The Agenda of Seminary

Dr. Richard Pratt was asked to comment on what he would change about seminary by the Gospel Coalition. You can read the whole article here. Incidentally, I had another friend who was told by his mentor who, upon hearing that he was going to seminary warned: You’ll loose all your courage, and It takes ten years to get over seminary. Here’s what Richard had to say…

If I were king and could wave my magical scepter, I would radically change the basic agenda of seminary.

After 22 years of teaching in a seminary, I slowly began to realize something. We were not preparing the kinds of leaders that evangelical churches in North America need. Let’s face it; evangelicalism has seen better days. God is at work in many places and in many ways, but on the whole, the news is not good. Our numbers are dwindling; our theology is unraveling; our zeal for Christ is dissipating. Now more than ever, we need seminaries to give the church leaders who are empowered by the Spirit for radical, sacrificial devotion to Christ and his kingdom. And they’d better do it quickly.

I was recently in China, talking with the president of a house church network of more than 1 million people. He asked me for advice on preparing the next generation of pastors. I looked at him and said, “The only thing I know is what you should not do.” He smiled and asked, “What’s that?” My reply surprised him. “You should not do what we have done in the West. The results of that approach have become clear.”

The agenda of evangelical seminaries is set primarily by scholars. Professors decide how students will spend their time; they determine students’ priorities; they set the pace. And guess what. Scholars’ agenda seldom match the needs of the church.

Can you imagine what kind of soldiers our nation would have if basic training amounted to reading books, listening to lectures, writing papers, and taking exams? We’d have dead soldiers. The first time a bullet wizzed past their heads on the battlefield, they’d panic. The first explosion they saw would send them running. So, what is basic training for the military? Recruits learn the information they need to know, but this is a relatively small part of their preparation. Most of basic training is devoted to supervised battle simulation. Recruits are put through harrowing emotional and physical stress. They crawl under live bullet fire. They practice hand to hand combat.

If I could wave a magic scepter and change seminary today, I’d turn it into a grueling physical and spiritual experience. I’d find ways to reach academic goals more quickly and effectively and then devote most of the curriculum to supervised battle simulation. I’d put students through endless hours of hands-on service to the sick and dying, physically dangerous evangelism, frequent preaching and teaching the Scriptures, and days on end of fasting and prayer. Seminary would either make them or break them.

Do you know what would happen? Very few young men would want to attend. Only those who had been called by God would subject themselves to this kind of seminary. Yet they would be recruits for kingdom service, not mere students. They would be ready for the battle of gospel ministry.

A Shrinking Condundrum

An Associated Press article which came out this week entitled, 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It’s the conundrum Protestant denominations with declining memberships and shrinking budgets are desperate to solve: How to stem the decades-long losses and attract new worshippers.
The United Methodist Church, the third largest denomination in the country, thinks it could be closer to finding the answer. It commissioned an ambitious survey of nearly all its 33,000 U.S. churches to find out what its growing memberships are doing to keep congregations thriving.
Of those churches, the four key factors of vitality stood out as “crystal clear findings that are actionable,” according to the survey:
_ Small groups and programs, such as Bible study and activities geared toward youth.
_ An active lay leadership.
_ Inspirational pastors who have served lengthy tenures at churches.
_ A mix of traditional and contemporary worship services.

American Teenage Mutant Christians

 Thanks Nathan G for pointing to this.

( via CNN) — If you’re the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning:

Your child is following a “mutant” form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.

Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Translation: It’s a watered-down faith that portrays God as a “divine therapist” whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.

Dean is a minister, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and the author of “Almost Christian,” a new book that argues that many parents and pastors are unwittingly passing on this self-serving strain of Christianity.

She says this “imposter” faith is one reason teenagers abandon churches.

Confession: Water of Life

I’ve been considering writing out prayers for our congregation’s worship service. Here’s this Sunday’s Confession.
Our Heavenly Father, forgive us our sin. Instead of turning to you who is the fount of every blessing, we have dug cisterns of our own when we were thirsty. We have, in our stubbornness, assured ourselves that we may have peace without you. But Father, there is no peace.
In our restlessness, we have given ourselves over to pleasure and comfort believing we would never be free of sadness, pain, or boredom.
We have been faithless in our devotion to you, and have not kept our promises, nor have we wanted to honor those to whom we have made promises.
Rather than love you and others, we have set our affections on other’s approval or upon circumstances playing out as we demand. We have looked to them to save and deliver us, even as we hoped they would give us peace.
We have kept for ourselves the recognition and property which belongs to and is due to others. Our over-desires have conceived in us an envy in which we would rather see others deprived of the good they enjoy if it means that you would not give us the same.
These are the kinds of people we are, and we are sorry.

Father we want more than regret over our failings,
We want brokenness for the offense to you.
We want more than managed behavior,
We want to love you obediently.
We want more than cleaned up lives,
We want new hearts.

Father, we cannot be who we ought, let alone who we want because we do not have the power to be other than who we are: miserable sinners. And that is what we are.
But is that all you must be?

No. To those who are dead, Jesus Christ came to give life. To those who are stuck in old thoughts and patterns of living, Jesus came to make all things new. To those who are sick with sin, Jesus says, I have come not to call the righteous but sinners. And to those who are thirsty, Jesus Christ says, “…let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

Tim Keller on Demythologizing the Culture from GC 10
Tim Keller Session 1 from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.