Thus far in this series, we’ve established that the church in America and around the world is in desperate need of godly, qualified leaders who can effectively fulfill the Great Commission. We’ve also talked briefly about Bethany Baptist Church’s attempt to fill that void by training leaders within our congregation. While we’re not opposed to Bible colleges and seminaries, we also believe that the local church has a unique responsibility to equip men for ministry.
Before moving on, it’s important to define just what I’m advocating for. I want to list a few tenets of Bethany’s approach to theological education. The remainder of this series will be spent defending those tenets from the Scriptures and from practical observation.
Tenets of Bethany’s philosophy of theological education:
- Theological education and leadership development must be based in the life, ministry, and authority of the local church. This means more than having a “church-housed” education program. Rather, it requires the development of a robust “church-based” education program that is rooted in the organic ministry of the church family.
- The primary objective in training future pastors is to foster ordinate affections and spiritual maturity. While academic knowledge and practical skills are extremely important, they must be developed in conjunction with love for God and spiritual discipline. Failure to take seriously the need to train the affections will result in “pastors without chests” and churches steeped in pride, legalism, elitism, and showmanship. We believe that the family and the local church are uniquely suited for developing the affections and can accomplish this end in a way that parachurch organizations are unable to replicate.
- Theological education is a natural and necessary extension of the Great Commission. This is where our philosophy of education intersects with our philosophy of missions. We believe that churches have a responsibilities to do missions as well as support missions. This requires that pastors and missionaries be trained within the congregation in order to carry out the goals of Great Commission ministry.
- Pastors and churches need to have a multi-generation vision. This requires churches to train leadership from within so that the vision and mission of the church can be effectively perpetuated into future generations.
These statements are the building blocks of Bethany’s approach to education and pastoral training. We believe that these tenets are rooted in biblical principles and produce many practical advantages. We will spend the rest of defending these claims. In the next post, we will begin to look at what the New Testament has to say about theological education.
For a fuller study of this concept I recommend C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, David deBruyn, The Conservative Church, and Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections.