Saturday, June 21, 2008

Taking the Seminary to Church by George

George Wieland, New Testament lecturer from Carey Baptist College, New Zealand, shared in an earlier article on his experience as a Theologian Without Borders.

In this posting he shares an idea on bringing together academy and church, blending teaching, resourcing and partnership in ministry. George says:

It started as a pragmatic response rather than a theoretically driven initiative, but it sits well with my theoretical convictions!

I have researched, written and taught on mission in the New Testament letter to Titus and have sometimes taught on the topic in local churches e.g. in one-day seminars or church camps.

One church asked me to help them think about mission in their local context by presenting some of my Mission in Titus material in the form of a series of four sermons on consecutive Sundays. I was unable to block out a month of Sundays for this but I also felt that a visiting speaker trying to apply what was learned from the New Testament to their own context was a second best. Surely it would be more fruitful for the church itself to make the application?

So I proposed an alternative - I could go along for one Sunday service but a few weeks before their "mission" month I would spend an evening with a group of people from the church, resourcing them to think through and prepare a series of Sunday services in which mission insights from Titus would be presented and applied to their local context.

That is what we did. I met with about a dozen people (the church's pastors, worship leaders, others involved in aspects of the church's leadership and teaching ministry) for 2-3 hours one evening. We gathered after work for pizza and then launched into a teaching session in which I presented background information, some exegesis, theological ideas and some practical suggestions for application in four main areas.

One of the pastors took responsibility for dividing the participants into work groups, one for each of four Sunday services, and allocating to each a particular aspect to develop.

I returned to preach at the first of the four "Mission Insights from Titus" Sundays. The team for that week had prepared appropriate worship, there was a drama to reinforce the main application and one member of the group had written a song taking up some of the ideas from Titus.

The dozen participants were themselves greatly enthused by the project and the excitement was rippling out through the church. After that first service Home Group leaders asked if their groups could be involved in thinking through the mission issues, so with a little more input from me the pastor overseeing the series produced study notes so that the groups could participate. The senior pastor commented that the process of involving members of the church in working on the Biblical text and relating it to their own situation had galvanized the church as a whole and there was a sense of ownership that would have been difficult to generate from a series of sermons from someone from elsewhere.

I felt that the experiment had been fruitful for the church, building Biblical and theological capacity, and from the participation of the church members I in turn was able to learn what the ideas I was drawing from the Biblical text looked like translated into a specific local context.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: George Wieland

Related:
Check out the Careyplus approach to serving the local churches.