Michael Wilburn | Church Based Theological Education
2:01PM Feb 12, 2021
Jonathan J. Armstrong
We're extremely grateful that you're gathered here. I'm going to begin just with a brief prayer, if I may, these are very unusual times. And I'd like us to remember the words of our Lord beginning in chapter 17, of the Gospel of John. When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, Father, The hour has come glorify Your son, that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you may have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on Earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. If you join me for a brief prayer before we begin, please, our Heavenly Father, we come before you as your children, and we do plead that you would give us wisdom and direction. Lord you see that many of those gathered here are leaders in your church and leaders in in various communities, settings that you placed us we pray for wisdom, we pray for courage, we pray that we would be hearing the voice of the good shepherd who, who communicates with his sheep by voice, or you know us by name, and we know your voice. May we cherish that connection fill us with your Holy Spirit. Even now, Father, as we discuss these ideas, which have massively more implication and more relevance now than ever, we pray that you would be with Dr. Wilburn give him also the word articulation and grace as we communicate with one another on this technological platform. We thank you in your name, amen. It's our tremendous privilege today to have with us Dr. Michael Wilburn. He will be presenting to us He is the senior pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church, and a trustee at Virginia Beach Theological Seminary. Without further ado, Michael.
Thank you, Dr. Armstrong, I've had the joy of spending time with you on these types of collaborations before an interview. And I'm really thankful for what the Aqueduct project and Unitas Fidei is doing, to bring us together in these collaborative conversations. So if you, this is your first experience with the Aqueduct project, you need to check out their website previous studies that they've done previous conversations, also, their YouTube channel has a lot of great discussions, I encourage you to see each one. And as we have this conversation today, I'm as excited about us collaborating in the discussion time. So I don't want to take all of our time to review the ins and outs of the dissertation research that I've done concerning church based theological education, I want to review it, and then share some documents with you. And then also put out some questions so we can interact, you are the practitioners of this. Many of you are doing this faithfully at multiple levels, graduate level, college level, and then Bible Institute level. And your input today is extremely valued, and, and helpful. So I'm going to start by sharing my screen so that you can see the slides that I have prepared today. And I want to begin by just giving you an overview of what we'll cover. And these are the categories I'd like to review with you. And then we'll switch to making some applications and have a conversation towards the end. What we'll cover today is the CBTE research overview. Now, when I refer to CBTE, that's referring to church based theological education. Well overview the research that was done, some of you were participants in that research, and I appreciate it very much. It's good to keep that conversation going with you today. We'll then look at biblical foundations in the content analysis, the references that that many interviewers made to why they were committed to church based theological education, when then go to three foundational articles and the timing of those articles and how key they were in galvanizing This not only as a model of education, but as a movement of theological education. I did want to try to give you a definition for what church based theological education is, and we can have discussions on that towards the end, but as an attempt to try to put things together and galvan-- galvanized us as a group, I want to offer that three key areas I want to touch. I'm not going to go too deeply into educational philosophy, but I do want to mention the models that are out there and discuss where CBT institutions are. I do want to spend some time on church proximity and how that is judged. Perhaps you are already involved in an institution that's closely aligned to a local church, or churches. And you're wrestling through on a daily basis, how to relate between the church and the institution. That's what church proximity is about. And then I'm going to just highlight why or how CBTE institutions are going about finding their academic standards. So let's begin, I just want to give you this, this quote from Dr. Linda Cannell, Dr. Cannell, is an understudy of Ted Ward, she's now semi retired, she served on the expert panel for this study. And she's written a book, which if you've, you're not familiar with it, it's this book, Theological Education Matters: leadership education for the church. Now Dr. Cannall has promised me to given now she has more time to do a revision of this book. But look at what she says in that book, as church based efforts continue to mature. And as their leaders discover criteria and principles that will guide their practice, they could effectively replace existing seminary models. Now, that's that's a bold statement. And I know that we're not there yet. But I would point to the phrase as their leaders discover criteria and principles that will guide their practice. And that's exactly what we're doing today. That's why we're together on this conference call and session to sort of talk about what the criteria and principles are the uniquenesses of our institutions, as well as the similarities and how we can learn from one another and simply be aware of one another, that we're not the only ones trying to do this model of education in the church. Now an overview of the research that I've I've done and I can share with you this this day. What I did was a qualitative phenomenological research study. And it investigated three key areas of these institutions, educational philosophy, church, proximity and academic standards. And I'll touch on each of those later on in the presentation. These were graduate level, institutions that qualified for this study. now realize that not every institution represented today are on the graduate level, I think it is fair to say that many of the principles apply to Bible institutes and also college level teaching and instruction and consortiums with other schools. I've noticed since I've published my dissertation, a number of schools starting institutes where they're reaching church members, people who are educated in other areas may not want to be full time vocational ministers but love the word of God and love serving in the church as lay elders or deacons or teachers. But my study was focused on the graduate level arm of this, and at that time, it's not actually true now, but at the time, all 24 qualifying CBTE Institute institutions in the United States participated. So this is very much a comprehensive view of what has happened from 1980. Really to the present. The research is based on 36 total semi structured interviews, 24 of those interviews were with current administrators. So they were with folks who are currently in their role as President, Vice President, academic dean, or Provost. 12 interviews were with founding pastors, presidents or administrators. So as a movement of theological education, many of these folks are still available to be to hear from why the institution was started, what were the founding principles, what was the mission of the institution. And so the entire research study looks at church based theological education, first as a model of theological education. And then as a movement, biblical foundation, it was very clear that the reason why these institutions are educating in the local church is because they believe that theological education at its core is a gospel issue. That it is the the outflow of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit. And many of them would see their whole institutions purpose, summarized in the words of the Great Commission, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. This was brought up multiple times, finding the roots and the foundation of their institution to come alongside the church and accomplish this aspect of the Great Commission and without fail, and these interviews and without even having to look it up, many of the leaders would reference 2 Timothy 2:2, and the four generations that are present there, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, and trust those two faithful men who will be able to teach others also. And what I would hear frequently from those interviewees is that this is the work of the church, and therefore the institution that's accomplishing this passing to the next generation, theological education needed to be embedded in the local church. So just simply stated, theological education is inherent to the Great Commission, and theological education is a church responsibility. Beyond that, thinking of this as a movement of education, I want to point out three foundational articles. Now, at the end of the presentation, I'm going to do two things, a couple things for you. I'm going to take all of these slides and I'm going to put them in the comment section as a PDF. So if you're taking notes, you can rest assured you'll get all the slides and the references to the different issues. And these three articles, I'm going to provide them for you. Because of the dates of these articles. They are not necessarily available online, unless you have a good access to a library where you can go deep down in the archives to find them. But when I researched the literature, related to CBTE education, they were these three articles had profound influence on it as a movement. The first one being David singers, Article seminary goes to church and alternative approach at Christianity Today, February 10, 1978. Effectively that is a brief description of the relationship between Talbot Theological Seminary, and what would later become the Masters seminary at Grace Community Church. And it's describing the relationship in those early formative years. James Montgomery Boyce, then published an article church in seminary reciprocal relationship, that coming the next year, February 2, 1979. And voices article is significant by coining the term a reciprocal relationship, trying to describe the proximity between the church and the institution. And perhaps the most recognized article among CBTE institutions is john frames, Article proposal for a new seminary, which was published in 1978. Dr. Frame served on this, this dissertation committee as one of my experts for the interview protocol before we even started, it was very helpful. But this article, many of you have already read it. If you haven't, this is sort of the origins of the new wave of CBTE institutions. He wrote it in 1972. It was so radical that no one would publish it. In fact, it's a little bit miss published under the Journal of pastoral practice, but it took six years to find somebody to put it into print for him. He has since added postscripts, a couple of times, and narrowed in his view of why there needed to be a new model of seminary closer to the local church. A couple of things Dr. Frame says in that article. The first one is this, the academic machinery is simply incapable of measuring the things that really matter. A man's obedience to God's word, his perseverance in prayer, his self control, his ability to rule without pride, the spiritual power of his preaching and the conversion of men, and the edification of the church. Now, please know Dr. Frame himself was writing this as he was serving in an established seminary and continued to be recognized that for the vast majority of men who would leave local churches, the Academy was not preparing them for what mattered most. And as the Academy was giving itself over to academic accreditation standards, it was being drawn away from its relationship to the church itself, leaving men ill equipped to go back to their churches and faithfully serve as local church pastors. So his answer is, I see the new seminary as a church. My suggestion would be that we could have scholarship training centers, at churches, and now when it gets to the ministry training centers, so these really are the origins of what we know now is the church based theological education movement. And the dates are critical you saw in 1978, twice in 1979, because this movement really began around the year 1980. So of the 2424 institutions within the research study, 21 of them were founded after the year 1980. Now, there's some precursors, some of you are involved in institutions that started earlier than that, and you were ahead of the curve. Okay. But 1980 as a movement, theological education is the central date. I was reviewing the information that prior to this call you sent in, and even among the institutions represented and panelists for today's conversation, nine of the 13 institutions have started since 1980, or at least in the last 40 years. So as I said, I'm going to send all three of those articles in the comment section when we get to the discussion and towards the end, so you'll have access to those articles themselves. One of them has poor quality, but it's the best I could do for you on short notice, will give you a definition, a definition of church based theological education. A CBT institution is a theological education institution that functions on a Church's campus and under a Church's authority in a complimentary relationship. Now that is similar to Dr. Boyce's term reciprocal relationship. But by complimentary we we mean that the school is intended to serve the purposes and the needs of the church, that the Great Commission and the training up of spiritual leaders, elders, deacons, that was given to the church, and CBTE institutions actually find their find their value in serving a particular local church. And the tightest way you can tie that knot is to be on the churches campus and under the church's authority. Now, there's going to be some flexibility to that definition, dependent on your ecclesiology dependent on your history and how you became a CBTE institution. But even given the churches ecclesiology or even the churches educational delivery method, the institution rather's educational delivery method, the closer you're tied to the church, the stronger the emphasis, natural naturally will be for church based theological education. Let me touch on the three areas in which my research covered quickly. The first one is educational philosophy. There are four models that I used in the study, the classical model, which the goal becomes the spiritual formation of the student, the vocational model, where the goal is ministry training, preparing them to do the actual tasks of leading in the local church, the confessional model with the goal of faith creed, so adherence to a set of Creed's a set of confessions that are historical, and then the missional model where there's a gold a goal of world conversion. Now in these, in the research, we CBTE institutions were just as diverse and or confused on educational philosophy. As the established seminaries, there was nothing conclusive that came from our research related to these models that were very sharp and strong opinions about what the focus of their theological education should be. But there was no consensus. And quite frankly, that's exactly what I found in the literature base. If you're interested in thinking through education, philosophy in theological education, here, here's a place to start these three resources. David, Chelsea's book between Athens and Berlin, the theological education debate, and he describes historically how we got two different views, both of spiritual formation as well as vocational training in theological education. Robert banks has offered a missional alternative approach reenvisioning theological education. And then Brian Edgar has also offered a summary of all four approaches in his article, the theology of theological education. Well, I'm not going to provide those articles in their entirety. At the end, I will put a PDF copy of the bibliography from this research and all three of these are included in the bibliography and there's about 320 or so items in the bibliography that are the the most direct contact with CBTE institutions and education. So I'll provide that at the end. Now, I do want to spend some time here, church proximity. By that I mean the relationship between the local church and the cbte institution. Three ways in which, if you're considering it, you need to judge your relationship between the church and the school in the means of doctrinal statement, church funding and institutional relationship. This is how I determined how closely schools were tied to the churches. First, the doctrinal statement by comparing the church and institutions doctrinal statement. Is it identical? Or is it similar? Also the method of affirmation by faculty, the acknowledgement of that doctrinal statement by the student. So the circumstance where most CBTE institutions do not require a student to adhere to their doctrinal statement. Yet, if they were to be a member of that church, they would have to at least submit to that same doctrinal statement if they were identical. Also, the doctrinal statements overall influence on the institution's academic pursuits? Did the doctrinal statement actually influence how they were going about educating? Number two is church funding, probably some of you are interested to find out maybe we can talk about it in the discussion, how your institution and other institutions are funding themselves. And I considered underneath church funding things such as budgeted funds, designated church offerings, shared donor pools, so you have givers to the church, who are also simultaneously givers to the school unified Employee Benefit groups, because they're often our small groups of people in both churches, institutions, sometimes those group benefits are shared, share physical plant and technology costs, as well as human resources. When you're in a smaller institution, everyone wears multiple hats. And so you might be serving the church at the same time that you're teaching in the institution. And that that sharing of human resource actually is one of the galvanizing factors in church proximity. And it's also how the church can provide funding by lending its pastors to be professors, for example. And then institutional relationship, their consideration should be given to governance structures, facilities, who gets a classroom when and how is that allocated? event scheduling are their joint events between the church and the school is that welcomed is that shunned? congregational involvement, how tied in is the congregation to what's happening Monday through Friday in the school and communication patterns. I was able to rate the schools in their closeness it's not a better than less than approach. It's rather just rating how closely the church and school were tied by taking these three key points and giving point values to the content analysis from the from the interviews and deriving a point value system in which would determine their closeness in church proximity. All know those are very fluid things. The next part was academic standards. CBTE is institutions pursued academic standards by exactly the same means as established seminaries. They were pursuing academic accreditation. Now it may be different but and you may wonder what others are doing. But among the full 24 schools, five we're finding their their accreditation with the Association of theological schools. At s. Five we're already accredited with the trans National Association of Christian colleges and schools to are connected to the Association of biblical higher education. Five are connected to the Association of reformed theological seminaries. Two were accredited with the distance education accreditation Association, one school was sharing regional accreditation with its undergraduate school, and six seminaries or institutions had no academic accreditation at all. And while I found that some of them were philosophically opposed to being accredited, the vast majority of the opinion within those six was it was simply too costly, or they had not arrived accreditation yet. We take the entire population CBTE institutions are finding their academic standards and precisely the same way as established seminaries. Now let me give three takeaways. And then we'll have some time for discussion questions. What would you want to walk away and learn from this research? The first thing I think that I could share, and I hope this resonates with you, is to find your uniqueness, and embed that uniqueness in your educational philosophy. I discovered that these churches and schools had a unique quality about them. So it might be that they were focused on cohort based education where they were taking only six m div students out of 18 applicants because they were committed to focusing on those six students in each year sending a cohort through and those guys being knitted together and their education and their experience. Well, if that's your uniqueness that we're going to be cohort based, and then take that and embed it within your educational philosophy. It could be internships, this was unique in one seminar that I saw, where every student was required to be involved in a full time internship in a local church somewhere within their region. So the connection to the church wasn't only their own church where the school was located, but into sister churches around the geographical area. Many of you shared mentoring relationships were significant, or your regional identity. So if you are in a location that is geographically unique to other parts of the country, then that uniqueness needs to be embedded in your educational philosophy. So if you're in a high concentrated area of military that's going to shape the type of degrees you offer. Or if you are in an urban environment that's going to shape how you're going about your theological education. And some of you serve a unique constituency. So it may be that your ecclesiology gives you more of a focus on a group of churches, not just a single local church, well, that's okay, you're serving them. Or you're connected to an undergraduate school and that undergraduate school is primarily feeding your students to your population, or parachurch networks. Grimm key seminary is an example that just this, just this spring launched classes, and a seminary education, all associated in one local church and the acts 29 network, the example of them finding their uniqueness, and embedding it into their educational philosophy. Number two, I would encourage you to leverage your hidden curriculum. Now, accreditation is not going to evaluate this, nor can they. But this follows Ted Ward's emphasis on non formal education. One of the reasons institutions are tied to churches because they believe that the whole student is being formed by the whole educational experience. So it's its head, its heart in its hands. It's how they think. It's the affective domain of how they relate to their God. And it is how they're obedient with their actual work. And if you want to influence the whole student, one of the ways of doing that is embedding the whole educational experience within the church. So what happens outside of the classroom, or outside of the portal is as important if not more important in the actual education of the student, even though it's a bit of a hidden curriculum and doesn't make its way on a listed syllabi for any individual course. The one word, best description that I heard out of all of these interviews was, this creates a church leanness in the life of the school. There's a church leanness about how we go about theological education. One administrator said to me, the advantage from the beginning that we saw in doing it in the local church context is that we could press home to our students, that it is for the church. And so when they're seeing you as a professor or as an administrator, in the regular Sunday school, classroom, or prayer meeting, or before and after services, or joining you for a counseling session, they are learning as much from those church based experiences as they are when they're turning in their research paper or they're presenting in a classroom setting. Number three, I would encourage you to plan for leadership succession, both in the church and institution. So many of the schools that are involved in this right now are still in their first generation of leadership. And there are good examples and there are poor examples of leadership training. transitions in which the school was started by a significant key leader. But there was a failure between first gen and second gen leadership, or there was a division between the leadership in the church and the leadership in the institution. I don't mean to say in any way that that's easy to accomplish. But what I do encourage is that that conversation within your institution needs to happen sooner, rather than later. And you need to be able to come to some agreements on how it is to be rolled out and how everyone is on board. Because so much depends on the personal character, and quality of the key leader who started the institution, you don't want to falter with a handoff to the next generation as they come. So with those are the three key takeaways. And I want you to think through that, find your uniqueness and embed it into your educational philosophy. leverage your hidden curriculum, talk about that among your faculty, share that with your students, promote that in your student recruitment, your hidden curriculum, and then plan for leadership succession, both in the church and the institution. I want to stop the presentation there. We're at about 30 minutes in. And I want to roll to some discussion questions. In fact, I'm going to leave that up for just a minute. But I'd like to hear back from you. And you certainly will myself to respond. But I would like this to be a collaborative conversation. So let's begin by asking as a model of theological education, what distinguishes your cbte institution from an established seminary? And if you would just when you answer that question, if you just give us your name, and also what institution you're serving in.
We'll head right into that question. If I can just make a PA announcement. We want to thank Dr. Michael Wilburn for this presentation. Applause doesn't work very well on on Zoom, but I'm doing this to say thank you so much for your work for us. And those of us who have joined us, but don't have their cameras showing if you're willing to show your camera, we'll be able to connect better to you and understand your thoughts better. Maybe you didn't shower today. That's okay. Life is a little unusual right now, we still want to see you and connect to you. Let's return to Dr. Wilburn's. First question there. You can also drop your own questions to how this relates to your institution and topics you'd also like for discussion?
Well, I'll begin. Since I seem to be on the top of the screen, I'm Pastor Michael Herbert. I'm the Dean of New York School of the Bible, which is Ministry of Calvary Baptist Church in the middle of Manhattan, New York City. I think what that what distinguishes our institution from a seminary and I've worked for a couple of seminaries, I used to be the new york Center Director for Bethel seminary, of the East and most of our students are from a diversity of backgrounds ethnically at a diversity of backgrounds educationally. So we are distinguished from a seminar immediately because we can have in our classroom, we can have somebody with two master's degrees, and not it, you know, who has the academic ability to be able to do graduate level work, and they're sitting next to someone who did not graduate from high school and hasn't participated in any in any advance educational endeavors. So we have a, you know, we have a diversity of people, you know, and what happens is, it makes the discussions and the understanding the perspectives much richer, it can be also very challenging for the instructor. So instructors have to have a better grasp of how to instruct and teach people from a diversity of educational and ethnic cultural backgrounds. So I think that's one of the things that distinguishes us, particularly here in New York City, and we have people from so many ethnic backgrounds and cultural backgrounds, English as a second language.
So that's great. Let's go to the other side of the country. I see Andrew Pak on the line, Andrew, tell us a bit about what's happening in your institution, and how you're trying to do a similar thing to Michael Herbert.
Sure. So we are, my name is Andrew Pak, I'm the Academic Director of the cascade School of Theology in the Pacific Northwest. We are a ministry of the North American Baptist Northwest, and we understand ourselves to be servants of those, those churches in our region. We partner with Sioux Falls Seminary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and we're doing we're doing what's called competency based theological education is kind of the pedagogy that we we utilize. What's really unique about our program is that for the most part, most of our students don't engage in what we would call classes, or think of as classes for the most part, we have cohorts that that certainly do engage in, in academic endeavors together, but for the most part, our students are mentored. So each student has a team of three mentors, an academic mentor, who makes sure they're performing at the graduate level. And then a pastoral mentor and a personal mentor. So the pastoral mentor is taking their coursework for lack of a better word, or the curriculum and applying it directly to the context of a local church. And then the pastoral, or the personal mentor then is dealing with the spiritual formation elements or the Christian formation elements of, of that students. So each student, instead of walking through a set of courses is really walking with a set of mentors through a set of sort of what we call outcomes, which are the sort of static, the static expectation, you know, Biblical Studies, okay. And then those mentors walk them through different, different ways to get there.
Yeah, that's exactly what I was referring to your uniqueness, mentorship base, and using that as a model? Anybody else want to comment on this question before we move ahead to question number two?
that was good coming off of Andrews. My name is Caleb Keller, I'm Associate faculty member with the Antioch School of church planning and leadership development. I wanted to highlight the competency based nature of the of the model that we use, I resonate a lot with what Andrew was saying with respect to the outcomes that we're looking for are that people are competent to lead in churches and lead in ministries. And there's a limitation with respect to the extent to which a traditional academic approach of paper writing and project accomplishment is going to get that done. And so what we want to do sounds like what Andrew is doing as well is allows students to demonstrate that they're competent in the theological ideas in their ministries, tasks, in a way that is effective for them. That way, we don't have to shove everybody through an educational model that works only for a handful of people. So that's, that's how I would articulate our uniqueness.
Yeah, if you're not familiar with the Antioch School and the good work that Caleb and others are doing there, I have appreciate how collaborative they've been with other schools and institutions, not just in the United States, which is what I've been discussing here. But more globally, guys, you're doing really great work Caleb, in your your beards a lot longer than it was last time. I saw you too. It looks great. But we're gonna
May I ask before we move from this question to from where I sit, I would have expected that the cost point for traditional seminary education and church based theological education would have come up as a talking point, it hasn't yet. So it may be by show of hands, for how many of your institutions has the narrative been seminary is unsustainably expensive.
We need an alternative that show up. I think, I think two things there one, Thad James from Birmingham Theological Seminary. And we were founded in 1972. Dr. Frank Barker, Dr. Bill Hayes, founders of the Presbyterian Church in America, you know, they saw back in 72, not beating up on brick and mortar seminaries, but that I just finished an hour long interview on the phone with a prospective student. And what separates us one is the pastor professors. Two would be the cost. Were $200 a class as opposed to, you know, $500, $600, $700, $800 an hour, which is just insurmountable. The other thing too is that we have pastor professors. And so I would never, you know, diminish the The, the, what you need as far as the academic and the theological. Now our model gets academic and the theological, but also the practical, because our professors are pastors, and we can't pretend In the climate that we're in today, where if you looked at that last LifeWay survey in the last Barna survey, Americans are ever increasingly becoming theologically illiterate. And LifeWay did a study on the 12 lies that Christians believe, and how are we going to combat if we are not being sound theologically, and I go to Africa every year, and I teach, and it's just me and they've made they have closed churches. Because of the theological problems that are existing there. They're going to make seminary education a foundation, you have to have a bachelor's, before you can start a church, let alone having a Master's, and so on model has been effective for almost 50 years now, of church based and each one of our learning centers are in churches. Again, we have pastors as professors. So our students, our average student takes about two classes a semester, because they're working. They have families, they're in ministry, but yet, we're able to train them from a practical but also from an academic and theological perspective. Well, what's coming out there and what's already out there in the world.
Dr. James, are you still doing that in the in the prison system?
Oh, yeah, well, not now on a 30 day hiatus, so we can't go into, into into prisons. But in fact, Monday I was supposed to be starting the process of interviewing for our next cohort. We started in 2000. I mean, in 2016, at Brent, and Brent, Alabama at Bibb county Correctional Facility, we have a two year curriculum. So in our first graduating class, we had 10 men, 4 received master's degrees for the head undergraduate degrees and six received certificates. We have six of those men and three different institutions and the wardens, the chaplains are just madly in love with what our men are doing. We're transforming the institution, I kept pulling me in with me at bib, two of my teaching assistants two of them, we have two other programs jumpstart, which is a prison recidivism program. And then another one called Mac men achieving character. So we have two days of 216 men, where there's no sex, there's no drugs, no alcohol, no cell phones, they are living the lives of free men behind the walls. And then we have our second cohort, which will graduate in September, I have eight men there. And then I'm working will begin once we get the the freedom to get back into the into the prisons again, I'll begin we'll begin recruiting for our next cohort to have them in place, by the first of June to begin preparation for the semester to start in. In September.
Yeah, I would encourage anyone if if you're interested in taking your education into a correctional facility. Get in touch with Dr. James that he would be very helpful. He's very generous with his time.
Like what Michael, if I can make a point? Your question about the difference between what we do and what the traditional seminaries have done. One of the things we focused on is when a student calls and asks about what we're doing. The first question I want to know from them is, what their goals are. And if their goals are really to go on for more occasion to be more on an academic level, I steer them away from what we do on to one of the more traditional seminaries, because that's their focus is really developing more of the scholar there. What we want to do is focus on ministry, as well as personal development. So instead of writing academic papers, we really focus on helping them develop the best way of putting together a good sermon, which in reality is an academic paper that's not going to sit in a drawer, but can be used even on the language level. And one of my heroes was Ted Ward, in his writings, and talking about these two levels of theological education. So what we want to do with the language is, is do that second level of making them proficient in understanding enough of the language through a tool like logos, Bible software, which we require, and enable them to use the language and understand enough of it to know how to research it from the scholars have done the work rather than trying to be the scholar writing those textbooks. So from what we're doing, we're trying to get people into the church, doing these things right away, rather than having to unlearn how to be an academic, and then learning how to put it into the church context. They're there from day one.
Outstanding. Dr. Bennett, you're with metro Atlanta seminary, correct?
Yeah, sorry about that.
No, no, that's, that's fantastic. Can I connect that I've never got a chance to meet Dan, who's on the line. Dan, you're with Metro Baltimore center. Right. So you guys, are you with each other?
Yeah, we we basically started as a satellite of the guys in Atlanta. They're they're walking sort of mentoring us through the process of eventually being accredited on our own. But we're operating under them for now. If If I could add just one thing, it's a common theme that I've heard that that we all of us are really focused on the formation of leaders for the church, not just, you know, their, their academic, you know, increasing their knowledge. For me, and for us, part of that means helping our students know themselves, understand who they are before God as leaders. Our church just had a seminar with Dr. Diane Langberg, who does a lot of counseling in Christian counseling. And she talked about how things like academic knowledge and achievement actually make it harder for people in power, to have empathy and understand who they are. In the people that are that they're in power over, it actually makes them more likely to abuse their power, because they don't know themselves. And so that when I heard that I, it sort of confirmed that we're on the right track in terms of helping our people, our students know who they are, because it'll make them better leaders.
So yeah, that's Dan, that's great. That's to the educational philosophy slide. The first category, which is the focus on spiritual formation as a model sounds very similar. I don't know if you have a link to that conversation that you just referenced it at all online. As we discuss if you could pop it in the group chat, that would be helpful. And everybody could go back and reference exactly what you're sharing.
Yeah, I'll take a look at that. It's, it's, it was a small piece of a larger presentation, but I'll see if I can find it.
Yeah, if you can stick it in, it'd be great. Let's move on. Number two, same question, this research to find I was pretty rigid and careful with my language that a CBTE institution is on a churches campus, and under a Church's authority. How would your church ecclesiology shape this definition? And what would you suggest to improve it? I recognize that there are both blessings and challenges to those on a campus and under authority. But is that true of your institution? If not, discuss what's keeping you separated from that defining you?
I thought I would talk about that. Michael, if I could?
Uh, we are in a, one of our philosophies is that we're not going to own our own campus, we're going to use the campus of existing local church. And right now, that's grace reformed Baptist Church in owensboro, Kentucky. And so it's really important for us to maintain that kind of contact with the local church, and to be embedded in the life of that local church. And, and, but I want to, I want to add this, and maybe our situation is kind of unique. But perhaps it's not, we actually have developed a philosophy of having dual authorities. We are under the authority of the local host church. I mean, they provide our campus, they can, they can kick us out anytime they want to, although we're not living in fear of that. But, um, one of the problems that I've seen historically, with the local church seminaries that I've been involved with, and this is like the third or fourth one is that if if the seminary if the education institution is, is exclusively embedded in one local church, it really turns to a long term have detrimental effects on the stability of the educational institution. And the way we've tried to fix that in our own case, is to have dual authorities. We have a local church that we're embedded in, and that we add, who provides our facilities, and exercises authority of the school, but we also have a board of directors from like minded churches. And at an extreme case, they could move the seminary to another local church. So we're never going to be without our local church base. But we have a little broader, broader authority base as well through that, that gives us I think, more stability, and more and a better chance at longevity and that's important for an academic institution.
Dr. Pettigrew, I think you're gonna jump in on this question too.
Yes. I'm Larry Pettegrew and I'm Emeritus, Provost Shepards Theological Seminary. And I've taught it masters Seminary in central Baptist seminary, Detroit seminary, all those are local church based Theological Seminary center. They're much more in the traditional kind of seminary curriculum i think is similar to a traditional seminary and quality students and professors, although professors, for the most part have been involved or are involved at the present time in church ministries. But as far as the shepherd's is located on a church campus, we were started by colonial Baptist Church, which is a big church, I think, run about 4,000 or so on a Sunday. And but I think there would be more than one way to explain under a churches of 30, because our churches independent from our seminaries independent from the church, and, and so the deacons and elders are not the board of the of this, the seminary. And I think our accreditation group would want us to pretty much say that we have been that we are an independent organization in that sense. But having said that, they end up we are under the strong influence the church, after all, did start to seminary, and the pastor of this church is the president of the seminary and, and many of the people on our board are members of the church at the same time, and our doctoral statement matches up almost exactly except when they talk about the elders, we talk about professors, something like that. But other than that, it's almost a straight, straight matchup, our women's ministries, we're working on that right now we're going to go from the seminar into the church a little bit better. All the the students have an opportunity to work in this church one way or another. Professors are teaching an ABS on mobilization teams and such as that. So there's a pretty strong connection. And I would say a strong influence. I don't know if I'd say authority, other than in the sense that we've talked about it there.
Okay, excellent point. Excellent point. Next question, a lot of especially for institutions that might be brand new. My question for you is what Where are you headed? What's next? As you develop as an institution? What would you like to accomplish? As far as where you are as an institution? Whether it's on the level of academic standards, or your educational philosophy or student recruitment? What are you working on? What do you Where are you dreaming to be? You know, two or three years from now?
Oh, sorry. No, you go ahead.
That's all I was gonna say is, when I was in seminary, I wants to ask the question of one of the professors, I said, What are we supposed to do with all this stuff that we're learning here? When we get into the church, and he just looked at me very puzzled, and said, Everything we do here, you should be doing in the church. He said, because if you in the church, we're doing everything you're supposed to be doing. We would not need seminaries. Now, that's a lot of years ago, I've not forgotten that. And one of the things we've been talking about doing is getting the church is involved with us. So that if a pastor who has an educated theological education, wants to do something in their individual church will work with them, learning and allowing them to teach things to their church, and somebody who wants credit for it. We'll pull that into us. We want to work this out very carefully. But we really want the church becoming the seminary. And so we want to help them to do that.
Yeah, what one of the issues that you know, I've been doing NYSB for a year, after being an instructor there for 10 years previously, and one of the things I'm discovering is that most of our student population is above above about 40 years of age, and the large majority of our student population, and so I have seen the need to, for our institution to recruit students from from the, you know, on the foreign listing, and, and to be able to speak to some of the issues that they're wrestling With us, they live out their faith. And one of the things that is particularly important for them is that we were able to offer courses online. Now we were planning to go online for fall. But guess what, we're going to be fully online now because of the crisis here in New York City. So we are going to be offering online courses for the first time, and with the hope that we will begin to reach some of our under 40s, particularly on Millennial and Gen Xers who have been online for a while and they're saying I have young family, I'm doing other things, and I can physically make it to a building. But if I could take one or two classes online, it would jumpstart my interest and enthusiasm to be instructed to excellent. Participate in church.
Michael, absolutely. acceptable answer.
What do you like?
Oh, I'd like to just jump in real quick on, you asked where we're dreaming. Yeah, yeah. So we just come through a leadership succession ourselves, which is a challenge, but it's been really good. And the long range vision that we've got. Edward Farley's book theologian has been pretty influential in our thinking, because where we're at is wanting to make theological education, something that's for everybody, not for an elite class of believer who is the leader class, that just smuggled clergy and laity right back in through the back door, but but to create pathways for education that might not wind up with a degree that might be aimed at young parents education that would be aimed at high school students are facilitating the biblical theology, education for children. Because if it's true, that every believer needs to be taught to observe the things that Jesus commanded, then we're looking, you know, 30-50 years down the road at how we can serve not just the people who want to lead and get the academic recognition. But everybody hold churches full of people.
Yeah, that's excellent. Caleb, I see. Dr. Elder is on the chat asks, How do you find church and church campus? And could you include parachurch organizations such as salvation, Army, Campus Crusade, etc. I think that any definition for church based theological education has to have some bit of flexibility for that type of that type of application. I know that in my research, Bethlehem college and seminary has a pretty amazing story where they tried to separate the school from the church early on, and the Lord in His sovereignty made the whole deal fall apart. And they now look at that as their best their best event of their school's history because it it forced the school to be tied into the church, even though it creates on some weeks a logistical nightmare to make everything happen. And many people within their church are actually housing the students by renting small, one bedroom apartments or, or bedrooms within their home. And that's the connection between their students that are churches, just the they're, they're physically present with them all the time. But I think there has to be some elasticity to broadening the definition of a church here. What may be helpful for me to hear feedback from you. For further research, what helpful information and resources could be shared or gathered among schools that are within the orb of church based theological education? Would you like you would cover it to receive as an institution or you have curiosity, things like annual reports, maybe perhaps bi-annual conferences, where schools are getting together just to discuss the state of theological education, library online resources, maybe consortiums or even consulting opportunities? Where would you like to receive back information? What type of information would you be interested in?
One of the things I would be very interested in receiving Michael is tips and intelligence on how other schools are conducting classes online. So our whole conversation has taken an epic jump forward in these last few days where everybody is thinking about online That creates some challenges and opportunities, but probably mostly opportunities for institutions of church based theological education. So what are best practices in online teaching?
Excellent. Thank you, Dr. Armstrong, anyone else?
And as far as BTS was concerned, we've already been doing video conferencing classes via zoom and goto meeting. So now when everything hit, it wasn't a drastic transformation for us to now, like the last two weeks, I've talked right here in my study, to my to my students, so no one can give me anything unless it's my wife and my children and my grandchildren. But and so for the next two weeks, because everything's on lockdown here in Birmingham, we will proceed with that. Yesterday, I created who's president, he and I met for a bit at the at the office and now, this is a great opportunity. Okay, now, let's make notes. Let's jot down things, what do we need? What do we not need? How's this working? and challenging? Again, we have pastor professor, so some of them are, are tech savvy, some are, some are not equally with our students. Okay. And so now we have the opportunity to teach and train and develop. And our goal now would be, we'll have professors that would strictly be not strictly but will be probably 95% will be doing video conferencing classes. And then we'd have other professors that would focus on doing live classes. So at the end of the day, this whole pandemic, and not to try to benefit we're not selling hand sanitizer. But this is an opportunity for us to grow. And to be better at what we're doing. And the whole idea is how do we deliver to our students. And again, as one of the other men had said, and this millennial Gen X, Gen Z, they are more tech savvy and want to do more things online. But equally, we have an older population, that's part of our seminary too, who's not necessarily comfortable with, with technology. And so we'd be able to improve on on all lines, we have been making notes, I'm going to send an email out to our, to our professors this this afternoon. words of encouragement, but also guys, hey, let's stop and think over these next two weeks, the good, the bad, and the ugly. At the end of the day, how can we get there?
My name is john Goodrich. I'm at.I'm at Moody Bible Institute. I'm a colleague of, of Jonathan Armstrong. But I also have a part time role at compass Bible Institute in California, and we are right now an accredited institution, compass Bible Institute. But one thing that I'm interested in learning more about is what church based education institutions do for academic standards, I thought we'd be talking more about that actually, in this conference. You know, we're we're trying to partner with other theological institutions that are accredited and interacting with him, they have their own standards, largely based on the agencies that accredit them. But for those, those church based institutions that either aren't accredited, or that are maybe partnering with a variety of different accreditation agencies, I'd be interested to know, what standards are those theological educational institutions working with? As we all know that a lot of these agencies do what's right in their own eyes, or they just have different standards for one another. And so what sort of consistent standards are being applied nationally or internationally? That would, that would provide some sort of level of trust and accountability. Even even, even metrics like work workload calculation would be helpful to learn to learn more about,
John, that's a great point. And that is a discussion that needs to happen. One part I would one area I'd point you towards, if you're on the call, and you are a part of the Association of reformed theological seminaries, would you just raise your hand? These guys who are raising their hands, you may want to contact them because I think that the origins of how to create something like that have been done really well in the past by arts, and you know,
having to contact me, I'm the chair of the accreditation committee for arts. So having a feel free to contact me and there's like three or four of our schools on here. So having please contact me, we can communicate.
Yeah, that'd be great.
Cool. And john, actually, can I ask because from Moody's standpoint, you have quite a lot of experience with Moody's academic standards work. Can you just name sort of the templates or the the type of metrics that you would be interested in? Can you help feed our imaginations here a little bit?
Yeah, I think kinds of things on the questions perhaps that I'm that I'm really wondering about are, like I said at the end of my question, more workload calculation, a lot of institutions say that they expect students to be in the classroom X amount of hours per semester. If, if it's a three credit course. And, in reality, it turns out a lot of those, a lot of those numbers, they're not the institutions aren't, don't really hold them to real strictly in terms of the number of pages to be read per semester, in terms of the number of pages to be written in terms of writing, and, and all those kinds of things. So workload calculation is an important one for me. But But beyond that, just assessment, I think, overall program assessment, which a lot of institutions are, at least in my experience, are just now just in recent years, becoming much more much paying a lot more attention to, I'd be interested to know what kinds of assessment metrics they use to demonstrate programatically success as an institution.
John, the CVT institutions that were in the research study, 18 of the 24, were following academic rotation standards, to the tee from whomever they were receiving their accreditation, your hesitations towards. And also I heard it from Dennis Bennett as well, the hesitation of are we creating academics here or practitioners? If you go back and read and I posted the bibliography already, but go back and read the articles that john frame has written about the academic captivity of theology, you would feel very connected what you're saying sounds a lot like what john frame said 30 and 40 years ago, that he had similar concerns, but also we needed a way of determining if we weren't going to go and accreditation route, how do we deliver a quality theological education to the student and justify the cost, the expense, the time of what we're recommending?
If I can follow up on that, one of the things I have pushed for for a long time, whenever we were discussing, whatever programs we're doing, I keep taking everybody to the end product. And so in order to really do this whole program, we've got to start with this whole concept to thinking at the end of this program, what does this person need to be to be able to do? And what is a be able to what should they know know what to be and to do? Once you've answered that as an end product, then you can go back and really develop the whole of your program and you've got your standards put out there because you know what you're trying to produce? Traditionally, we've always started from the beginning, well, we we start, and we just build something from there, never really looking toward what the final product should look like. And that's really where we've got to start.
I'm going to hazard a guess please shoot me down if I'm incorrect. But I'm going to hazard a guess that many of the institutions represented are going to have a very, it's going to be a huge spectrum of educational philosophies, because a lot of these institutions have grown up one or two generations around a particular ethos in a particular community. So I'm going to hazard the guess that there are not page numbers that ought to be reading for one credit to credit, I'm gonna guess those standards don't exist. Is that correct? Dr. James, can you speak to that?
No, we do have, our average class is going to have 800 to 1000 pages of reading, we do have academic standards. And we found a way to combine the both, again with our pastor professors. In fact, one of the things that I'm working on is we have standardized syllabi, but I want to standardize those even even more, and you can still be very outcome oriented. And you can accomplish the practical. You can accomplish the mentoring aspects, like in the if I'm having one of my students do a research paper, and we do require research. But what is the outcome of that research? Not just academic rhetoric, but it has to be one what is the personal growth within that paper? What am I personally gaining from the reading assignments, same thing in book, don't do book reports or book reviews, we do book critiques. But again, what is the personal assessment and growth the spiritual maturity that is gained from that we still have to be able to create not create will still have to produce critical thinkers. We have become a nation that is amused that does not think and God uses the metaphor, the analogy of sheep, or sheep blindly follow. And we desperately need shepherds, but we have to have people that can discern truth from error that can engage in as Peter said, Defending the faith with reverence and with love. But from a good solid standpoint, and not what I feel or what I, what I think we have to be able to think that's crucial. That is crucial.
Thanks for that correction. I appreciate the statement.
And as I, as I listened to that answer, there are a couple of things that come to mind. One, there's, you know, there, there are certain, certain skills that are easily more easily objective to be measured objectively. You know, I think most of us who have gone through traditional theological education understand that, to learn Bible and theological content to learn the ability to do biblical exegesis languages, these things are somewhat easier to measure than, say, spiritual formation, a Christian majority. And so I would be interested to know as well, what what methods are being used to assess spiritual formation? And what have you found to be effective, and I noticed that it's still a burgeoning field. And there's still a lot of discussion, even in the academic literature about how to do this. So in your institutions, what metrics have been useful for measuring spiritual formation?
Can I speak to a couple of these things, brother. Um, let me go back to what we're talking about the previous questions. It's been important to me as the academic dean of our seminary to set both for students and for faculty, reasonable standards of reading. And those standards are approximately 700 pages of reading for a two credit hour course, and 1000 pages of reading to 1100 pages for a three credit hour course. And those those standards are set both to, to both to make sure that we have a real theological learning going on, and also to make, make sure that professors don't require an unreasonable amount of reading from students for their courses. And also, I also don't want to contrast or make a dichotomy between genuine theological advancement and, and the practical spiritual formation of students, I don't think those two things are contraries. for ourselves, you know, if we have students at our own congregation, we're very concerned about their spiritual formation. And we're going to be mentoring them in all sorts of different ways. We simply but we've drawn the conclusion that we can't take responsibility for our distance students that are 1000-2000 miles away, or across the world. But what we do require a baller pastoral students, or pastoral students is that they are in local churches, and they are in practical mentoring relationships with their own pastors. But fine is finally those churches and those pastors that have to be responsible for assessing the spiritual formation of those students in their churches. And so on the one hand, we can't, we can't be responsible to commend men, to other churches as pastors that we have not been involved with personally in their spiritual formation, that commendations got to come from their own pastors who have mentored them. And I think that's the way it has to work honestly.
Well, Dr. Armstrong, I think we started great conversation here. And I'd love to keep it going. I just want to mention a couple things, I put the the slides in the chat, box. And there's also a lot of excellent comments if you haven't been following there, from those who weren't talking but typing. And then the three articles are there in the bibliography is there, I've also put an email address to me, if you would like further information, or you have difficulty downloading these offline, I can send them to you in an email, I'd be happy to do that. But Dr. Armstrong, thank you for for setting this up. And it's good to see faces of people who are doing the exact same model of education and a lot of diverse places, and unique settings. Thank you all for your contributions.
Thank you, everybody. We really appreciate it too. We really very much value your time. But somebody be willing to close us in prayer. Michael Herbert, could I or Dennis, go ahead, please close us. Thank you.
While we're thankful that the church is yours, not ours. And we're here to serve you in every way you want. And Lord, I pray that we would learn from each other, not to compete with each other but to learn from each other to know how best to serve your church, which is the institution that you put together to change the world. We want to be the best part of that we can. So follow the committee each other to you and acid you would be the one leading May we hear your voice and how you want it best done. Even though it may not be the same way in every area. So what lead us that we might follow what you want and we're just committed to you in Jesus name, amen