Over the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at Bethany Baptist Church’s philosophy of theological education. We’ve established that, in accordance with New Testament patterns and principles, theological education should be heart-focused, church-based, and missions-oriented. As I’ve talked with people about this vision for higher education, I’m often met with skeptical sympathy. Many agree with it in theory but have one piercing concern: “Yes, but does it actually work?”
That seems to be the critical question that gets asked whenever the subject of church-based leadership development comes up. Is this all just an idealistic fantasy that ignores the realities of the real world? Can this approach actually train up qualified pastors and missionaries who have the skills and knowledge to minister in reality?
I not only believe that the principles behind this kind of education are sound but that they actually do work in the real world. I can attest to this personally. I received the entirety of my theological education in a church-based context, first through the Antioch School and then through TEAM Work. I’m personally very grateful that God led me to this approach and for the practical benefits I’ve received from it.
I’m sure I would have loved Bible college. But looking back, I can see how the environment might have been personally dangerous for me. Studying the way I have has not only given me the tools I’ve needed for ministry, it also forced me to confront heart issues. This combination of education and sanctification has proved invaluable as I’ve entered into pastoral ministry.
I believe that the New Testament gives us many principles that should motivate churches to proactively train the next generation of leaders. Our approach to theological education should recognize the centrality of the local church and the importance of ordinate affections. Bethany’s Theological Education And Mentoring Work program is designed to do all that while providing students with quality, seminary-level training to prepare them for life and ministry.