My posts a couple of weeks ago that talked about the increasing irrelevance of traditional seminaries got picked up by Jake Belder of GoingtoSeminary.com. I rewrote the first two posts a bit and condensed them down into a single post for the Going to Seminary site. The post ran yesterday morning and has generated a little bit of discussion, and I expect it to generate quite a bit more. Based off of some of the discussion going on speaking against my perspective, I wonder if the church has lost its imagination in how we train church leaders.
In my posts, I am simply suggesting that the future of training church leaders might not look like it does right now as we send people off to brick-and-mortar institutions for a few years of intense classroom training. Most of the responses disagreeing with me seem to suggest that the way we train church leaders right now is the best way to train church leaders.
Yes, seminaries might be adequate for today’s church. But is it the best model? And when we come to come sort of consensus about the nature of the church in 50-100 years, will we not have rethought things like ordination, seminary, and denominationalism? What ever happened to semper reformada? I don’t think that our educational institutions are are beyond reform. Especially as we are starting to ask questions like, What does it mean to be the church? (which, in my opinion is the real core question of both the emerging church and missional movements), to think that we will just leave the training and education of our leaders the way we’ve been doing it for the last 100 years seems a bit short-sighted. We need to begin the exercise of re-imagining some new possibilities.
I also wonder if some of the resistance against my suggestions is because I have a different ecclesiological perspective than others. I must admit, my ideas about the future of seminaries are rooted in what is just now beginning to take place in movements like the emerging church, new monasticism, and missional Christianity. Phyllis Tickle seems to think that we are on the verge of a huge shift in Christianity (check out her book, The Great Emergence), and I think she is right. My assumptions about the future are based on the prediction that the current trends will continue to gain influence and reshape the future of the church.
Thankfully, I likely won’t know if I’m right until at least fifty years down the road, at the earliest. And if I’m wrong, no one will remember little old me. But based off of some shifts that are happening culturally and ecclesiologically, I believe that the changing future of the church will necessitate corresponding changes in training and educating church leaders.