teaching at a missional seminary

This is the third installment on teaching at a missional seminary. Last year Biblical’s faculty reflected on how we teach our missional curriculum. The impetus for the project was to give careful attention to the delivery of theological education and how it is shaped by theological commitments. Here are some more responses of the faculty to the question “How do your missional commitments shape your teaching?”

Professor Steve Taylor:

Because, as a New Testament teacher, I am very interested in developing a hermeneutic that supports a missional theology and outlook, I teach the NT from a redemptive-historical stance, drawing heavily on the Old Testament. Because the Old Testament is patient to a relatively coherent Jewish reading (in which the Law and Israel defined by it are the very meaning of the Hebrew Bible), I stress to my students that a Christian reading has to be Christotelic, namely that the stories, institution, ethical injunctions, and motifs of the Old Testament (and this would include Israel herself) have to be read first on their own terms in order to grasp (second) how Jesus Christ is the ultimate goal or meaning of it all. I hope to train students to recognize the powerful particularity of each text, but also the unity and ultimately universal application to be found in Christ (“Christ is the telos of the Law,” Rom 10:4). This serves the “missional” agenda by reminding the student at every turn that God’s mission is ultimately summed up in Christ and that normative Christian use of the Bible must be tied to the Gospel.

Professor Derek Cooper:

The notion of generous orthodoxy greatly informs my teaching of world Christian history, world religions, and historical theology. In the spirit of generous orthodoxy, which I understand to be a charitable posture toward theologically “centered” and classically orthodox Christian traditions, I highlight the Spirit’s love for and presence in the world in the history of Christianity. I also emphasize the church’s Spirit-filled vocation to follow Jesus into the world by uniting with orthodox Christian traditions in mission and also by engaging the non-Christian community in ways that promote the good news of Jesus Christ.

Professor Bryan Maier:

At Biblical, our counseling program provides all of the academic and practical requirements for a counseling license in the state of Pennsylvania. However, my goal as professor is not only to provide that material, but also help them see the bigger picture – how God will use them in the lives of others. This is why we emphasize wisdom in our program and part of the definition of wisdom is to recognize God’s mission in the world and seek to further it. In addition, I believe God is up to something in the lives of each of my students. He called them to Biblical because his mission has a claim on them. It is my job to try to cooperate with that mission as I teach them theory, techniques, and tools.

Professor Phil Monroe:

Counseling as the global mission of the Church: counseling has too long been viewed as a peripheral agenda of the church in the US. Even worse, it is often viewed through a Western/professional lens, disregarding the resources and work of a developing world. Enter the Capetown Declaration emerging out of the Third International Lausanne Congress held just over a year ago in South Africa. I urge you to read the statement and to adopt it as a concise description (okay, not quite concise but close to it!) of the mission of counsel and care around the world. A portion of the introduction reads;

“We live in a world of unprecedented suffering and brokenness. These human conditions include different types and levels of social and psychological suffering which are often minimized, neglected or, because they are beyond what local people can cope with at a given time, left unattended or addressed from out-of-context perspectives. We believe these omissions are both unjust and costly to individuals and communities. Virtually all of the major public health problems in the world have a psychosocial component. There is no complete health without physical, communal and psychological health.

… It is imperative that we respond to these needs in ways consistent with our Christian commitments and with culturally sensitive, holistic, systemic, and collaborative approaches.

Our hope is that this declaration will point us toward the creation of a new paradigm for the mutual learning, empowering and training of mental health professionals, laypersons, and pastors worldwide along the following four dimensions.”

Four dimensions of global counsel and care: the Declaration looks at four dimensions of counsel as mission: Christian, holistic and systemic, indigenous, and collaborative. Consider the following pithy phrases:

  • “We believe it a matter of Biblical justice that resources and initiatives which meet basic human needs and promote psychological wellness should be encouraged, nurtured and distributed more equitably throughout the world.”
  • “Pathology, spirituality, treatment and healing must be understood in both individual and collective perspectives.”
  • “We believe that it is important to honor as a valuable part of the process of healing, the indigenous rituals, practices, and stories of a culture that are consistent with local indigenous, Biblical Christian theologies. Thus, the global community should: (a) develop a perspective of relating and learning from local communities, (b) be encouraged to develop culturally appropriate and Biblically congruent psychological perspectives, theories, models and resources, (c) be empowered to develop training centers, and (d) be invited to participate in the worldwide sharing of their knowledge and experiences.”
  • And finally, “We are committed to worldwide mutual empowerment and collaborative learning among all those involved in helping people including mental health practitioners, educators, community workers, lay persons, and pastors.”

You can see here that counseling as mission of the global church is NOT a one-way street from West to developing nations but a collaborative learning and helping enterprise for the purpose of serving all of God’s people. Read the whole statement and consider offering your support by signing on through the website.

About the Author

Susan Disston

Dr. Susan Disston

Susan Disston, DMin, was the Director of Institutional Assessment and Hybrid Learning at Biblical Seminary and taught in the Doctor of Ministry program.

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