The Missional Church and Leadership Formation: Helping Congregations Develop Leadership Capacity


In this volume — the third book in the Missional Church series — eminent missional church expert Craig Van Gelder continues to track and contribute to the expanding missional church conversation, inviting today's brightest minds in the field to speak to key questions concerning church leadership.
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In this volume — the third book in the Missional Church series — eminent missional church expert Craig Van Gelder continues to track and contribute to the expanding missional church conversation, inviting today's brightest minds in the field to speak to key questions concerning church leadership.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802864932
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 10/23/2009
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig Van Gelder is professor of congregational mission at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota. His other books include The Church between Gospel and Culture and The Missional Church in Context (both Eerdmans).
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Table of Contents


Introduction: Engaging the Missional Church Conversation....................1
1. Theological Education and Missional Leadership Formation: Can Seminaries Prepare Missional Leaders for Congregations? Craig Van Gelder....................11
2. Missional Theology for Schools of Theology: Re-engaging the Question "What Is Theological about a Theological School?" Kyle J. A. Small....................45
3. Developing Evangelical Public Leadership for Apostolic Witness: A Missional Alternative to Traditional Pastoral Formation Richard H. Bliese....................72
4. Cultivating Missional Leaders: Mental Models and the Ecology of Vocation Scott Cormode....................99
5. Forming Lay Missional Leaders for Congregations and the World Sharon Henderson Callahan....................120
6. Vision-Discerning vs. Vision-Casting: How Shared Vision Can Raise Up Communities of Leaders Rather than Mere Leaders of Communities Dave Daubert....................147
7. Characteristics of Congregations That Empower Missional Leadership: A Lutheran Voice Terri Martinson Elton....................175
8. Leadership and the Missional Church Conversation: Listening In on What Leaders in Four Denominational Systems Have to Say Kristine M. Stache....................209
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First Chapter

The Missional Church and Leadership Formation

Helping Congregations Develop Leadership Capacity

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Copyright © 2009 William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8028-6493-2

Chapter One

Theological Education and Missional Leadership Formation: Can Seminaries Prepare Missional Leaders for Congregations?

Craig Van Gelder


Significant changes are taking place in theological education today regarding the formation of church leaders. There have been previous periods of transition in this ongoing journey, but this present one represents what appears to be a strategic shift. The nature of this is quite complex, but in simple terms it involves the following: today new insights from an emerging missional theology are interacting within an expanding system of congregations to redefine the purpose, the method, and, to some extent, the location of theological education. This chapter uses a historical framework for understanding these changes and offers a proposal regarding how seminaries and schools of theology might better engage the opportunities now before them.

Argument of This Chapter

Significant developments have taken place in theological education in the United States over the past 250 years. It is helpful to identify the key institutional and cultural frameworks that shaped the various approaches to theological education that have emerged and morphed over time. The first part of this chapter maps the earlier stages of these developments through four somewhat distinct periods, with a time of transition occurring at the end of each period that in turn contributed to the formation of a changed framework in the next period. The second part of the chapter picks up the most recent transition, which took place during the last several decades of the twentieth century, and discusses the substantial conversation concerning theological education that emerged at that time. The final section offers perspective on a fifth period of development, the one we now appear to be in, and offers some suggestions about how a missional theology might help theological education better engage the opportunities that are present.

This analysis proposes that a key for understanding each of the five periods of theological education development is to explore the expansion of the system of congregations and the subsequent rise of new seminaries and schools of theology — as well as the changes taking place within them. This hermeneutic of reading the development of theological education through the lens of the expansion of the system of congregations suggests a crucial historical connection: theological education as a system tends to follow the development of new congregations. This premise is somewhat self-evident; however, if we take it seriously, it has profound implications for our understanding of what took place historically and also what is taking place today in the developments currently underway.

Historical Development of Theological Education in the United States

Period One — Foundations, 1600s to Late 1700s: Early Schools and Institutions and the Minister as Resident Theologian

The settling of the colonies in Northern America in the 1600s by European immigrants, especially those coming from England, marked the beginning of the extension of the Protestant church into the New World. The earlier Spanish colonization had introduced the Catholic faith into territories to the south and southwest. But the vast majority of the new immigrants arriving on the Eastern Seaboard were Protestants, except for modest numbers of Roman Catholics settling in what became Maryland. Some of the newly arriving immigrants represented the established European churches, often referred to as "churches from the left." They attempted to repeat in the more northern colonies the pattern of establishment that was initiated by the Anglicans in the southern colonies. Other immigrants represented the persecuted sects of the Protestant Reformation, such as the Quakers, Baptists, and Mennonites, that are often referred to as "churches from the right." These groups came to the colonies primarily for the purpose of pursuing religious freedom. The Puritans in New England represented an interesting blend of these two traditions: while being persecuted as a sect by the Anglican Church in England, they proceeded to establish the Congregational Church in most New England colonies.

The development of Christian congregations in what eventually became the thirteen colonies — and later the first thirteen states — has been told numerous times. It is not necessary to repeat the details of that story here, but a few things did have an impact on the development of theological education. These diverse, early-colonial congregations required qualified leadership, and different patterns emerged for supplying this leadership. Churches from the left initially continued to look to Europe to supply the necessary ministerial leadership for their congregations, but they often encountered problems in securing an adequate supply of qualified personnel. They soon recognized that schools needed to be built in the colonies to supplement the training of personnel, and they pursued this by drawing primarily on European approaches to theological education. For the Reformers, "[s]chools were the means of cultural change, and Protestants staked the future of their movement on the ability of teachers to transform habitual patterns of thought."

The charter of the Virginia Company initially envisioned the establishment of a college to serve the colony. However, circumstances delayed the founding of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg until 1693, when it finally became operational for the purpose of educating students in grammar, philosophy, and divinity. A number of those being educated were intended to serve as ministers in Anglican congregations.

The churches from the right, especially the Puritans, also recognized early the need for training ministerial personnel. They established Harvard College in 1636 for the purpose of providing leadership for the expanding system and needs of the Congregational churches. More conservative elements in the Congregational Church founded Yale for that same purpose in 1701, having lost confidence in Harvard as it increasingly came under the influence of Unitarian thought.

These early schools were founded primarily for the purpose of training ministerial personnel, though they always had a broader mandate for educating leadership with a classical liberal education in the arts and sciences. Ministerial training involved primarily memorization via the reading of theology with a mentor-teacher, along with learning the classical languages for studying the Bible. Latin continued to be the common language of the scholar. Little attention was paid to the actual practice of ministry; it was largely assumed that an emerging minister, by forming his mind and character in the study of these disciplines, would be able to provide the necessary leadership for a congregation. Pastors were educated and formed primarily to serve as resident theologians in congregations and their broader communities.

These early approaches to the training of ministers were complemented by less formal efforts. The tradition of the log college in New Jersey established by William Tennent in the 1720s serves as an example. The Great Awakening also influenced the development of theological education: the emphasis on revival and personal conversion became a deep and enduring value within U.S. Christianity. Theological education was challenged with how to shape both the minds and the hearts of those being prepared for ministry. All too often, those two emphases became more of a dichotomy within the church and theological education rather than a complementary polarity. The emergence of New Light and Old Light parties in the Presbyterian Church in the mid-1700s, and of New School and Old School parties in the 1800s, are good illustrations of this pattern.

Three trends within theological education were in place within the colonies by the time of the Revolutionary War. First, there was the continued reliance on the established European churches to supply ministers for the emerging congregations, which was especially true of Anglicans, Dutch Reformed, and Lutherans — as well as of the Catholic Church. Second, early schools were established in the colonies to train ministers for the growing congregations within the various faith traditions, which was especially true of the Congregationalists. Third, there was the development of what today would be called "nonformal" approaches to training ministers. This was especially true among those groups that were shaped by the revivalist side of Christianity, which by the end of the eighteenth century included the growing number of Baptists and Methodists, along with groups that had splintered off from the Presbyterians.

Transition Period: Revolutionary War

Several things were becoming clearer by the mid-1700s. First of all, the larger established churches in the colonies, Anglicans in the South and Congregationalists in the North, found it impossible to keep other Christian faith traditions from invading their territories. The democratic spirit emerging in the colonies, along with the increasing influence of free-church ecclesiology (introduced by the formerly persecuted sects of Europe), spelled the death of any serious ability to establish only one church in any colony based on geography.

The adoption of the Act of Toleration in England in 1689 was the beginning of the end for the exclusive, formal establishment of the church in that country. It also deeply influenced eighteenth-century developments in the colonies, where religious diversity was becoming the norm, especially in the middle colonies. Locke had argued in his 1685 Letter Concerning Toleration that the church should be founded on a voluntary basis as a social contract of consenting participants. This followed the same logic of his proposals for civil polity, ideas that became foundational for the development of the U.S. Constitution. Ideas such as Locke's blended with the realities of the day and led by the time of the Revolutionary War to calls for the official separation of church and state. The adoption of the first amendment to the Constitution of the newly formed United States in 1789 made this a reality. This new political framework helped stimulate the development of denominations, and it was not long before these newly forming denominations in the newly formed United States had to reckon with significant challenges within theological education.

Period Two — Expansion, Late 1700s to Mid-1800s: Developing Denominational Systems and the Minister as Gentleman Pastor

The outlines of emerging denominations had begun to come into focus by the mid-1700s. The call for independence and the Revolutionary War furthered their formation, and the separation of church and state institutionalized their necessity: no church would be established as the state (or national) church, and every church would be protected to practice religious freedom. This decision affirmed the organizing principle of denominationalism, and that, in turn, gave impetus to the further development of the denominational, organizational church. The last two decades of the eighteenth century saw representatives of numerous church bodies meeting to form national organizations: for example, the Methodists in 1784, the Episcopalians in 1785, and the Presbyterians in 1789.

The newly emerging denominations and their expanding systems of congregations had to adapt as the original colonies became the newly formed United States. The churches on the left gave up the practice built into their European-shaped polities that relied on the magistrate to privilege the church within civil society. Correspondingly, the churches on the right created new forms to give the church shape within the emerging democratic social order. All of these new denominations had to recontextualize themselves within the dynamic setting of the changed context.

The number of congregations within a few decades dramatically increased as the expanding immigrant population spilled across the Allegheny Mountains. Thousands of new congregations were started on the expanding frontier, and that process lasted well into the latter half of the nineteenth century. Interestingly, it was the newer "made-in-America" — or at least "modified-in-America" — denominations that led this effort. This included the Methodists, who blended their Anglican heritage of bishops with a modified version of free-church congregationalism, employing circuit riders to extend the church into new territories. It also included the Baptists, who readily adapted themselves to the democratic spirit of the United States, which they incorporated within their congregational polity. They used the farmer-preacher to extend their congregations into the new territories. Related to these two groups was the formation of the Christian Church Disciples and the Churches of Christ, which were the product of several impulses: the restoration of the New Testament church, American democratic ideals based on Lockean philosophy, and the methodology of revivals. Revivals reemerged on the frontier after the turn of the nineteenth century in what became known as the Second Great Awakening. The socioreligious gatherings of this awakening helped to start many congregations.

All the newly formed denominations grew during this period; yet the growth of the "upstart" denominations dramatically outpaced the growth of the Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Episcopalian denominations. These three groups had represented approximately 75 percent of all church membership at the time of the Declaration of Independence. However, their growth rate on the frontier was significantly less than that of the upstart denominations such as the Methodists, Baptists, and Disciples because they continued to rely primarily on an educated clergy for serving their expanding system of congregations. By mid-century, these upstart groups had become the largest denominations.

This expanding system of congregations required the training of hundreds of new pastors. Denominations approached this need in different ways, but all of them continued to rely on building a system of church-related colleges to support the development of leadership. The Methodists and Baptists relied almost exclusively on church colleges to augment their leadership formation processes, which had less formal educational requirements. The Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians also built church colleges, but they soon added another educational layer to the preparation of persons for ministry by developing a new kind of institution: the theological seminary.

The development of the theological seminary was based on the same European school model that had already been copied by schools such as William and Mary, Harvard, and Yale. What now emerged was the use of the school model that focused exclusively on the preparation of persons for ministry. The formation of denominations at this time was driven primarily by trying to establish a clear confessional or theological identity. Seminaries emerged within the intense furnace of these confessional debates and represented distinct sectarian perspectives.

The first theological seminary founded was Andover: it was organized in 1807 by a group of Congregationalists who were concerned (once again) about the rising tide of Unitarian views within their church. Andover marked a new course for graduate theological education in the United States: the development of a freestanding seminary. What made this school identifiable as the first true theological seminary were the following characteristics, which Yale's President Timothy Dwight identified in his 1808 address at Andover's opening: it had "(1) adequate funding; (2) a program sufficient in length to allow mastery of the subject (... three year course of studies); (3) a scholarly understanding of Christian theology ...; (4) a professional [and specialized] faculty; (5) a large, committed student body; (6) sound principles of Trustee management; and (7) an extensive library collection" (Piety and Intellect, pp. 68-69). These characteristics became the normative framework for the numerous theological seminaries that soon joined Andover's ranks.

The Presbyterians founded Princeton in 1812: it was a school with roots going back to the log college days of Tennent (Piety and Intellect, pp. 99-113). Other newly formed seminaries included Bangor (1816), General (1817), Pittsburg (1818), Union Virginia (1823), Mercerburg (1825), Gettysburg (1826), Newton (1826), Southern (1832), Union New York (1836), Oberlin (1838), and Lane (1839), to name a few. In all, at least thirty-two seminaries started up between 1808 and 1840 (Piety and Intellect, pp. 201-2).


Excerpted from The Missional Church and Leadership Formation Copyright © 2009 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Excerpted by permission of William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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