Our Desire To Create Fresh Expressions of Theological Education

November 2, 2015

Over the past several weeks, we have been looking at the history, biblical foundations, and various movements throughout theological education.  Our task for today is to see how Sioux Falls Seminary is building on the history of theological education, the history of our institution, and the biblical foundations for such education.

As Paul Rainbow shared during convocation this fall, theological education is and always will be part of what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ.  We are called to be disciples and, in turn, make disciples.  The challenge is that culture and the expression of the Church are changing each day.  Our practices of and designs for theological education, therefore, must be reviewed in order to ensure we are developing servants for their participation in the kingdom mission.  While the methods, delivery, or means of theological education may shift, it is important that our message does not.  As I like to say, we must remain faithful to the unshakeable truth of God’s Word.

Nonetheless, as Larry Caldwell mentioned last week, the movements within the cultural shift to modernity greatly impacted the Church and theological education.  Our challenge today is to retain the essence of theological education as we reconsider what it means to create strong systems of theological education.

Sioux Falls Seminary is one of many seminaries creating fresh expressions of theological education.  I believe our work as Sioux Falls Seminary is rooted in scripture, enriched by our institution’s history, and extended through a commitment to innovation.

Rooted in Scripture
As Randy Tschetter mentioned in his post, theological education was present in the Old Testament, made personal through the twelve disciples in the New Testament, and is carried on throughout history by followers of Christ.  It seems to me that many, if not all, of the instances of theological education portrayed in scripture have two things in common.  First, the experience of education happened in the midst of life.  People were not siphoned off or excluded from normal society.  Rather, theological education was brought into their everyday lives.  Second, there was an action-reflection process.  This may be most evident in the sending of the seventy in Luke.  Jesus sends the seventy away to engage in ministry and then calls them back to process what they experienced.

Enriched by History
Between 1830 and 1850, nearly 2.5 million Germans entered the United States.  Konrad Fleischmann was sent from Germany as a missionary to the German immigrants.  It was out of this movement to serve an immigrant population that Sioux Falls Seminary was founded in 1958.  August Rauschenbusch served as the first professor and, for a time, taught every subject in the curriculum.  As one reads through the history of our seminary, one notes that we were founded by missionaries and were endowed with that missionary spirit.  Theological education, therefore, is not about us.  It is always for the sake of others.

Commitment to Innovation
With a desire for theological education to be 1) deeply embedded into the everyday lives of people, 2) developed around an action-reflection process, and 3) always done for the sake of others, Sioux Falls Seminary is presented with the opportunity to create a new future.  A future not beholden to the structures of modernity that have, as some would say, robbed the Church of its identity.

In order to create such a future, we must be willing to try new things, remove the shackles of monolithic structures or staid expressions of faith.  We serve a vibrant, powerful, faithful, and missionary God.  It would seem, therefore, that our systems for studying, developing a relationship with, and being formed by that God should be vibrant, powerful, faithful, and missionary in nature!

Sioux Falls Seminary is committed to developing a future of theological education that is rooted in scripture, integrated in the everyday lives of disciples, and open to all who follow Christ.

Participating in the work that God is doing is a special blessing, and we are privileged to do exactly that here at Sioux Falls Seminary.

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