Theological Education vs. Ministry Preparation?

Minister PreparingShould seminaries engage in theological education or ministry preparation? Of course the initial answer should be "both."

But, Let's go deeper.
 
Should seminaries primarily focus on theological education with minimal practical, real-time ministry preparation? Or, should seminaries primarily focus on ministry preparation with just enough theological reflection to be sure they are not producing heretics?
 
On a scale of one to ten, with one representing the position that seminaries should engage only in theological education and let students get ministry preparation on their own, and ten representing the position that seminaries should engage only in ministry preparation and let students be theologically grounded elsewhere, where along this scale should seminaries focus?
 
Why? Explain your answer.
 
Beyond this straightforward dichotomy are additional questions. Should seminaries provide theological indoctrination that fits the generally focused perspective of the seminary faculty? Should seminaries teach a style of ministry their perspective says is the generally accepted—perhaps even the only accepted—pathway to a successful ministry career? In other words, should seminaries seek to produce graduates in their image, or graduates in the image of God for engaging in with the unique set of spiritual gifts, life skills, and personality preferences each person possesses?
 
Perhaps the reality of these last three questions is to watch the graduates of seminaries that faculty and administration point to as examples of their best graduates, or those who they invite back to speak or teach, or alumni who they honor with some recognition, or those who they continually recommend for ministry placement throughout the ministry career of the graduate. This may say more than anything else where the seminary is along this continuum of theological education vs. ministry preparation.
 
What is your story about seminary? To what extent did you receive a theological education? To what extent did you receive ministry preparation?

Common Sense Security for Houses of Worship

Church Security

This is a repost from the summer of 2015 that is still relevant today and points to a resource that is still active!

In light of the mass murders this week at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC many congregations will think about, perhaps rush to deal with, security issues for their congregation. In the midst of their response congregations need to seek some common sense about security.

I recommend congregation download the Download Guide to Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship  published by FEMA. It is a helpful comprehensive, common sense piece.

Here is the FEMA site: https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/33007

I also recommend congregations contact their insurance provider. Many have developed or have recommended material and guidebooks for houses of worship. 

Be wise. Be loving. Be inviting. Be careful. Be safe. Be Christian.


Who is the Primary Client for Seminaries?

Clients  Only for Our ClientsI am part of an accreditation team from the Association of Theological Schools for an Chicago area seminary this week. I am pondering various questions about seminaries and covet your insights into various issues. Respond by posting a comment, sending me a private message, or write me and e-mail to BulllardJournal@gmail.com
 
Who is the primary client of seminaries? Does the seminary I am visiting have clarity about who its client is, and who its client should be? In the case of this specific seminary, is the primary client they are serving and the primary client they ought to serve the same
 
Share your perspective. In your opinion, who is and who should be the primary client of a seminary—the primary people or entities they serve? Here are some choices to stimulate your thinking. In your answer choose three or less—one is best--and distinguish between who is and who ought to be the primary client. Provide not only your answer, but why that is your answer.
  • The seminary faculty.
  • The seminary president/administration.
  • The board of trustees.
  • The small group of the largest financial contributors to the seminary.
  • The denomination with which they are affiliated.
  • The agencies/association with whom they seek accreditation.
  • The students.
  • The congregations from whom the students come.
  • The congregations to whom the students are going to provide ministry leadership.
  • The persons in the pews/chairs of the congregations to whom the students are going to provide ministry leadership.
  • The preChristians, unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched people not actively participating in the congregations to whom the students are going to provide ministry leadership.
  • Other ministry organizations to which the students are going to provide leadership.
  • The educational and/or leadership institutions/organizations to whom the students are going as faculty.
  • The founding mission, purpose, and/or vision of the seminary.
  • The historic global Church, in general.
  • The future, emerging global Church, in general.

Extra Credit: Who is the primary client of the primary client of seminaries? Explain.


What About Location Partners? More Than Multisite--Learning One on Barna Report

Multisite ChurchesI am just having an opportunity to read the 2016 Barna Report produced in partnership with Cornerstone Knowledge Network entitled More Than Multisite: Inside Today's Methods and Models for Launching New Congregations. I will likely post several times about it.

One term I have already learned that I like very much is "Location Partners". I am going to use it here forward as a replacement for "Nesting Congregations". Location Partners are defined in the report as "a separate congregation meeting at, and sharing resources with, another church (for example, a ministry reaching a specific demographic groups, such as a young adult congregation or an international group with services in a different language)." [p. 10] 

The only thing I would change is to indicate that Location Partners can be several congregations sharing facilities and other resources. I have visited church sites where up to six congregations meet for worship, discipleship, fellowship, and other activities.

I also like Location Partners as a title as Nesting Congregations as a term has implied in many cases a parent/child relationship. Location Partners should express more of an adult/adult relationship. For some churches who own their facilities, however, this is a stretch when a group of a different ethnicity or socio-economics is their Location Partner. Perhaps some growth in relationships can happen in this case.


Yes, Virginia, We Need Baptist Associations

300 Years of AssociationsOr, Other Forms of Local Denominational Organizations

My denominational tradition—Baptist—and specifically my denominational tribe of heritage—Southern Baptists—has three dimensions of denominational structure. They are known as associations, state (or regional) conventions, and national agencies and institutions.

Associations are the local entity which I categorize generically as dynamic spiritual and fellowship organisms. State conventions and the national expressions are organizations.

In historic order associations came first. The initial association of Baptists in my tradition was the Philadelphia Baptist Association established in 1707. The first association in the South that was ultimately part of my tribe was the Charleston (SC) Baptist Association established in 1751.

The first state convention in my tribe was the South Carolina Baptist Convention established in 1821. Finally, the Southern Baptist Convention came into existence in 1845. These two entities did not replace local associations, but carried forward the work of Southern Baptists from a different dimension and with somewhat different foci.

With the transformation of denominations in the past 40 years, it is a legitimate question to raise as to whether all three entities of my tribe’s denominational structure are still essential and needed. It is certainly a question discussed in formal and informal settings, and acted on by congregations in an autonomous denominational movement such as Southern Baptists.

With significant transition and changes in how congregations and individuals financially support the three dimensions of denominational life among Southern Baptists, one observation can be made without fear of successful contradiction. Southern Baptists are unwilling to financially support all three dimensions of denominational life unless they see added value expressed by each for the fulfillment of the mission of God.

If three dimensions of denominational life are not sustainable, and one needs to disappear, which one is that?

To read the full article, Download Yes Virginia We Need Baptist Associations


Southerland Springs Calls for Solutions

Sutherland Springs  FBCO Lord, there are no adequate words to express our grief over the violent death of any individual. Every person is a person of worth created in Your image to live and to love. It is especially sad when a church at worship, gathered in sanctuary, is violently interrupted by an act of evil. 
 
We pray for all the souls gathered for worship at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday, November 5, 2017, just as we pray for all the souls gathered for Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC on Wednesday, June 17, 2015, just as we pray for all the souls gathered at various places of worship throughout the world who have had a visitation of evil, just as we pray for all places and venues beyond places of worship who have experienced a visitation of evil, and death as resulted.
 
Our world is not a ignorant world. We can figure with Your holy help a reasonable and peaceful solution to many of our incidents of violence. Our solution must be a dynamic response because of the presence of violence and evil in Your world. We must have the courage to go beyond simply asking Why?” We must have the conviction to develop complex solutions that are effective, and not simple fixes that are ineffective. 
 
May all the churches of the Columbia Metro Baptist Association and all Christians of good will be people of solutions. Amen.

Jesus and Our Brain Compete for Racial Reconciliation

Multi Cultural Bible StudySunday, October 15, 2017

Today I attended a presentation and dialogue on changing the way the Church views racism. With me were six people representing various member congregations of the Columbia Metro Baptist Association.

It was sponsored by the Fellowship of South Carolina Bishops. Guest speaker was Drew Hart of Messiah College in Pennsylvania, and author of Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church View Racism.

In the dialogue around our table, one team member suggested there is competition between Jesus and our brain. Here is my spin on what she meant.

Our relationship with Jesus is one of unconditional love. Through such a relationship external racial reconciliation is possible. It involves our awareness of racism in our words and actions, repentance of racism in our lives and the systems of society we enable, and forgiveness for our sin of racism. This awareness may ultimately lead to actions to rid society of unjust laws and systems, racist cultural practices, and racial privilege.

The challenge is our brain. Among things that may be missing in the Jesus-focused actions of racial reconciliation is forgetting. Reconciliation is about repentance, forgiveness, and forgetting. Forgetting is the harder of the three to achieve.

Continue reading "Jesus and Our Brain Compete for Racial Reconciliation" »


Intentional Interim Pastoral Ministry is an Art More than a Science, Post One

Tom HarrrisSaturday, October 14, 2017

This week I had the opportunity to speak to the leadership, and some invited guests, of one of my favorite organizations that seeks to recruit, train, place, resource, and coach interim pastors for congregations.

It is Interim Pastor Ministries.

My relationship with the people of Interim Pastor Ministries goes back almost nine years when its current executive director—Tom Harris—was serving as interim pastor for a church in Atlanta, GA, and saw an invitation where I was leading a church consultation weekend where others were invited to observe a Friday night session. He signed up, attended, and we talked briefly.

I few years later Tom become the executive director for Interim Pastor Ministries. Three years ago, he saw another invitation where I invited people to shadow me through a four-day weekend experience with a church. He signed up, we had extensive conversations during that weekend, and since then we have been together a dozen times.

The most recent was this week in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Continue reading "Intentional Interim Pastoral Ministry is an Art More than a Science, Post One" »


Not Necessarily FaithSoaring Churches Characteristics

Soaring-birdAnother set of characteristics exists which I call, ”Not Necessarily FaithSoaring Church Characteristics”.

(See article on FaithSoaring Churches Characteristics that preceded this article.)

They more clearly define who can be considered a FaithSoaring Church.

Already you may be typecasting or stereotyping who these congregations may be.

You are probably wrong at some points and right at others. Keep reading to discover the five "not neceesarily FaithSoaring Churches" characteristics.

Continue reading "Not Necessarily FaithSoaring Churches Characteristics" »


FaithSoaring Churches Characteristics

Soaring-birdWhat are the key characteristics of FaithSoaring Churches? Probably there is no perfect set of characteristics. Yet certain key characteristics emerge from my observation of multiple FaithSoaring Churches. No two congregations will have the exact same set of characteristics or formula. Each congregation is unique. Will FaithSoaring Churches have all the characteristics presented here? Not necessarily.

Here is one set of top ten characteristics of FaithSoaring Churches. Certainly other sets and types of characteristics could be put forth. Consider how many of these are characteristic of your congregation as you review them.

  1. FaithSoaring Churches walk by faith rather than by sight in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 5:7 and Isaiah 40:31. Second Corinthians 5:7 admonishes us to walk by faith rather than by sight. Isaiah 40:31 challenges us to mount up with wings as eagles and soar. Thus, FaithSoaring. One aspect of walking by faith is viewing the congregation in terms of its long-term potential rather than its short-term urgencies. Another is always imagining what is around the corner, over the next hill, or beyond the horizon.

Continue reading "FaithSoaring Churches Characteristics" »