In a recent blog post, William Willimon proposed ten theses about the future of ministry (http://willimon.blogspot.com/2010/04/ten-theses-about-future-of-ministry.html). A Methodist bishop, Willimon looks at this issue through the lens of the mainline church. He expects mainline Protestantism to continue to experience numerical decline and to continue being pushed to the margins of culture.
The solution he proposes is theological. “The pastoral ministry in mainline Protestantism will need to find a theological way through the intellectual death of theological liberalism (“Progressive Christianity”) and the cultural compromises of traditional evangelicalism (the IRD and evangelical Protestantism’s alliance with the political right)” Willimon observes. The best way forward is mission related not methodological. Willimon explains, “The mission of the church will take precedence over internal maintenance, real estate, fellowship, therapy, pastoral care and other factors that have driven the church in recent decades and have contributed to our decline.”
Willimon’s ten theses make me wonder how conservative evangelicals would answer the question, “What is the future of ministry?” How would you reply this question? What does this mean for training institutions like mine that seek to prepare students for future ministry?
3 thoughts on “Ministry Monday: The Future of Ministry”
“The best way forward is mission related not methodological.”
I believe you are seeing that happen with a resurgence of church planting in the US. Networks like Acts 29 and denominational church planting groups are sprouting all over the place. That leads me to surmise that you will see smaller, grassroots churches and training “schools” all over the place.
I don’t think this means the death of institutions like MBI, but I do believe that as these church plants establish in-house training centers you are going to see younger people stick with their local churches and get trained and sent from there.
Do you think the most strategic move for traditional schools like Moody would be to enter into partnerships with grassroots training? Would they be interested? Or do they see traditional theological institutions as the problem?
I don’t think there would be a problem with partnerships. In fact as you state I think that is a very strategic move.
In Acts 29 and The Resurgence that is already happening with the Re:Train program. Guys like Bruce Ware, Bryan Chapell and others are being brought in to do the theological training at a post-graduate level.
I think the biggest problem that church planters have with the institutionalized Bible colleges and seminaries is that they have to send their people away from the church to get trained and there is no promise they will return to serve that local church in 2 to 4 years. So we loose our best people sometimes for the sake of “training” and fail to get them back to strengthen the local church.
It makes more sense to do your own training locally and then send your people to plant new churches that share the same vision/values of the sending church.