Mission-shaped ministry in ministry-shaped churches

Enjoying sitting in on a panel discussion about how to train men and women for ministry and mission in a multi-cultural and multi-religious setting? It seems that the question is easier to ask than to answer.  For the classic western college or seminary, one answer seems to include the building of partnerships with seminaries in those countries that contribute to the multi-cultural setting in the home base. Another involves exposing future pastors to Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist (amongothers) centres of worship and their respective leaders and representatives.

Beyond these more obvious responses, it is also becoming increasingly obvious that the traditional model of a three year preparation (as it is here in the UK) may in fact be too short a time period to realistically expect much from the training institute. The challenge requires the acquisition of cross-cultural skills, language acquisition, an ability to negotiate religious plurality, and other skills.

It is apparent that these are not readily squeezed into the classic model of a college or seminary training that offers everything that will be required for a life-time’s ministry. The reality of the challenge should suggest a greater modesty with respect to the claim about what can be acheved in three years. Additionally, it demands an accompanying emphasis on life-long learning and the intentional provision of formal and informal opportunities to accompany the journey of ministry.

An emphasis on ministry that is mission-shaped then allows for the breaking down of the classical divides between being trained and set aside as either minister or missionary. It remains to be seen as to whether the current re-evaluation of patterns of ministry training will deliver, though surely we should be praying to this end. However, focussing solely on the individual who is being trained to offer mission-shaped ministry is destined to overlook the fact that congregational expectations are going to have to be addressed. This will require congregational re-education and the role of a theological college in this regard remains an unanswered challenge.

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One Comment on “Mission-shaped ministry in ministry-shaped churches”

  1. simon jones Says:

    It’s hard to know where to start with this. I wasn’t in the seminar, so I don’t know what was said. But my experience of our colleges is that they are still training men to run church as it was in the 1950s. Now, I know there are more women being trained (praise God) but they are having to learn to be ministers like men have done it for years.
    We are training people to lead churches in a world that no longer exists. Being missional is not about bolting on a bit of outreach to a traditional pastoral and teaching model of ministry.
    I’m not sure about the timing of training. Three years full time with placements could be sufficient. My real concern is with curriculum – what are we teaching and how are we forming the men and women that we are training.
    I have to say that I am concerned about the greater emphasis on sacramental ministry that seems to be coming to the fore among our baptist thinkers – in evidence at this year’s assembly in Ruth Gouldbourne’s lecture and Paul Goodliffe’s new book –
    I’m not sure how this makes us more engaged and missional. But I’m sure someone will put me right!


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