Recently, a group of traditional, original-language-program students submitted to me four questions they said were questions they commonly had and heard among their student colleagues. I thought it might be good to share the questions — and my answers — with you.

 Q. How should a student rightly respond to “missional ideas” they find new, different, or challenging? 

A.  The Bible, of course, is the final authority here at Biblical Seminary. A student is correct to subject any ideas they hear to the authority of the Word of God. At Biblical, we ENCOURAGE the spirit of the Bereans, who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to seewhether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

This is consistent with the best of missional thought, theology, and ministry worldwide. Consider the Cape Town Commitment, a statement of missional Christianity affirmed by the global members of the Lausanne Movement. Immediately after urging all seminaries to conduct regular “missional” audits of their curricula, that document makes the following statement: “We long that all church planters and theological educators should place the Bible at the center of their partnership, not just in doctrinal statements but in practice.”

Now, we do expect that students come to Biblical to learn, not to be argumentative, hostile, or obstinately oppositional. The kind of educational environment we seek to cultivate is a community of active learners, not one of either passive recipients or obnoxious debaters.

One energizing but potentially unnerving quality about a missional approach to theology and ministry is that we are all learning to a degree as we go. Because God is bigger than our theological boxes and because God is resourceful in how He goes about accomplishing His mission, we can expect to be surprised at how God is working sometimes, and to see God raise up unexpected people or work through surprising circumstances to get His will accomplished. Adaptability and flexibility are part and parcel of what it means to be missional — within the parameters of the character of God and the revealed will of God, of course.

We expect that students engaging missional ideas at Biblical will find themselves stretched, challenged, and sometimes perplexed. Not only do we suggest that this will happen, we encourage students — and regularly encourage ourselves — to get used to this discomfort.  This is the “new normal,” part of what it means to be engaged in mission with an “untamed God.”

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also

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