming of the Lord (Psalm 27:13-14). We know that in His coming, He will wipe away every tear and make all things broken whole again (Revelation 21:4-5). So death works in us a patient but eager longing for the return of Christ, the victor over our great enemy (1 Corinthians 15:25-26).

Recalibrate

Circumstances can be an enemy of faith or its primary builder. Our fallen human nature yearns to believe by sight. We are continually tempted to believe reality is made of only that which is seen because painful circumstances make a strong and convincing case for reality. When our senses are bound to seen things, we see but do not see, and hear but do not hear. Circumstances are like a puzzle box that is half full. When the pieces are put together, they help to form a picture, but because several key parts are missing, we cannot make sense of the whole.

Our minds tend to contemplate eternal things when death is near. Those temporary pursuits slide a few notches down on the priority list. Thoughts of death’s finality act as a probe searching the soul for any transitory hopes that cannot bear the eternal weight of glory. We lose heart when reminded that our outer man is decaying if our inner man is not being renewed. However, the inner man can only be renewed as we focus on the unseen to make sense of what is seen. Now death is at work to sturdy my heart upon a hope that will not disappoint. These blows to the soul fracture the fragile jars of clay that we are so that light will shine out from the darkness of our inner affliction. We are struck down, but not destroyed by the circumstance. So death is at work in us to make evident the light of Christ through our mortal life.

Death at Work in You

Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? Or better yet, have you looked at an old photo of yourself from a decade ago? While home for my aunt’s funeral, I was reminded that this summer marks 20 years since I completed high school. The 20-year-old graduation photo on the wall of my parents’ home looked more like my eldest son than me. Our bodies really are decaying. For many of us, that thought is too morbid a territory for our sanitary minds. Since life’s allotment is but a vapor, we must consider the ways that death is at work in us.

There is no need to fear the facts revealed from our old photos. While death remains a consequence of our sin, Christ can bring beauty from the ashes of those who are His (Isaiah 61:3). He has made death His subject to work in us courage, strength, endurance, character, and a patient hope that is more sure than death itself. So we let death work in us to produce steadfastness, that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, because our trust is firm in His promises. “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!”

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Apostolic Fathers: Interview with Ken Berding

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 12:00

Kenneth Berding (Professor of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology) recently wrote and published The Apostolic Fathers: A Narrative IntroductionWe wanted to learn more about this book, so we had Kenneth respond to some questions ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Relationship between Mentoring and Spiritual Formation Practices among Nontraditional Seminary Students

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 10:34

Higher education, while never a completely stagnate field, is experiencing what has been called a ‘flurry’ of changes in recent years, driven mainly by technology.[1] The technology of inexpensive computers, high speed internet, and high quality multimedia educational delivery systems have allowed for increased flexibility in higher education so that students can easily take courses and earn degrees  from colleges and universities that are in different cities, states, or even countries through means of nontraditional education.[2] As one writer has noted, we are in the midst of a “distance-education boom” that is taking place, with the main reason being “a convergence of AV hardware, networking, and collaboration software technologies that collectively enable teachers to deliver good interactive online education.”[3]  Along with online education, another form of nontraditional education has grown in popularity, that being hybrid education.[4] Both online and hybrid forms of nontraditional education owe their existence to modern technological advancements.

Theological seminaries are also experiencing effects from the ‘boom’ of distance education.  Nontraditional education courses have become increasingly available in seminaries throughout the country. Though there are challenges with theological institutions of higher learning using nontraditional education, more schools are starting to see the potential it offers.[5] Yet, this potential is tempered by the reluctance of some institutions. The reluctance stems from a variety of issues.

A major issue that causes reluctance among theological schools is the fear of “emphasizing convenience over quality.”[6]  This fear of being promotionally driven has given rise to much of the criticism among schools that are weighing distance education options.[7]  A second issue that is raised among schools considering, or that are engaged in distance education, is that there can be too great a focus or “undue emphasis” on the delivery system or technology and too little focus on the contribution a learned faculty member can bring or on the importance of involving the student adequately through the learning experience.[8]  While these first two issues can be true of any higher learning a final issue that comes with distance education particularly deals with theological education. Hines, et. al. notes that theological education requires “mutual nourishment of faith and intellect.”[9] Theological seminaries exist for more than academic knowledge, they must involve spiritual formation. Spiritual formation has been and is a critical component of Christian higher education, a philosophy that is seen in the accreditation standards by both the Association of Biblical Higher Education and the Association of Theological Education.[10]  A seminary that uses nontraditional education courses is charged with the responsibility of taking this into account. Thus, they have to approach distance education with a dual purpose of academic excellence and spiritual growth, both of which ultimately are to aid the local church. Nontraditional theological education “must incorporate expectations of ministry to enhance the study of theology.”[11]  While these challenges exist, seminaries are nonetheless utilizing nontraditional education.

The Association of Theological Schools ruled in 2012 that seminaries may offer accredited Master of Divinity degrees through nontraditional means.  According to the Educational and Degree program standards, seminaries may offer courses or whole degrees through extension centers[12], “exclusively online”[13], or through “a blend of intensive classroom and online instruction,” which is also known as hybrid education.[14] Schools now have the freedom to offer more accredited masters level degree programs to students seeking ministry preparation through nontraditional means.

This research was conducted with the purpose of studying students who choose to attend seminary through a nontraditional means of online, hybrid, and extension centers. Specifically, exploring the relationship between mentoring and the spiritual formation practices of seminary students taking part in nontraditional theological education.

The students researching for this article included 1380 students from three evangelical seminaries. Each student was enrolled in master’s level programs and attend class through nontraditional means of online, hybrid, and or extension centers. The participating students were surveyed on their mentor and spiritual formation practices while students at seminary.

Mentoring and Ministry Preparation

The concept of mentoring transcends time. While the modern idea of mentoring dates back to Homer’s Odyssey[15], the practice develops through-out the pages of Scripture. From Moses and Joshua, Ruth and Naomi, Paul and Timothy, mentoring is a biblical practice and was the “way of life in Bible times.”[16]

In our modern world, the literature on the subject of mentoring has been somewhat staggering over recent decades, as an extensive amount of scholarship developed in this historic discipline.[17] The result of this emphasis is that the value of mentoring has been recognized in many fields and industries, and “cuts across all academic disciplines, professions, and contexts.”[18]  The value is seen through positive impacts in areas of career growth, training, development, and retention.[19]

Mentoring has also, over the past decade, been studied in depth as it relates to theological education.[20]  These studies have shown that there is value in a mentor relationship for seminary students, as it aids in “forming and transforming the character, values, abilities, and thoughts” of seminary students.[21]   Additionally, these relationships aid in forming students into ministers[22], and they have a valuable impact on the development of students while they are in school.[23]   Mentoring that occurs while in seminary, research has shown, also can have a positive impact on students once they graduate and begin serving in the ministry field.[24] Pyeatt has found that as a student is more thoroughly mentored, his likelihood of retention in the ministry is increased.[25]  Yet, there has been little to no research among the importance of mentoring in relation to the spiritual formation practices among nontraditional seminary students.

Spiritual Formation and Ministry Preparation

There have been a plethora of evangelical definitions given for spiritual formation. Many theologians and Christian educators have suggested definitions to help understand the concept.[26] Dallas Willard defines spiritual formation as the “Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.”[27] Stranger defined spiritual formation as the “intentional and systematic process of growing into the image of Christ through obedience to the Scriptures by the power of the Holy Spirit in our total personality.”[28]  Davis argues that spiritual formation is essentially made up of three parts or elements. Spiritual formation is first, a process.[29]  He writes: “attaining complete spiritual maturity is a lifelong process”.[30]  Secondly, it is God working in a believer as an “act of grace in the believer’s life.”[31]  Thirdly, it is human effort working with the Holy Spirit or “cooperation with the Holy Spirit.”[32]  To synthesize Davis, spiritual formation is a process to become spiritually mature that involves God working in a believer and man cooperating with God.

This research, in studying evangelical seminaries, sought to use a working definition that is theologically inline with the biblically faithful view-point of the schools that were involved. It also sought to have a definition that takes into consideration the explanation of spiritual formation given in the latest ATS General Institutional Standards. These standards describe spiritual formation as a student’s “growth in personal faith, emotional maturity, moral integrity, and public witness.”[33]  Taking both of these concerns, as well as the literature on the subject, into consideration, this article defines spiritual formation using Whitney, as “the biblical process of being conformed inwardly and outwardly to the character of Christ.”[34]   Whitney’s definition aptly describes spiritual formation as being a process that has a goal of Christian’s whole being reflecting Christ.

Theological seminaries themselves have a vested interest in the spiritual formation of their students. Spiritual formation has long been seen as a vital aspect of Christian Higher Education.[35]   From the beginning of higher education in the United States, a student’s spiritual formation has been crucial. Major institutions such as Yale were founded with a goal of having every student to “know God in Jesus Christ and answerably lead a Godly, sober life.”[36] Columbia, likewise was formed so that students would “know God in Jesus Christ and to love and serve him in all sobriety, godliness, and righteousness of life with a perfect heart and useful knowledge.”[37]  In modern Christian Higher Education there is a specific emphasis on “the importance of developing students spiritually as a part of their preparation for life after college.”[38]

Spiritual formation is a vital component of accredited theological education. ATS requires that in basic graduate degrees that are geared towards ministerial leadership (M.Div., and M.A.) the program must contain a spiritual formation component. Specifically, the requirement states that “the learning outcomes shall encompass the instructional areas of religious heritage, cultural context, personal and spiritual formation, and capacity for ministerial and public leadership.”[39]

Theological Seminaries themselves also see this as a component of their roles in training pastors. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, for instance, lists Spiritual Formation as one of their Core Competencies.[40]  Other evangelical seminaries (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, etc.) have a similar emphasis of the importance of spiritual formation among their students.[41]  Spiritual formation is seen as a vital component to the mission of seminaries as they train pastors due to the fact that it is “requisite to a life of pastoral leadership.”[42]

Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Formation Practices

While one cannot fully measure a student’s spiritual formation from the outside, research on this topic has focused on a student’s self-perceived formation through participation in spiritual disciplines.[43]  These studies have examined the participant’s self-perception of spiritual formation[44] along with the subject’s participation in certain spiritual disciplines or practices.[45]  The focus on specific practices or spiritual disciplines are used in these studies to “measure a person’s involvement” in activities that “lead to desirable change” and “spiritual development.”[46] Measuring spiritual disciples is an effective means because “spiritual disciplines are a catalyst for spiritual formation.”[47]  Not only are they a catalyst for spiritual formation, but they “reveal a believers commitment to spiritual growth.”[48] It is in light of this research background, this article focuses on student participation in spiritual formation practices or spiritual disciplines.

Whitney describes spiritual disciplines as “those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth.”[49] He goes on to describe spiritual disciplines as being a “catalyst,” a “channel,” and a “means,” of spiritual growth and formation.[50]  Willard argues that practicing the spiritual disciplines is essential to a person’s spiritual formation. He argues that spiritual disciplines are an “absolute necessity” if one is going to have a “full, grace-filled, Christ-like life.”[51]

There have been many authors that have given lists of biblical spiritual disciplines.[52]  These lists all seek to highlight biblical activities for the purpose of fostering spiritual formation. The disciplines are meant for use in spiritual formation, and are not an end in themselves.[53]  As Dallas Willard writes: “the activities constituting the disciplines have no value in themselves. The aim and substance of spiritual life is not fasting, praying, hymn singing, frugal living, and so forth.”[54]  The spiritual disciplines can aid a Christian in the spiritual formation process. Thus, this article uses Whitney and Willard and offers the definition of spiritual formation practices as biblical activities and disciplines that are used for the purpose of spiritual growth and formation.

For this research, Thayer’s list of 10 spiritual disciples was used, along with her Christian Spiritual Practices Profile. Thayer’s 10 disciplines are Prayer, Confession, Evangelism, Worship, Bible Study, Fellowship, Stewardship, Service, Examen of Conscious, and Meditation.[55]  Thayer then groups these 10 disciplines into four spiritual discipline modes as seen in the chart below:

Table 1

CSPP Modes and Descriptions

Spiritual Mode Description Spiritual Practice Transcendent Scale Growing through a relationship with God. This assesses a person’s relationship with God. There are 16 questions for this scale, from 3 primary and 3 secondary spiritual practices. Primary:

Prayer

Repentance

Worship

 

Secondary:

Service

Stewardship

Examen of Conscience

  Vision Scale Growing through participation with the Word of God. This assesses a person’s involvement with the Bible. There are 12 questions for this scale, from 2 primary and 2 secondary spiritual practices.

  Primary:

Bible Reading

Meditation

 

Secondary:

Stewardship

Worship Reflection Scale Growing through critical reflection. This assesses a person’s participation in critical reflection of culture and one’s own life. There are 10 questions for this scale, from 1 primary and 2 secondary spiritual practices

  Primary:

Examen of Conscious

 

Secondary:

Bible Reading

Stewardship New Life Scale Growing through relationships with others. This assesses a person’s participation in relationships with others. There are 12 questions from this scale from 4 primary spiritual practices. Primary:

Evangelism

Fellowship

Service

Stewardship

 

Secondary:

None

These disciplines were used to measure a student’s involvement in spiritual formation practices and to determine what relationship, if any, is found between mentoring and involvement in these practices.

Research Procedures

In order to effectively investigate the research purpose, this study used a quantitative approach. Quantitative research was chosen for this project for a number of reasons, one of which is that much of the research in the field of mentoring is “qualitative as opposed to quantitative,” especially in the “theological realm of mentoring.”[56] The trouble of “finding quantitative data for supporting the use of mentoring relationships in developing church leaders” is a significant motivator to use that research design in this project.[57]

Research Participants

The study surveyed students from three evangelical seminaries who were enrolled in master degree programs, and attended course through online, hybrid, and/or extension centers. The three schools that participated in the research were all located in the southeastern United States.  All three schools are regionally accredited and two of the schools have ATS accreditation.  The total nontraditional student population of the schools was 8875 at the time of the survey.

Each of the three schools sent an email inviting their students to take part in this survey. If a student decided to participate, they went to the survey, which was hosted by Survey Monkey. Out of the 8875 students who were invited to participate, 1510 students logged into the survey site. Of the 1510 who logged in, 1380 students chose to continue past the informed consent page and actually take the survey.

The survey consisted of three parts, a demographic section, the Principles of Adult Mentoring Survey (PAMS), and the Christian Spiritual Practices Profile (CSPP). If a student reported having a mentor, he or she would complete all three parts, if the student did not have mentor, he or she would only complete the demographic section and the CSPP.

Research Instrument

The PAMS was developed by Cohen to be a self-assessment instrument for mentees who were in a higher education environment.[58] The PAMS consisted of 55 Likert-type questions that sought to measure six functions of the mentoring relationship, these include: relationship emphasis, informative emphasis, facilitative dimension, confrontive emphasis, mentor model, and student vision.[59] These six dimensions are formed by behaviors that Cohen describes as ‘required’ for a successful mentorship.[60]  Each of these six dimensions is scored individually, and a final score assessing the overall effectiveness of the survey is then calculated. Each of the questions is given five choices for the student to select, and each of the choices are given a point value.

The answers that are available in the Likert format are: Not Effective, Less Effective, Effective, Very Effective, and Highly Effective. Each of these choices are then assigned a point value as follows Not Effective = 1 point, Less Effective =2 points, Effective = 3 points, Very Effective = 4 points, and Highly Effective = 5 points. Each of the points are then tallied from the overall survey and an overall score is given to measure the overall effectiveness of the mentor relationship.[61]

The PAMS scale has been tested by researchers for both reliability and consistency. Simmons notes that, “the reliability coefficient for the entire scale revealed an alpha coefficient (Cronbach’s Alpha) of .9490.”[62]  Likewise, the individual emphasis’ reliabilities are as follows: Relationship Emphasis – .77; Information Emphasis – .79; Facilitative Focus – .67; Confrontive focus – .81; Mentor Model – .78; Student Vision – .86.[63]

The CSPP, developed by Thayer (1996), this instrument studies a Christian’s participation in the spiritual formation process through involvement in spiritual formation practices. It does not seek to determine a threshold whereas one becomes spiritually mature once they reach a certain score, but is built upon the notion that involvement in disciplines and spiritual formation practices can result in a crucial catalyst for spiritual growth and formation.[64]  The CSPP examines if one is involved spiritual formation practices, which can lead to involvement in the spiritual formation process[65]. As Thayer herself notes, the CSPP is used to measure someone’s self-reported “intensity” in the spiritual formation process, it “does not purport to assign a level of achievement or maturity.”[66]  The research that the CSPP is built on shows that involvement in the ten spiritual disciplines the more likely it is that spiritual formation is taking place.[67]

The CSPP takes spiritual disciplines and applies them to a theory of spiritual development that is based on a person’s learning – their grasping and transforming. The ten spiritual disciplines should lead to a person to experience desirable change, especially spiritual formation.[68] Thayer summarizes the CSPP as being “based on a theory of spiritual development that recognizes the redemptive work of God in every mode of spiritual development. The Holy Spirit is present in the process of each mode and can transform the person through the learning that occurs.”[69]

Studying a student’s participation in spiritual formation practices is an important indicator of a Christian’s willingness and desire to grow spiritually.[70]  Based on the literature, the study of spiritual formation practices is appropriate and helpful, as these are the God ordained means[71] by which “one engages God and others”[72], and are “indicators”[73] of one who is on a “journey of faith”[74] into “deeper transformation into Christlikeness.”[75]

The CSPP is comprised of fifty Likert-type questions. The first section measures the frequency of involvement in ten spiritual disciplines. These disciplines are: prayer, repentance, worship, meditation, examen of conscious, Bible reading and study, evangelism, fellowship, service, and stewardship. The Likert-type scale that is used is a six point scale that ranges has the following response: N = Never, VR = Very Rarely,  R = Rarely, O = Occasionally, F = Frequently, VF = Very Frequently. Thayer then gave each selection a numerical value: N=0, VR=1, R=2, O=3, F=4, VF=5.[76]

Thayer places the ten spiritual disciplines into four spiritual dimensions that were developed using Kolb’s experiential learning theory. Thayer defines these spiritual dimensions as spiritual modes or scales.[77] To determine a CSPP score the point values of each answer are added together. From this, each particular discipline can have an overall score and a mean score. The four scales can also have a total and mean score based on the totals of the disciplines within the scale.[78]  To determine how much participation a student is engaged in, Thayer places the students into two groups based on their scores: strong intentional participation and weak intentional participation. For a student to have strong intentional participation their mean score for the discipline or the Scale is at 4.0 or higher; a weak intentional participation is a 3.99 or lower mean score.[79]  A strong intentional participation shows the student is actively engaged in the spiritual formation practice, while a weak intentional participation shows the student has weak intentional participation in the spiritual formation practice.

For the purposes of this research, the mean scores of each of the four scales, as well as the total overall score for the entire CSPP, are calculated and analyzed in the Research Questions. Also, the Research Questions in this article recognize this this is perceived involvement in spiritual formation practices, due to students anonymously self-reporting on their own perception of living out these practices and disciplines.

The CSPP has been found to have both high reliability and validity.[80] The high reliability of the CSPP comes from its internal consistency: the coefficient alphas for the four spiritual modes into which the ten disciplines fall range between .84 and .92. The Transcendent Scale has a coefficient alpha of .92, the Vision Scale has a coefficient alpha of .89, the Reflection Scale has a coefficient alpha of .84, and the New Life Scale has a coefficient alpha of .90.[81]

The survey was open for students to participate for a total of eight weeks from the day the students were invited by their respective schools to take the survey. The first survey was taken on May 22, 2013. The survey was closed eight weeks later on July 17, 2013. The data analysis of the survey responses was done using SPSS statistical software.

Research Questions

In order to guide the research purpose, this article will briefly describe the demographics, then focus on four research questions that the author developed for the study. The four questions are:

  1. What portion of students report a mentoring relationship as a part of his or her ministerial training?
  2. What, if any, is the relationship between mentoring and each of the individual types of nontraditional education?
  3. What, if any, is the relationship between involvement in spiritual formation practices and each of the individual types of nontraditional education?
  4. What, if any, is the relationship between mentoring and involvement spiritual formation practices?
Research Findings

The following analyses the results from the 1380 nontraditional seminary students who took part in this research. The research findings will discuss the demographic data which includes age, years a Christian, and the student populations involvement in nontraditional theological education.  After the demographic information, this section seeks to answer the 4 RQs that were raised by the research problem.

Demographics

There are three pieces of demographic information that came out of the study that were of note. These were the age of the students, the length of time they self-identified as a Christian, and their specific involvement in nontraditional education.

In the age range of the students who attend seminary through nontraditional means and participated in this survey, the largest group of students were aged 25 to 35, making up 32.17% of the survey takers. This was followed by, in order, students aged 46 to 55 at 25.43%, then students aged 36 to 45 at 24.57%, then students aged 55+ at 14.42%, and finally students aged 18 to 24 at 3.43%.

Students were also asked how long they have been a Christian. A large majority, 84.67%, of the students self-identified as being a Christian for more than 10 years. This is followed by 12.34% of students who self-identified as being a Christian for 5 to 10 years. Students who self-identified as being a Christian for 3 to 4 years made up 1.97% of the population, and students who self-identified as being a Christian 1 to 2 years and less than 1 year made up .80% and .22% of the survey population, respectively.

The final demographic statistic is concerned with the student’s participation in nontraditional education. This particular demographic examined the particular populations of students who participated in each of the individual types of nontraditional education (online, hybrid, and extension center), and how many students utilized more than one type of nontraditional education.

Of the students who participated in the study, 1,310 students took courses online, 157 students took courses through a hybrid model, and 83 students took courses through an extension center. These numbers do add up to more than the 1,380 survey takers, and is due to the fact that students took courses through multiple platforms. However, as the students answered this question dealing with the types of nontraditional education they were involved in, three students quit the survey, bringing the total survey takers to N=1,377. The rest of the Tables for the demographic section will reflect the new N =1,377 number. Using cross tabulation, the following Tables 2 to 6 below give detailed information into the participation into various learning delivery systems.

Table 2

Participation in Online Courses

Participation in

Online Courses Number Percentage Total (Rounded to the nearest .01) Yes

  1310 95.13 No 67 4.87 Total 1377 100

 

Table 3

Participation in Hybrid Courses

Participation in

Hybrid Courses Number Percentage Total (Rounded to the nearest .01) Yes

  157 11.40 No 1213 88.60 Total 1377 100

 

Table 4

Participation in Extension Center Courses

Participation in

Extension Center

Courses Number Percentage Total (Rounded to the nearest .01) Yes

  83 6.03 No 1291 93.97 Total 1377 100

 

 

Table 5

Participation in only one form of nontraditional education.

Students who participated in

Only 1 nontraditional

education platforms Number Percentage based on N=1377

(Rounded to the nearest .01) Online only

  1194 86.71 Extension Center only 18 1.31 Hybrid only 35 2.54 Total students who only use 1

platform 1247 90.56

Table 6

Participation in multiple forms of nontraditional education.

Students who participated in

multiple nontraditional

education platforms Number Percentage based on N=1377

(Rounded to the nearest .01) Online and Hybrid only

  65    4.72 Online and Extension Center only 8 0.58 Hybrid and Extension Center only 14 1.02 Online, Hybrid, and Extension

Center 43 3.12 Total of Students who use Multiple

Nontraditional platforms 130 9.44

The above tables give information as to student involvement in the three forms of nontraditional education (online, hybrid, and extension center). Of the 1,377 students who responded, 90.56% or 1,247 students used only 1 platform for their nontraditional theological education, compared with 9.44% or 130 students who used multiple platforms. In detailing the students who used one platform 1,194 of the total 1,377 students (86.71%) used only online classes as their sole delivery system. Likewise, 35 of the 1,377 students (2.54%) used only the hybrid delivery system, and 18 of the 1377 (1.31%) used only extension centers.

Among the students who used multiple forms of nontraditional education, there were four combinations possible: online and hybrid only, online and extension center only, extension center and hybrid only, and all three forms of nontraditional education. For online and hybrid courses, 65 students (4.72%) reported participating in these platforms. Eight students (0.58%) used online and extension center only, while 14 students (1.02%) reported using hybrid and extension center classes only. There were 43 students (3.12%), of the total population who reported using all three of the types of nontraditional means for their theological education. Now, the focus of the article will shift to answering the research questions raised.

Research Questions

Research Question 1: What portion of students report a mentoring relationship as a part of his or her ministerial training?

To answer RQ1, the author analyzed student responses to demographic question 11 of the survey, which asked, “Do you currently have, or have you had, a mentor while enrolled in seminary?” In response to this question, 1377 of the 1380 answered the question, with 571 or 41.68% of the students saying they did or do have a mentor while enrolled in seminary, while 799 or 58.32% of the students said they did not have or do not have a mentor as a seminary student (see Table below).

Table 7

Question: “Do you have, or have you had a mentor while enrolled in seminary?”

I have or have had

a mentor while

enrolled in seminary Number Percentage Total (Rounded to the nearest .01) Yes

  578 41.98 No 799 58.02       Total 1377 100

Research Question 2: What, if any, is the relationship between mentoring and each of the individual types of nontraditional education?

This question sought to determine what, if any, relationship existed between mentoring and the student’s involvement in specific types of nontraditional education. In other words, did the way a student attended seminary have any relationship to their involvement in mentoring?

In order to effectively answer this question, two steps were taken. First, each student was grouped into the specific combination by which they reported taking nontraditional classes. This led to seven combinations by which a student could take a class (see Table 8 below).  Then, the student’s answers to both question 11 from the demographic section of the survey and their overall scores on the PAMS were analyzed to determine if there was a statistically significant difference among the various combinations of nontraditional education.

Table 8

Mentoring Involvement per each nontraditional possibility

Do you currently have, or have you had, a mentor while enrolled in seminary? All Types Online Only Online and Hybrid Online and Extension Center Hybrid Only Hybrid and Extension Center Extension Center Only  

 

 

Total Yes

 

No   21 482 38 4 16 6 11 578    

22  

712  

27  

4  

19  

8  

7  

799 Total 43 1194 65 8 35 14 18 1377

Given the information in Table 31, a Chi-Square was performed on the data to determine if there is any statistical significance between the seven different nontraditional scenarios and their involvement in mentoring. The results of the Chi-Square showed that the relationship was not statistically significant, x2 (6,N=1377) = 12.47, p=.052, with the Critical Value was below the necessary 12.59 and the p value is above .05. Thus, to answer RQ2, there is no statistical difference between the type of nontraditional education a student is involved in and their involvement in mentoring while in seminary.

Table 9

Chi-Square for All Nontraditional Possibilities

  Value df Asymp. Sig.

(2-sided) Pearson Chi-Square 12.474a 6 .052 Likelihood Ratio 12.294 6 .056 Linear-by-Linear Association 3.617 1 .057 N of Valid Cases                    1377 

Secondly, mean scores were calculated, and an ANOVA was performed to determine if there was a statistically significant difference between the seven groups. The mean PAMS scores of the students and the categories they fell into are as follow: students who took all three types of nontraditional education had a mean PAMS Score of 208.83, which is in the Very Effective category. Students who used Online Only had a mean score of 197.22, a score that is in the Effective category. For students who used a combination of Online and Hybrid, their mean score was 189.86, a score in the Less Effective category. Students who used a combination of Online and Extension Center had a mean score of 198.50, a score that places that groups mean score in the Effective category. The students who attended seminary through Hybrid courses only had mean PAMS score of 192.80, which is in the Less Effective category. For students who attended through a combination of Hybrid and Extension Centers, their mean PAMS score was 195.00, a mean score that fall into the Effective category. Students who used only Extension Centers had a mean score of 162.67, a mean score that places them in the Not Effective category. The ANOVA test to compare the means of these scores showed no statistically significant difference, F(6,482) = .925, p=.477. This result shows that while the scores may have a wide range, there is no statistically significant difference between the seven groups at a 95% confidence interval.

Table 10

Mean Scores of PAMS by Nontraditional Delivery System    

Type of Delivery System Mean Score of PAMS N Std. Deviation All Types 208.8333 18 34.89522 Online Only 197.2153 418 44.79135 Online and Hybrid 189.8571 21 40.67836 Online and Extension Center 198.5000 4 49.08836 Hybrid Only 192.8000 10 38.49618 Hybrid and Extension Center 195.0000 6 33.24455 Extension Center Only 162.6667 6 56.65216 Total 196.7909 483 44.24141

 

 

Table 11

ANOVA of Mean Scores of PAMS by Nontraditional Delivery System

  Sum of Squares     df Mean Square    F    Sig. Between Groups 10872.253 6 1812.042 .925 .477 Within Groups 932547.627 476 1959.134     Total 943419.880 482      

In conclusion to RQ2, among the students who attend seminary through the various nontraditional delivery systems, there is no statistically significant difference among the groups in relation to either being mentored nor the self-perceived quality of the mentorship through scoring of the PAMS.

Research Question 3: What if any, is the relationship between involvement in        spiritual formation practices and each of the individual types of nontraditional education?

In response to RQ3, the researcher used student responses to the CSPP portion of the survey and analyzed them based on their participation in nontraditional education. The CSPP results in four Spiritual Modes, with each mode having a mean score. The Spiritual Modes are: Transcendent Scale, Vision Scale, Reflection Scale, and New Life Scale. The descriptions of these scales can be found up in Table 1. For RQ3, the mean scores for the 4 Scales will be analyzed among the different nontraditional scenarios, as well as the mean overall scores of the CSPP.

The Total Average Score of the CSPP ANOVA shows no statistical difference between involvement in the individual types of nontraditional education and reported involvement in spiritual formation practices, F(6,1222) = .365, p=.901. For the individual scales of the CSPP, there was no significant difference found in the Reflection Scale, F(6,1222) = .366, p=.882; the Vision Scale, F(6,1222) = .296, p = .952; and in the New Life Scale, F96,1222) = 1.1213, p = .297. However, the ANOVA revealed that in the Transcendent Scale, there was a significant difference, F(6,1222) = 2.250, p= .036. This data indicates that among the scales and total average score, only the Transcendent Scale contains a statistically significant difference, with a p value of below the .05 level necessary for statistical significance at a 95% confidence interval.

A Bonferroni post-hoc was performed for the significant difference in the Transcendent Scale and showed the significance is located between the online-only (M=4.14, SD=1.78) and Online and Hybrid groups of students (M=4.064, SD=1.73), with the significance of this pair being, p=.029. Thus, the students who. took online-only classes had a statistically significantly higher score on the Transcendent Scale than those who took a combination of hybrid and online courses,  There rest of the pairings in the Bonferroni led to no statistical levels of significance.

The tables below have the scores and ANOVA.

Table 12

Mean Scores by Spiritual Mode and Specific Type of Nontraditional Educational Participation.

Type of Delivery System Mean Score Transcendent Scale Mean Score Reflection Scale Mean Score Vision Scale Mean Score New Life Scale N All Types 4.094 – Strong 4.402 – Strong 3.961 – Weak 3.397 – Weak 34 Online Only 4.142 – Strong 4.417 – Strong 3.970 – Weak 3.472 – Weak 1072 Online and Hybrid 4.064 – Strong 4.272 – Strong 3.925 – Weak 3.620 – Weak 52 Online and Extension Center 4.050 – Strong 4.406 – Strong 3.903 – Weak 3.833 – Weak 6 Hybrid Only 4.122 – Strong 4.246 – Strong 3.904 – Weak 3.492 – Weak 32 Hybrid and Extension Center 4.079 – Strong 4.344 – Strong 3.875 – Weak 3.327 – Weak 14 Extension Center Only 4.023 – Strong 4.341 – Strong 4.019 – Strong 3.878 – Weak 13 Total 4.134 – Strong 4.402 – Strong 3.965 – Weak 3.481 – Weak 1223

 

 

 

Note: Strong = Strong Intentional   Participation; Weak = Weak Intentional Participation[82]

Table 13

ANOVA for Table 12.

  Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Sig. Transcendent Scale Between Groups 2.403 6 .401 2.250 .036 Within Groups 216.521 1216 .178     Total 218.924 1222       Reflection Scale Between Groups .650 6 .108 .396 .882 Within Groups 332.159 1216 .273     Total 332.809 1222       Vision Scale Between Groups .421 6 .070 .267 .952 Within Groups 320.250 1216 .263     Total 320.672 1222       New Life Scale Between Groups 4.439 6 .740 1.213 .297 Within Groups 741.928 1216 .610     Total 746.367 1222       SF

SAVG Between Groups .471 6 .078 .365 .901 Within Groups 261.015 1216 .215     Total 261.486 1222      

In conclusion to RQ3, there was no statistically significant difference between the combination of nontraditional delivery systems and spiritual formation practices among the total average score of the CSPP. In other words, there was not a relationship between involvement in spiritual formation practices and the type of nontraditional theological education.

When the four scales are broken down individually, there was also no significant difference among the Vision, Reflection, or New Life scales. However, there was a statistically significant difference in the means found in the Transcendent Scale. This was located between online only and those who used a combination of online and hybrid courses. There was no relationship between type of nontraditional education and spiritual formation practices, except online only students scored statistically significantly higher than students who took a combination of online and hybrid course.

Research Question 4: What, if any, is the relationship between mentoring and        involvement in spiritual formation practices?

The final RQ sought to determine if there was any relationship between mentorship and a student’s involvement in spiritual formation practices. For this question, the students were not broken down into specific involvement in nontraditional education, but were analyzed by their involvement in a mentorship and their answers to the CSPP. The goal of this question was to determine if there was correlation between mentoring and involvement in spiritual formation practices among all nontraditional students.

To answer RQ4, a T-test was used to compare the mean spiritual formation practice scores of students who were mentored as compared to students who were not mentored in order to determine if there was a significant difference between the groups. Furthermore a Pearson’s Correlation was also utilized to determine correlation between having a mentor and score on the CSPP.

Once the T-test was run, the information indicated that there was a statistically significant difference in the CSPP Total Average Scores of students who had a mentor verses those who did not. The mean of the total average CSPP Score of students who did have a mentor was 4.07, while the mean score of those who did not have a mentor was 3.95 (See Table 14 Below). These scores indicate that the average mentored students score is in the Strong category of the CSPP and the averaged non-mentored student is in the Weak category of the CSPP. There is a statically significant higher CSPP score for students who were mentored (M=4.07, SD = .491) than students who were not mentored (M=3.95, SD = .439), t(1221) = 4.501, p = .000 (See Tables 14,15 below).

Table 14

CSPP Total Average Scores

  Do you currently have, or have you had, a mentor while enrolled in seminary? N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean CSPP TotalAVG Yes 445 4.0749 – Strong .49121 .02329 No 778 3.9521- Weak .43949 .01576

Table 15

T-Test Statistics for CSPP Total Average Scores for Table 14

  Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means  

  F Sig. T df Sig. (2-tailed)     SFSAVG Equal variances assumed .011 .915 4.504 1221 .000   Equal variances not assumed     4.370 842.728 .000  

Table 15 Cont’d

T-Test Statistics for CSPP Total Average Scores for Table 14 Continued

Mean Difference Std. Error Difference 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference     Lower Upper .12287 .02728 .06935 .17639 .12287 .02812 .06768 .17805

Among the four scales of the CSPP, a T-Test was also done to determine if there was a statistically significant different between the mentored and non-mentored groups. The Reflection scale showed no statistical significance between the mentored group (M=4.15, SD = .613) and the non-mentored group (M=4.13, SD=.462), t(1221) = .680, p=.496. The Transcendent Scale also showed no statistical significance between the mentored group (M=4.42, SD=.433) and the non-mentored group (M=4.39, SD=.417), t(1221) = 1.319, p=.187.

The Vision Scale did have a statistically significant difference between students who were mentored (M=4.05, SD=.521) and non-mentored students (M=3.92, SD=.501), t(1221)=4.310, p=.000. The New Life Scale also had a statistically significant difference between students who were mentored (M=3.678, SD=.730) and non-mentored students (M=3.37, SD=.788), t(1221) = .018, p=.000.  Below shows the means scores and t-tests of the four scales of the CSPP.

Table 16

Mean Scores of CSPP Scales Based on Involvement in Mentoring

  Do you currently have, or have you had, a mentor while enrolled in seminary? N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean RO Yes 445 4.1488  Strong .61302 .02906 No 778 4.1277  Strong .46198 .01656 CE Yes 445 4.4242  Strong .43312 .02053 No 778 4.3910  Strong .41732 .01496 AC Yes 445 4.0493  Strong .52110 .02470 No 778 3.9190  Weak .50135 .01797 AE Yes 445 3.6775  Weak .73033 .03462 No 778 3.3706  Weak .78833 .02826

Table 17

T-Test for Mean Scores of the Phases of the CSPP based on Mentor Involvement

  Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means     F Sig. t df Sig. (2-tailed) Reflection Scale Equal variances assumed 6.465 .011 .680 1221 .496 Equal variances not assumed     .631 734.996 .528 Trans-

cendent

Scale Equal variances assumed .669 .414 1.319 1221 .187 Equal variances not assumed     1.306 896.314 .192 Vision Scale Equal variances assumed .227 .634 4.310 1221 .000 Equal variances not assumed     4.265 895.209 .000 New Life Scale Equal variances assumed 5.576 .018 6.726 1221 .000 Equal variances not assumed     6.867 983.410 .000  

 

 

 

 

Table 17 Cont’d

T-Test for Mean Scores of the Phases of the CSPP based on Mentor Involvement

Mean Difference Std. Error Difference 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference Lower Upper .02110 .03102 -.03976 .08197 .02110 .03345 -.04456 .08677 .03317 .02515 -.01617 .08251 .03317 .02540 -.01669 .08303 .13030 .03023 .07099 .18960 .13030 .03055 .07034 .19025

Finally, a Pearson’s Correlation Coefficient was calculated among the average total score on the CSPP and the four scales. The Pearson’s Correlation Coefficient for the total average is a significant correlation (r= -.128, N=1223, p=.000). This indicates that there is a correlation between being mentored and one’s perceived spiritual formation through involvement in spiritual formation practices based on answers given on the CSPP.

A Pearson’s Correlation Coefficient was also calculated on the four individual scales of the CPSS as well. The Pearson Correlation statistic for the Transcendence scale and answer to Q11 of whether or not the student has a mentor was (r=-.038, N=1223, p=.187), indicating there was no correlation between having a mentor and their score on this CSPP scale. The Pearson Correlation for the Reflection Scale was (r=-.019, N-1223, p=.496), indicating there was no correlation between being mentoring and their score on this CSPP scale. The Pearson Correlation for the New Life Scale was (r=-.189, N=1223, p=.000), which shows there was a statistical correlation between being mentored and having a higher score on the New Life Scale of the CSPP. The Pearson Correlation for the Vision Scale was (r=-.122, N=1223, p=.000), demonstrating that there was a statistical significant correlation between being mentored and their score on the Vision Scale of the CSPP.

Conclusion

There are students who are choosing to use nontraditional educational delivery methods to complete their seminary training, this data shows over 1000 of whom that is the case. With this new reality, questions come about how students are properly trained. This research focused on two such concerns of seminary training, mentoring and a student’s involvement in the spiritual formation process through spiritual formation practices. This research found that those students who were mentored reportedly were more involved in spiritual formation practices than those who were not mentored.  The conclusion of this article will focus on the relationship between the two, which was addressed in RQ4, and how that impacts both the seminary and the local church.

Research Application – Seminary

This is important as it gives further evidence to the importance of having seminary students engaged in a mentor relationship.  From this research, it can be seen that among these students, having a mentor did aid in promoting spiritual formation practices, yet, less than half of students were involved in a mentorship. As nontraditional education becomes more prevalent in the future, seminaries must strive to aid in connecting their off-campus students to mentor opportunities.  The best place to find these opportunities is in and through the local church. Nontraditional education may help to further connect and strengthen the relationships between seminaries and local churches, as there will be greater dependence as some students move away from the brick and mortar choice for their seminary training. The local churches will give the seminaries greater reach to connect their students to pastors for purposeful mentorships that will aid in the spiritual growth of their students.

Research Application – Local Church

This research also has potential application to local church members and pastors as well. The field of Christian higher education carries with it an “underlying goal” of “Christian transformation and spiritual growth.”[83]  The goal of spiritual growth is also applicable and necessary to the local church. In fact, Lawson argues that one of the goals of that which is learned in the field of Christian Education is to use the information for “positive transformative growth in the church.”[84]  Given the importance of the local church, this research has at least two potential applications for the local church based on its findings with regard to spiritual practices and spiritual formation.

The first application for the local church is based upon the findings of RQ4, which found that there was a positive relationship between mentoring and involvement in spiritual formation practices as measured in the CSPP. Mentoring, is biblically important and can be seen in examples that range from Moses and Joshua to Paul and Timothy. A local church could embrace a mentoring program that in turn has the potential to aid in the spiritual formation of its members. Paul, in Titus 2, gives instruction regarding this:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:1-8, ESV)

Scripture and research both indicate the importance of quality mentoring for spiritual growth. A church could have a program, either formal or informal, where those who are mature in the faith can meet regularly with those who are immature or new in the faith, and have them walk the younger believer through the basics of the Christian life: such as how to read the Bible, prayer, and evangelism training. As the research also indicates, even those who are more mature in their faith can benefit from a mentor. A culture of mentoring would be valuable in any local church.

A second application of the research for local churches is in regards to the focus of spiritual formation practices. Seminary students, both those who were mentored and those who were not, had scores that were in the Strong category in the Transcendent and Reflection scales, which had disciplines like prayer and worship. Yet students who were mentored and those who were not both scored in the Weak category in the New Life Scale, which primarily emphasized disciplines of evangelism and fellowship. While many factors could influence these findings, the application for local churches would center on a diligence to teach and to encourage participation in many spiritual disciplines. Also, for the pastor of the local church, it is helpful to constantly examine one’s spiritual discipline practices in order to ensure well-roundedness and faithfulness to “ the God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness.”[85]

This conclusion gives a summary of how seminaries and local churches can benefit from this research, and there are no doubt other applications that could be found. Applications that could focus on accountability for students in their spiritual growth, increased emphasis on student’s seeking out mature believers by which to be mentored, and the need for local churches to take a more active role in aiding the spiritual growth of seminarians.

 

[1] Michael Cusumano, “Are the Costs of ‘Free’ Too High in Online Education?”

Communications of the ACM  54, n.4 (2013), 26

[2] M. Natarajan, “Use of Online Technology for Multimedia Education.” Inforamtion Services and Use 26, n.3 (2006), 249

[3] Pam Derringer, “Going the Distance: Technology convergence powers the growth of online education.” Technology and Learning 30, n.10 (2010), 42

[4] Thomas Toch, “In an Era of Online Learning, Schools Still Matter” Phi Delta Kappan 91, n.7 (2010), 72-74

John Cowan,”Strategies for Developing a Community of Practice Tech Trends 56, n.1(2012), 12-19

[5] Travis Hines, Thomas McGee, Lee Waller, and Sharon Waller, “Online Theological Education: A Case Study of Trinity School of Ministry. Christian Higher Education 8,  (2009), 32

[6] Alfred Rovai and Jason Baker, “Sense of Community: A Comparison of Students Attending Christian and Secular Universities in Traditional and Distance Education Programs Christian Scholar’s Review 33, n.4 (2004), 474

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Hines, McGee, Waller, and Waller, “Online Theological Education”,  32

[10] James Estep, and Mark Maddix  “Spiritual Formation in Online Higher Education Communities” Christian Education Journal 7, n.2 (2010), 423

[11] Hines, McGee, Waller and Waller, “Online Theological Education”, 35

[12] Association of Theological Schools, Educational and Degree Program Standards (2012) :30 accessed September 4, 2012, www.ats.edu/Accrediting/Documents/DegreeProgramStandards.pdf

[13] Ibid, 32

[14] Ibid, 32

[15] George Coulter, “Mentoring for Ministry: Balancing Theory and Praxis in Christian Higher Education” (EDD Diss, Talbot School of Theology, 2003), 4

[16] Beverly Jane, “Mentoring in Teacher Education” in Handbook of Teacher Education ed. Tony Townsend and Richard Bates (New York: Springer, 2007), 180

[17] Paul Wilson and W. Johnson, “Core Values for the Practice of Mentoring. Journal of Psychology and Theology  29, n.2. ( 2001), 121 – 130

[18] Ibid, p.xiv

[19]  Murl Pyeatt, “The Relationship between Mentoring and Retention in Ministry” (PHD Diss, The Ohio State University, 2006)

Margo Murry, Beyond the Myths of Mentoring (San Francisco: Jossey – Bass, 1991)

[20] Coulter, “Mentoring for Ministry”;

Elizabeth Selzer, “The Effectiveness of a seminary’s training and mentoring program and

subsequent job satisfaction of its graduates” (PHD Diss., Cappella University, 2006).

[21] Paul Howard, “Perceptions and functions of mentor-protégé’ relationships in theological education” (PHD Diss, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1998), 179

[22]  Steve Parker, “The Supervisor as Mentor-Coach in Theological Education” Christian Education Journal 6, n.1, 2009

[23] Selzer, “The Effectiveness of a Seminary’s Training”, 6

[24] Pyeatt, “The Relationship Between Mentoring and Retention”

[25] Ibid, 101

[26] Deborah Moore, “Most Common Teacher Characteristics that Relate to Intentionality in Student Spiritual Formation” (EDD Diss, Columbia International University, 2011), 19

[27] Dallas Willard, Renovation of the heart (Colorado Springs: NavPress 2002), 22

[28] Frank Stranger, Spiritfual Formation in the Local Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989),17

[29] Adam Davis, “A  Study to Determine the Relationship of scores of Adult Sunday

School teachers to scores of Adult Sunday School learners on a Spiritual Formation Practice Participation Inventory.” (PHD. Diss, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2011),19

[30] Ibid

[31] Ibid, 20

[32] Ibid, 20

[33] ATS, Standards, 4

[34] Donald Whitney, “Christian Life FAQ” ( 2012), accessed  October 23, 2012,

http://biblicalspirituality.org/resources/christian-life-faq/#13

[35] Maddix & Estep, “Spiritual Formation”, 423

[36] William Ringenberg, The Christian College, (Grand Rapids: Baker 2006), 38

[37] Ibid, 8

[38] Donald Shepson, “Transformational Learning Theory and Christian College Students in the Southeast” (PHD Diss, Biola University 2010), 1

[39] ATS, Standards, 40,45

[40] Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, “Mission Statement” (2012), accessed October 8, 2012, www.sebts.edu.

[41] Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, “Mission Statement” (2013), accessed June, 21, 2013, www.liberty.edu/seminary

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, “Core Values” (2012), accessed November 8, 2012, www.nobts.edu/about

[42] ATS, Standards, 40

[43] Davis, “Sunday School Teachers”;  Shepson, “Transformational Learning”

[44] Shepson,  “Transformational Learning”

[45] Davis, “Sunday School Teachers”

[46] Ibid, 24

[47] Ibid, 24

[48] Ibid, 25

[49] Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress 1991),17

[50] Ibid, 17-19

[51] Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (New York: HarperOne 1988), xii

[52] Willard The Spirit of the Disciplines;  Whitney Spiritual Disciplines; and Jane Thayer, “Constructing a Spirituality Measure Based on Learning Theory. Journal of Psychology and Christianity  23, n.4, 2004

[53] Whitney,  Spiritual Disciplines, 17

[54] Willard, Spirit of the Disciplines, 138

[55] Thayer, “Constructing a Spirituality Measure, 200

[56] Greg Belcher, “The Relationshio of Mentoring to Ministerial Effectiveness among Pastors of the Southern Baptist Convention” (EDD Diss, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 2002), 37

[57] Ibid, 37

[58] Norman Cohen, “Development and Validation of the Principles of Adult Mentoring Scale” (PHD Diss, Temple University 1993), 5

[59] Ibid, 100

[60] Ibid, 100

[61] Norman Cohen, “The Journal of the Principles of Adult Mentoring Inventory” Adult Learning 14, n.1, 2003, 12

[62] Selzer, “Effectiveness of Seminary Training”,.49

[63] Ibid, 50

[64] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian life, 17 – 19; Davis, “Sunday School Teachers”, p.24; see also discussion on page 6 on this article

[65] Thayer, “Constructing a Spirituality Measure, 196;  Davis, “Sunday School Teachers”

[66] Thayer, “Constructing a Spirituality Measure, 200

[67] Ibid, 196

[68] Davis, “Sunday School”, 24

[69] Thayer, “Constructing a Spiritual Measure, 204

[70] Davis, “Sunday School”, 25

[71] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian life, 17

[72] Thayer, “Constructing a Spiritual Measure, 204

[73] Gordon Smith, “Grace and Spiritual Disciplines,” in Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, ed. Glen Scorgie. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 225.

[74] Ibid, 225

[75] Ibid, 225

[76] Ibid, 206

[77] Ibid, 204

[78] Ibid, 206

[79] Ibid, 206

[80] Ibid;   Davis, “Sunday School Teachers”

[81] Thayer, “Constructing a Spirituality Measure, 200

[82] Ibid

[83] Hans Kang, “Perception and Experience of Transformative Learning and Faculty Authenticity among North American Professors of Christian Education. Christian Education Journal 10, n.2, 2013, 339

[84] Kevin Lawson, “Heart of the Matter” Christian Education Journal 10, n.2, 2013,259

[85] Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 17

The post The Relationship between Mentoring and Spiritual Formation Practices among Nontraditional Seminary Students appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The “Mind-Boggling” Trinity

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 05/12/2017 - 12:00

Dear Dr. Craig,

I would consider myself agnostic but have a question regarding the probability of God as accepted by the majority of the Christian community: Aren't the odds of a triune god beyond astronomical? To accept that there is an omnipotent, eternal being is difficult enough, but three separate beings that possess this nature? The term "mind boggling" doesn't even begin to describe the unlikelihood ... Thanks! ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Four men you should take to the mission field and three you should leave behind

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 05/12/2017 - 10:10

Every missionary going to the field must make sure to take four men with him, and leave three others behind. Individualistic Western missionary candidates are often so self-sufficient and satisfy so much of their need for social interaction online that the idea of taking others with them is a new thought and seems intrusive. But each of these men are essential members of every effective mission team.

When Frank and Marie Drown, missionaries to Ecuador’s Shuar indigenous peoples, left for the field in the 1940s, president Gordon Weiss of the Gospel Missionary Union gave wise counsel to the departing missionaries. His advice was not just wise for the 1940s, it is just as pertinent today. He told them that four men must go with them to the mission field: the spiritual man, the intellectual man, the social man, and the physical man.

Take four

Let’s consider these four men.*

  1. The physical man: Missionaries need to develop and maintain robust physical health to survive and thrive in the rigors of the mission field. Changes in altitude, climate, food, water, demanding schedules, exposure to tropical diseases, amoebas, and parasites can sideline or send home a missionary in short order.
  1. The intellectual man: Missionaries who cultivate a keen and consecrated practical intelligence learn the culture and language more easily and with much less stress. Sharpening your intellect to be interested in your surroundings, how things work, and why they are as they are will help you in life when your former social cues, normal routines, and second nature tasks no longer work.
  1. The social man: Missionaries need to love people, enjoy being with them, and look for opportunities to make personal relationships. The ability to make deep friendships out of casual social contacts is profoundly helpful for personal evangelism, discipleship, church planting, and mentoring others.

 

  1. The spiritual man: Developing a strong spiritual life maintained by regular and consistent prayer and Bible study habits is the most important of these four. Remember that your battle is not against flesh and blood but rather against spiritual powers that are to be engaged with spiritual weapons. Success in your Christian life and missionary career has a lot to do with getting as close to Jesus as you can, and staying there.
Leave three behind 

To Mr. Weiss’s four men who must go with the missionary, I would caution that there are three men who must be left behind: a ladies’ man, a man’s man, and a selfish man.

  • The ladies’ man. A ladies’ man is one who dresses and acts in such a way as to attract the ladies’ attention and seeks to be charming in his interaction with them. They are his focus.
  • The man’s man. A man’s man is one who is so focused on sports, hunting, fishing, and other manly activities that he cannot relate to others such as widows, children, or young families. He is either out with the boys on his latest competitive activity or he is still talking about the last one. He lives to make other men think he is the pinnacle of machismo and manliness.
  • The selfish man. A selfish man is one who lives for his own desires. He is often lazy, gluttonous, wasteful, and spends excessively on himself. He is insensitive to others, eats in front of the hungry, refuses to serve others if it cuts into his plans, or flaunts his money and possessions in front of poorer people. Certainly most missionaries aren’t such an “ugly American.” But some live lavish lifestyles compared to their national friends, drive the nicest cars, put their kids in the most expensive international schools, and openly talk about it all. They justify this lifestyle as what they deserve for so much sacrifice, and never consider how it hinders their impact. A selfish man lives for himself.
Four minus three

Effective missionaries have always found that taking the first four men with them and leaving the next three behind results in the best missionary. Four minus three equals the best one. The spiritual man, the intellectual man, the social man, and the physical man minus the ladies’ man, the man’s man, and the selfish man equals God’s man.

The best missionary will be the one who lives for God with both eyes set on pleasing him, maintaining a heart for God and a mind for truth. When we imagine God deciding to use a man, looking down on earth to choose a missionary, or desiring a man to serve him and others, we should envision this kind of man. Missionaries are men and women of great gifts and abilities, but their strength and effectiveness are dependent on the God who has called and sent them. Be God’s man.

*Both men and women have been, are now, and will always be godly and effective missionaries until Christ returns. This short article is a talk prepared as a charge to a group of deploying male missionaries, thus the references to men and the use of masculine pronouns. Please know that I do not mean to be sexist or to imply that only men should be missionaries. Feel free to exchange specific masculine references for other pronouns, or the word “person,” as you read. These principles are applicable to all missionaries.

 

The post Four men you should take to the mission field and three you should leave behind appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Mother’s Day – Ownership or Stewardship

Southwestern Seminary - Fri, 05/12/2017 - 09:30

One of the challenges in raising children from a biblical perspective is to navigate the difference between ownership and stewardship. I am the eldest of four boys, and my mother told us of a crisis of faith she faced when we all began to express a call to the mission field. Our family was led to faith and discipled by missionaries, and so we had this influence and inspiration from a young age. At the time, we were unaware of it, but our mother struggled with where a call to missions would take us and what the challenges would be.

We have always been a very close family, and the evening dinner table in our home was one of laughter, debate, passion and bonding. We lived life together, and in our ideal world, we would marry, have children and continue to live in this way. A call to the mission field, however, would throw all of this into disarray.

The reality we had to work through is that the ideal world we wanted would come one day in heaven, but that while we are still on earth, there is a mission to complete. In the face of all of this, my mother had to work through letting us go. She reached this point one Sunday morning, and so, unknown to us, she went to the altar during the Sunday service and laid her claim to ownership of our lives before the Lord. She reached a place where she could recognize that God had ownership of our lives and that He had entrusted us to her as a stewardship.

This change in paradigm led to a position that encouraged us to follow God’s will unconditionally rather than follow what seemed best to her. One of the stand-out characteristics of her stewardship has been a commitment to prayer so that my brothers and I know that wherever our call takes us, she is lifting us up in prayer.

I am now a father of four boys, and I am so tempted to want them to follow God’s will my way. I want big family meals on Sundays, to be able to pop in for a visit anytime, to go on vacation together, and especially to see grandchildren without much effort. I like the idea that I have some ownership of my sons, that God would share this with me.

In 1 Samuel 1, we read of God’s blessing on Hannah in giving her a son. It must have been very tempting for her to claim Samuel as her own—she had waited and prayed for so long. But, Hannah understood the difference between stewardship and ownership, and we have a beautiful picture of how she is a careful steward of young Samuel under the ownership of God.

We like to think of attributes of God like all-knowing, all-powerful and all-present; but what about all-owning? If He created everything and we hold that it is only in Him that we live and move and have our being, then our children must belong to Him. This belonging is not partial so that we share it with Him; it is a complete and total belonging so that, for my sons, God is their complete and eternal Father. He gives my wife and me the privilege and responsibility of being earthly parents whose primary role is to steward them into a relationship with the heavenly Father through the person and work of Jesus. The result is that while they can turn to me for help at any time, they are able to turn to a heavenly Father who is infinitely more capable of meeting every need.

We have a lost world that is in desperate need to know God as Father. As Christian parents, we have a stewardship before the God to raise children who will step out and follow God wherever that takes them. Godly parents who yield ownership of their children to God and then take the stewardship of those children seriously will lead to Christians who change the world for God’s Kingdom. May there be many more parents like Hannah and the amazing lady that I call my mother!

Categories: Seminary Blog

Mother’s Day – Ownership or Stewardship

Southwestern Seminary - Fri, 05/12/2017 - 09:30

One of the challenges in raising children from a biblical perspective is to navigate the difference between ownership and stewardship. I am the eldest of four boys, and my mother told us of a crisis of faith she faced when we all began to express a call to the mission field. Our family was led to faith and discipled by missionaries, and so we had this influence and inspiration from a young age. At the time, we were unaware of it, but our mother struggled with where a call to missions would take us and what the challenges would be.

We have always been a very close family, and the evening dinner table in our home was one of laughter, debate, passion and bonding. We lived life together, and in our ideal world, we would marry, have children and continue to live in this way. A call to the mission field, however, would throw all of this into disarray.

The reality we had to work through is that the ideal world we wanted would come one day in heaven, but that while we are still on earth, there is a mission to complete. In the face of all of this, my mother had to work through letting us go. She reached this point one Sunday morning, and so, unknown to us, she went to the altar during the Sunday service and laid her claim to ownership of our lives before the Lord. She reached a place where she could recognize that God had ownership of our lives and that He had entrusted us to her as a stewardship.

This change in paradigm led to a position that encouraged us to follow God’s will unconditionally rather than follow what seemed best to her. One of the stand-out characteristics of her stewardship has been a commitment to prayer so that my brothers and I know that wherever our call takes us, she is lifting us up in prayer.

I am now a father of four boys, and I am so tempted to want them to follow God’s will my way. I want big family meals on Sundays, to be able to pop in for a visit anytime, to go on vacation together, and especially to see grandchildren without much effort. I like the idea that I have some ownership of my sons, that God would share this with me.

In 1 Samuel 1, we read of God’s blessing on Hannah in giving her a son. It must have been very tempting for her to claim Samuel as her own—she had waited and prayed for so long. But, Hannah understood the difference between stewardship and ownership, and we have a beautiful picture of how she is a careful steward of young Samuel under the ownership of God.

We like to think of attributes of God like all-knowing, all-powerful and all-present; but what about all-owning? If He created everything and we hold that it is only in Him that we live and move and have our being, then our children must belong to Him. This belonging is not partial so that we share it with Him; it is a complete and total belonging so that, for my sons, God is their complete and eternal Father. He gives my wife and me the privilege and responsibility of being earthly parents whose primary role is to steward them into a relationship with the heavenly Father through the person and work of Jesus. The result is that while they can turn to me for help at any time, they are able to turn to a heavenly Father who is infinitely more capable of meeting every need.

We have a lost world that is in desperate need to know God as Father. As Christian parents, we have a stewardship before the God to raise children who will step out and follow God wherever that takes them. Godly parents who yield ownership of their children to God and then take the stewardship of those children seriously will lead to Christians who change the world for God’s Kingdom. May there be many more parents like Hannah and the amazing lady that I call my mother!

Categories: Seminary Blog

Rejoicing with our Graduates

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 05/11/2017 - 13:30
As the 2016-2017 school year draws to a close, we’re proud of all our students’ hard work. But we’re especially proud of our graduates who have persevered through multiple years of full-time work and study.  This year we celebrate the achievements of four graduates: three from the Master of Divinity program, and one from the... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

Maridos, Amemos a Nuestras Esposas / Husbands, Love Your Wives

Talbot School of Theology - Thu, 05/11/2017 - 12:00

“Tú nunca me dices que me amas,” una esposa triste se quejaba con su esposo; a lo que éste respondió: “yo te dije que te amaba el día en que nos casamos y no he cambiado de opinión, así que, no veo la razón de estarlo repitiendo."

Nos podemos sonreír con la historia anterior. Sin embargo, estoy convencido de que muchos esposos no comprenden lo importante que es amar a sus esposas y cómo demostrarles ese amor. El romanticismo no es solamente un asunto de mujeres sino que debería ser la prioridad de los maridos ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

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