June 6, 2022
by Michael T. Cooper, Ephesiology
This week in our partnership spotlight, Kairos partner Ephesiology shares their passion for equipping church planters to exegete culture, proclaim stories about Jesus that connect with culture, and adapt cultural forms for the life of the church community.
In 1990, Robert Ferris, a pioneer in theological education, chronicled all too familiar scenarios when he wrote:
A recent seminary graduate fights discouragement daily as he struggles with an increasingly ineffective ministry in the suburban church he pastors.
In a nearby community, a young fellow-minister has already succumbed to pastoral stress and abandoned the ministry for a secular job. (Ferris, 1990:7)
If we didn’t know any better, we’d think that he was writing about 2022. With increasing numbers of pastors and church planters fighting the discouragement and stress of two years in an unrelenting pandemic, a tense political climate among those in our pews, and increasing pressures of challenging social issues, it’s no wonder that we find ourselves—church, para-church, and seminary—in a crisis.
In the midst of this, however, there is encouraging news of increased enrollments at seminaries across the country. As seminaries adapt to the challenges of our current cultural moment, increasing numbers of students are enrolling in Master of Arts programs focused on engaging contemporary issues. More pastors are returning to seminary for Doctor of Ministry programs where they can sharpen their focus on the issues that concern their congregations. And not surprisingly, seminaries who have successfully moved to an on-line platform are able to harness technology to continue to deliver just in time education (Tanner, 2022).
Still, the need for equipping more people, both laity and clergy, to plant churches has never been greater. The Pinetop Foundation report of 2018 made us aware of the incredible need to plant at least 8,000 churches annually. The report stated, “Currently, we are only adding about 300 churches (net) a year. This is not enough to keep up with population growth, much less the growing needs of the unaffiliated.” Hardly even a year later, Lifeway Research reported that we actually saw a net loss of churches for the first time in US history (Earls, 2021). Even so, if in 2018 4,000 new churches only netted 300 sustained churches, it doesn’t take much to conclude that we need to double or triple the rate of church planting. And to achieve such a goal means to prepare more church planters. The question is how best do we accomplish this goal?
Since the 1990s when Peter Wagner declared church planting to be the most strategic evangelistic method, many have been captivated by the challenge to plant more churches. Over the decades, however, church planting has devolved into church starting, in the words of Peyton Jones (2021). The fascination with developing an attractional model under the mantra of “build it and they will come” is proving to be a poorly laid plan for church growth. Instead, growing numbers are calling us back to our mission, “Therefore, as you are going, make disciples of all people groups” (Matt 28:18, my translation). Recovering a church planting paradigm that begins with evangelism is critical to the spread of the gospel and the gathering of new believers into community.
In the midst of the current milieu, we need seminary programs that understand how to equip church planters to exegete culture, proclaim stories about Jesus that connect with culture, and adapt cultural forms for the life of the church community. Even more so, we need seminary programs that will invite students into a life of discipleship on their journey to walk more closely with Christ. For that reason, Ephesiology is grateful to be an integrated partner of Kairos University whose mission is simply to prepare students—head, heart, and hands—to tell The Story to people in desperate need. Through our partnership, we build on faculty expertise accrued over decades of church planting and leadership development around the world. We join in a community of learners who are doing theology together in a myopic focus of bringing God glory. This is a framework for just-in-time “theological education that is affordable, accessible, relevant, and faithful.”
We understand that there is one mission and one head of that mission: Jesus Christ. United around his vision of more people worshiping before the throne (Rev 7:9), we venture to empower, entrust, inspire, and remind Christian leaders to stay on that mission. Our programs at Ephesiology, are focused on church planting, APEST team leadership, and proper missiological theology, and integrate well with Kairos Master of Arts, Master of Divinity, and Doctor of Ministry programs.
Our goal is to make disciples, equip New Testament leaders, and multiply healthy churches. If you share our passion for a theological community engaged in God’s mission, we would be honored to partner with you on your educational journey.