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The crisis facing seminaries + theological education

November 1, 2011

Consider this a type of press release for our newly launched initiative on re-imagining theological education. 😉

Undoubtedly there is a crisis facing the institutions that train our leaders for work in the church. Students leave seminary with crippling amounts of debt, leave feeling unprepared to lead the people of God in discipleship and mission in an increasingly post-Christian world and a staggering number of them will have left the ministry entirely within 5 years. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

However, the predominant thought is that because we’re shifting from Christendom to post-Christendom, our seminaries simply need to adjust to that cultural change and do a better job making seminary more affordable and accessible (which they definitely do) and probably change some learning styles (this is a gross-oversimplification, but these are probably the biggest ideas on their part). But what if there is something much bigger happening that we’re not seeing? What if we are missing the forest for the trees? What if we are the ones who created the crisis we’re in and not a shifting culture we must catch up to?

3DM and The Order of Mission are launching an initiative exploring some of these questions and offering a couple of preliminary steps forward (I say preliminary because it is impossible for one or two entities to fix all that ails the world of theological education, it will take a movement of various entities). We have written a formal whitepaper on this subject as well as a video to spark this much needed discussion.

Both can be viewed at:

But here is the video that’s kicking it all off! Feel free to embed it anywhere you’d like to push the conversation out.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. James Paul permalink
    November 1, 2011 4:12 pm

    This is an important conversation. The new site looks great!

    (FYI: Currently, the video isn’t loading at either URL.)

  2. November 1, 2011 4:18 pm

    James – go to the main page, it loads from there.

    Wonderful Mike – amazing how through very, very different routes we can come to the same point! i wonder how far the journey will run parallel…

    God bless,


  3. November 1, 2011 9:48 pm

    Been musing similarly lately, especially as my own church “floats” the idea of me becoming a licensed pastor. They are not suggesting seminary though, just some good reading. 🙂

  4. November 1, 2011 11:34 pm

    Great video Mike and great questions, I like where you are going with this and excited about where it will lead to move the kingdom forward “character and competency” (see you next week at Pawleys Island)!


  5. November 2, 2011 4:28 am

    Hi Mike, I enjoyed being with your team last Thursday night and hearing your dreams for re-imagining theological education. 3DM is a great fit for our spiritual formation small groups at The Master’s Institute because we are already doing much of what you are proposing and can say – it works! I look forward to our further dialogue and to being with you and the team when you are in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Area next Spring.

  6. November 2, 2011 4:39 pm

    Thanks for this post, video, white paper etc etc. What you are saying really resonates with me. As a 37 yr old lay leader with a career in the construction industry, I found myself longing for a form of serious theological training to equip me in my ministries. I’m currently at Fuller Theological Seminary having relocated from North East England… I’m not looking to do ‘traditional’ ministry, and whilst I am loving my time here I can identify with many of the issues that are raised (which incidentally, I think Fuller are also working to understand).
    Having just spent a day listening to Alan Hirsch, I am both frustrated at the forms of church and ministry that are often considered ‘normal’ and yet excited about what God seems to be doing in creating new paradigms for growing disciples who will be good news.
    Thanks for your insights… they continue to force me to think about what could be.

  7. Larry Avery permalink
    November 2, 2011 6:13 pm

    This is so very eye opening, well, in a squinting manner? Knowing that endless young people are so embedded in educational processes that are headed in the wrong direction seems so challenging. I pray that God, will help grab the attention of the most influential worldwide to the eye opening reality and need to re-focus on Imitation of Jesus. Sounds so simple. Lord Please Help Us.

  8. Thomas Willer permalink
    November 2, 2011 11:41 pm

    I totally agree with the video. I do have one learning experience to share especially about “competences”. When we in the SALT network in Scandinavia did theological training for a life in mission in a post christendom context, we found, that our students couldnt imagine being in churches that was still thinking in a christendom paradigm. So there is going to be a clash between post christendom theological training and christendom churces. You end up producing candidates that they are not asking for. Does it make sense?

    • November 3, 2011 2:05 am

      That definitely makes sense. I wonder if part of the “competencies” we’ll need to teach is how to lovingly transition a church without blowing it up. As I tried to always say, “It’s about evolution not revolution.”

  9. Jaime Feathere permalink
    November 3, 2011 4:03 pm

    Dear Mike,
    You are right on in what you’ve said & shone here. I have been studying for 4 years at a school which actively has engaged in politics and unethical rostering… Honesty goes out the window when you’re trying to save a school from closing… when you don’t want to face the reality of there are no calls to place people in… but shut people down after they spend about $85 & are almost finished… how can you prove that they are guilty?….

  10. Chris Norman permalink
    November 6, 2011 1:38 am

    Love the video, Mike. As one who has both an MDiv. and a DMin. I know the inadequacies of theological education from the halls of Christendom. I did learn theology, but I wasn’t mentored in the way Jesus and the early church mentored leaders. No wonder much of the church believes discipleship equals a transfer of knowledge. It was the way I was trained. I am so grateful for 3DM. Keep pressing forward!

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