Building the Missing Bridge
Education for "People On The Run"
The numbers are astounding! In just the last two years the number of cross-cultural missionaries from the third world has jumped by 10,000 from 39,000 to 49,000. And this is just the beginning. It is estimated that there will be well over 100,000 non-western missionaries by the end of the decade. How can this powerful new mission force be trained to be truly effective in reaching the unreached? The hopes of world evangelization by AD2000 could depend on the answer.One of the leading missionary anthropologists in the world today, Darrell Whiteman of Asbury Theological Seminary, brought up a startling and "discouraging" conclusion at the final panel discussion of a recent high level missiological conference held at Fuller Seminary.
"Discouraging?" Not entirely. What he actually said was that in his world travels he has gained the strong impression that the number of missionaries (both Western and non-Western) is more rapidly increasing than are the graduate facilities offering missiological courses.
Is it a tragedy that most of today's new missionaries are not getting formal missiological training? Yes. Is there any way these "people on the run" can be exposed to high quality mission studies? Yes.
For the past several months we have been developing a program, which will begin in January, 1993, designed with busy people in mind. Why? For most active, productive Christian leaders going away to school is simply not a possibility. This program is designed for "people on the run." But it is much more than making education available to busy people. It is tapping into perhaps the world's finest candidates for missionary service, both Western and non-Western.
Almost everyone receives a primarily secular education these days, fragmented and incomplete in revealing, understanding and applying God's work in history and in today's world. The Christian needs a re- education to be confident that the ministry to which God calls him or her will not be limited by an inadequate background. We want to give a single comprehensive review of God's world and our role in His purpose, and to make that available to serious Christians anywhere in the world.
Another important factor concerns the frontier missions movement. I have written elsewhere that if we don't train the missionary in the field we slow down the frontier missions movement. This is of critical importance as we race toward the end of this century.
With these two factors in mind, The Institute of International Studies, (Training Division of the U.S. Center for World Mission) has developed a completely field-based M.A. program with a missiological orientation. It is designed by mission scholars and is intended for serious Christians who seek to declare the glory of God among the nations. The program will focus on foundational areas of knowledge in which Christians need to be conversant to challenge the worldly currents of our time. This M.A. degree is also a platform for Ph.D. studies. We intend to include the "crucial basics" of a standard seminary education.
The M.A. program is a half-time, 2-year, 32-semester-unit degree. It is divided into four six-month semesters, with 17 out of the 26 weeks in each semester being actual "work" weeks. The semester is divided into five three-week "modules," each of which is followed by a "breather" week, meaning that nothing is scheduled for the student that week. The sixth module, ending the semester, is two weeks long and is followed by a four-week vacation. Each "work" week consists of a student-mentor session, a discipleship time, and five independent study sessions, for a total active time of approximately 23.5 hours each week.
The four semesters are structured on a "time-frame" basis, integrating all the various disciplines into four historic periods: creation to 400 BC, 400 BC to 200 AD, 200 AD to 1980 AD, and the contemporary world. The various disciplines, normally taught separately, are integrated into the core courses, taking on a missiological slant. Anthropology, science, math, philosophy, Bible, theology, biblical languages, and history are included. Other topics related to life in today's world have been sprinkled throughout the program such as literary skills, reading, writing, statistics, research methods, and computers.
The program is designed to integrate the disciplines in a coherent way that enables the students to feel that, by the end of the program, he has passed a course in each of the major disciplines. Most people think compartmentally and classrooms tend to encourage that thinking, so the idea is to get people to integrate their understanding of specific subjects or topics into the larger picture.
However, this M.A. retains three important seminary ingredients:
- Content. While integrated with missiological insights, the core of a seminary education is retained and amplified to impart basic skills and knowledge foundational to an M.Div.
- High Academic Standards. This M.A. incorporates top educators from several institutions, provides weekly personal supervision under a mentor, and includes a variety of mechanisms for verifying the student's understanding of the material covered.
- Academic Interaction. Students receive the three periodicals for which they may be expected to contribute papers--Mission Frontiers, the International Journal of Frontier Missions and the Global Prayer Digest. Where multiple students share a mentor, direct peer interaction is possible. Credit is available for attendance at meetings of scholarly societies.
Graduates of this program are expected to gain the knowledge, experience and skills appropriate for leadership in the church and in world missions. At the completion of the two year, part-time course each student will have made significant progress toward the following objectives.
- A biblical grasp of God's eternal purpose.
- An historical and missiological grasp of the global human experience over the last 4,000 years.
- Discipleship under a Christian leader.
- Spiritual maturity.
- Skill in understanding and applying Scripture.
- Experience in discipling others.
- Skills in using reference tools.
- Personal study skills.
- Life-long patterns for intellectual growth.
Also, this "seminary in a suitcase" program presents at least nine benefits to the student.
- Part-time. The study schedule is designed for busy people with other responsibilities.
- Field-based. The program is available wherever there is a qualified mentor, and can be transferred to a new location at any time.
- Mentored. The mentor-disciple relationship is an ancient pattern with obvious benefits.
- Productive. The student maintains his or her current ministry and participates with the mentor in projects of mutual interest.
- Discipling. Others benefit from fresh insights while the student's understanding of the material is deepened and his or her teaching and discipling skills are strengthened.
- Strategic. God's unchanging purpose is integrated. "Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, He confirmed it with an oath." (Hebrews 6:17)
- Obedience Oriented. The M.A. theme, "Declare His Glory Among the Nations," stresses God's purpose and our obedience to it: to work for the "blessing" of all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3).
- Integrated. Without the confines of the classroom, we have woven together the work of a variety of professors in such a way as to clarify the relationship of their subjects.
- Debt-free. By enabling students to continue full-time responsibilities, we allow them to pay as they go and eliminate school debts.
If you fall into one of the following categories, perhaps this field- based M.A. is for you:
- Those serious about the cause of missions.
- Those headed toward the mission field who want to start training here and finish there.
- Those called to mission mobilization.
- Those already serving on the mission field.
- Those in leadership in national churches who want basic biblical, theological and missiological training without coming to the United States.
This basic education, or re-education, assumes no highly technical knowledge other than a firm grasp of English.
We believe that this important addition to missiological education will encourage the missions movement in general and the frontier missions movement in particular. "People on the run" are the most likely candidates to give high quality help in finishing the task of taking the gospel to every people.