Toward a Missional Paradigm for Theological Education

Dr. Jeffrey P. Greenman, Tyndale Seminary, 2000

Observations about the Present Context of Ministry Formation

1. The world has dismissed the church, which is virtually "invisible" to the general public.
2. Churchmanship has focused heavily upon "taking care of own" through operating effective programs to meet the felt-needs of individuals and families.
3. The church is too accommodated to the world in the sense that present values of Western culture have deeply shaped the church, particularly individualism, materialism, and privatization. The result is that the church is too much like the world to make a difference, yet our self-perception is that we are different from the world.

The missional paradigm of education "affirms that the Triune God is, by nature, a missionary God who calls, equips and sends his people to participate in God`s mission to the world as witnesses to Christ in the power of the Spirit. The church is, by nature, a missionary people who are called to engage their various contexts, through word and deed, as representatives of the Kingdom of God. Given this understanding, Tyndale Seminary assumes that theological education should be concerned, first and foremost, with holistic formation for holistic mission that engages the world" (Vision 2020: Tyndale`s Strategy for the Future, 2005).
 
4. The church too seldom demonstrates a compelling alternative to the dominant culture, namely, a Gospel-shaped set of values embodied in an attractive way of life.
 

5. The life of the church has focused primarily upon collecting people on Sunday mornings to focus on what happens in their individual religious experience as leaders perform their functions.

6. The costliness of discipleship has too often been negated by narrowly focusing upon the personal/private devotion and one-on-one evangelism while too often failing to emphasize the church’s calling to faithfulness to God in every sphere of life.

7. The church’s public witness has too often been focused on individual sin or issues of sexual morality; meanwhile, the social, political and economic implications of the Gospel compel particular concern for the broken, abandoned and rejected.

8. Too often the church has been wrongly identified as synonymous with the Kingdom of God, whereas the church is to be a sign, foretaste, and instrument of the Kingdom.

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9. Too often the church has understood ‘mission’ as one practice among many, to be engaged in by an elite few in distant land.

 

10. The church too often has considered the world to be wholly malevolent — leading to a withdrawal from culture — or, as entirely benign — leading to an uncritical accommodation to the dominant cultural values.

 
Philosophy of Education

A missional approach provides the context within which we pursue the integration of our educational task:

• Providing scholarly grounding in the Christian tradition of biblical-theological-historical reflection, which engenders confidence in the Gospel, fosters spiritual vitality and animates creative and faithful ministry;

• Spiritual formation in the practices and disciplines of following Jesus, established with deep biblical-theological roots, and given an outward expression in servanthood throughout every sphere of life.

• Preparation for the practice of ministry (in its varied forms) which is shaped by biblical-theological convictions, operating with sound theological reflection, and expressed through the lives of people being shaped by the Gospel.

Positive Formulation: a missional approach to theological education affirms that:

1. The church is the people of God; gathered, reconciled, equipped, and sent by God into the world, to witness to the Gospel in the power of the Spirit.

2. Ministry is understood as the obedient and faithful use of gifts on the part of the whole people of God. Pastoral leadership is an ordained and godly office necessary to the nurture and facilitating of gifts of the people of God in ministry.

3. Ministry is a following after Christ into the world as a people of Christ-like character and virtue shaped by the presence and reality of the Spirit.

4. Ministry and witness are entrusted to the entire people of God: to be a Christian is to share with others in the mission of the triune God in and for the world.

5. A crucial role for pastoral leadership is to model faithful and creative engagement with our culture.

6. Christian scholarship, spiritual formation and the practice of ministry have their common focus in being properly oriented towards the expression of the gospel for the world.

7. The mission of the church extends to discerning the ways in which culture reflects both God’s grace and desire for beauty and order, as well as the distortions and disorder caused by human sin. The world, therefore, continues to be a place of God’s continuing activity.

8. Only in the context of genuine koinonia, in a true fellowship of mutual care and love, celebrating the life of the Gospel, do we become the church, sharing in God’s mission to the world.

The missional paradigm informs every Tyndale Seminary program. If you would like more information about our programs, please contact one of our Seminary Admissions Counsellors.


Missional Education

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