Missionally-Educated Christians…

Equip the church, think theologically, and live redemptively in their context.

  • Equip the church (1): Jesus gives pastors and teachers of the local church to equip communities of Spirit-led disciples for their own Gospel renewal and mission together, for the glory of Christ. As missional disciples have been poured into by their respective pastors/teachers, they in turn pour back into the local church from their own theologically enriched education and experience.
  • Think theologically: Jesus’ disciples learn to begin their “thinking where the consciousness of all life has its unity—theologically in God and existentially in drawing near unto God” (2).  More precisely, the missionally-educated Christian thinks with a God-entranced worldview, affectionately acknowledging God as the Source, Sustainer, and Goal of all things (3).
  • Live redemptively: Renewed and theologically-minded disciples have a “gospel-motivated critique and change of cultural forms and content,” to redeem places, products, practices, domains (4). No culture is morally neutral. Nor is every culture wholly good or bad. All mankind since the Fall is deeply corrupt in their whole being. But God’s common grace “functions as a culture-forming and activating power in [redemptive] history, in which man is both the instrument and co-worker with God” (5). Spirit-led learning communities learn how to sacrificially and creatively engage such cultures for their Gospel renewal.
  • Truth: All truth is Trinitarian truth, as especially exemplified above in the truths of Gospel, Community, and Mission. Missionally-educated disciples view the world and all therein with this Trinitarian lens.
  • Christ-Centered Worship: All things are in, through, and for Jesus (6). Missionally-educated disciples’ hearts burn within them as they study, know, and adore Jesus, to whom all of Scripture points as: coming Messiah (7), crucified Lord (8), risen Savior (9), reigning King (10), interceding Priest (11), returning Judge (12), and Restorer of all things (13). When this Christ, infinitely worthy of worship, is prized in all of life, redemptive discipleship in his name will inevitably follow.
  • Redemptive Discipleship: All missionally-educated disciples serve in the power of the Spirit and after the pattern of Christ. Apart from Christ and his Spirit, Gospel-centered missional discipleship proves impossible. Spirit-led disciples, however, live as Jesus lived, love as Jesus lived, and leave what Jesus left behind—namely other followers of Jesus (14).

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(1) As previously noted, Paul’s words in Eph 4.11-12, “And [Christ] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (emphasis added).

(2) Kuyper on Contemporary Value of Calvinism (Jonathan Dodson)

(3) Rom 11.36; Col 1.15-17.

(4) Culture: To Redeem or Not to Redeem? (Jonathan Dodson)

(5) This Kuyperian view of culture holds that “common grace, although non-saving and restricted to this life, has its source in Christ as mediator of creation since all things exist through the eternal Word” (120). See Van Til, Henry R. The Calvinistic Concept of Culture. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 118.

(6) Col 1.16.

(7) Isaiah 53

(8) Acts 2.36; 1 Cor 2.8.

(9) Luke 24.25-26, 34, 44-46 .

(10) Heb 2.5-8.

(11) Heb 4.14-15.

(12) Acts 17.31; Rev 20.11-15.

(13) Rev 21.5.

(14) Lovejoy, Shawn and David Putnam. Notes from their talk given at the Verge Missional Community Conference (2010), Austin, TX.

Gospel, Community & Mission: What Missionally-Educated Christians Value

Missionally-Educated Christians Value:

Gospel, Community, and Mission as the matrix for meaning in life.

  • Gospel: Too often the Gospel is relegated as mere historical information to be cognitively believed rather than as a theory of everything (TOE) to be affectionately embraced (1).   This Gospel of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the good news that God sent his only Son, Jesus, into this world to die for our sins; and then he was buried, and rose from the grave, ascending to the right hand of the Father, where he gloriously reigns with all authority over all things, and giving the Spirit to those who are his (2).  The missional disciple ought to aim for Gospel saturation in all of life and thought, as one who reflects the love of Jesus for the sake of others.
  • Community: The Triune God is a community of Persons (3).  Humanity has been created and is being recreated after the image of the Trinity (4).  Only through Christ and his Spirit can his people cultivate communities of Spirit-led disciples and participate in such communities (5).  For the missional student, a discipling community is necessary for understanding (6).
  • Mission: The Triune God is a missional God. The Father sent the Son into his world to dwell among and redeem peoples and cultures (7).  And, the Father and the Son sent the Spirit to lead communities of Gospel-centered disciples to live among and engage peoples and cultures (8).  In this midst of such a community on mission together, the missional disciple is given the opportunity to rethink which elements of what he believes belongs to the gospel and which belongs to his culture (9).

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(1) As a TOE, the Gospel “affirms the personality and soul of all individuals because they were made for relationship with a personal Creator. The Gospel restores and renews that relationship over and over again.” From, Austin City Life: Partnering on Mission. (Unpublished, p. 21).

(2) Further, Jesus will soon return to judge those still alive and those already dead; and, thereafter, he will make all things new for the sake of his people and the glory of God.

(3) “…each [person] distinct but inseparable from the others, whose being consists in their relations with one another.” Gunton, Colin. The Promise of Trinitarian Theology. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991), 113.

(4) Gen 1.26-27; Rom 12.5; 1 Cor 12.12-31; Eph 4.23-24; Col 3.10 .

(5) Chester, Tim. Delighting in the Trinity, (Grand Rapids: Monarch Books, 2005), 168. See also, Acts 2.1-13.

(6) Chester, Tim. Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 159.

(7) Jn 1.11, 14; Jn 3.16-17; Jn 20.21.

(8) Matt 28.18-20; Luke 24.47-49; Jn 14.16-17; 16.7; Jn 20.21; Acts 1.8; Rom 1.5; 16.26; Rev 7.9.

(9) Chester, Tim. Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 156.

Missional-Theological Education: Theological Centricities

It is not enough to be Bible-centered, that is, to base one’s life and missional-theological education centrally on the Bible. Unless Christ Jesus and his Gospel are the life and breath of one’s reading and rendering of the Book, all such theological education is done in vain (1). The present philosophy of missional education, therefore, aims in all its endeavors for Gospel-centeredness. In addition to being Gospel-centered and Bible-saturated, this missional-theological education is God-centered (2), as it aims to glorify God in Christ and through his Spirit in all its theory and praxis.

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(1) In Jesus’ day, he often rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for their embracing of the Scriptures apart from the Christ of the Scriptures. See, for example,  Jn 5.39-40; Rom 10.1-4. Further, perhaps a Bible-saturated theological education is a more apt description of the present proposal. That is, the Bible ought to permeate every aspect of one’s habits of mind and heart in the learning process.

(2) As sinful human beings, having (merely) a Gospel-centered focus can tend to create an anthropocentric image of God, rather than a God-centered image of God. The reasoning for such an emphasis lies not primarily in the Scriptural imperatives of doing “all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10.31), for example. Such emphasis is derived from the Scriptural indicatives of God’s passionate pursuit of his own glory. E.g., Isa 48.9-11.

The Two Books: What Missionally-Educated Christians Must Know

The Two Books which God has ordained to reveal himself to his creatures:

  • The Word: Also referred to as special revelation, the Bible is inspired, infallible, and authoritative. This God-inspired book alone is reserved for the saturation of missional-theological education’s teaching, learning, curriculum, goals, and mission (1). The missionally-educated Christian’s resolve regarding the study of the Bible should in some degree reflect the spirit of Jonathan Edwards’ resolve, “to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of them” (2).
  • The World (3): Also referred to as natural revelation, the world is not inspired, infallible, or authoritative. Yet, it includes “the whole organic complex of nature and history and human culture” (4). The missionally-minded student must know, observe, and be amazed that God manifests his glory in creation (5). He also must constantly view history with a God-centered lens, seeing God’s redemptive handiwork throughout the ages. Lastly, the missional disciple should reflect the spirit of the apostle Paul who became all things to all peoples and cultures, so that he would more ably redemptively engage some.

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(1) 2 Tim 3.16-17.

(2) Nichols, Stephen J. ed. Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions. (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2001), 20.

(3) Of course, the world as God’s second book is merely a metaphor alluding to nature or creation as a means for his own self-revelation and glorification to his creatures.

(4) Piper, John. The Earth is the Lord’s.

(5) Ps 19.1-2; Rom 1.19-20.

(6) Acts 17.16-34; 1 Cor 9.19-33.

Missional-Theological Education: Contextual Evaluations & Assessments

Context determines the need and manner of evaluations and assessments. In a missional-theological education setting, work is “tested” through class interaction, required exercises and share time or a project—depending upon the goals set for the particular student. For instance, a student aspiring to become an elder in the church or a church planter elsewhere, will write papers pertaining to his required track. At the end of each quarter, when courses have ended, the students will evaluate both the professor and the course. Changes and improvements will inevitably occur along the way.

Missional-Theological Education: Contextual Methodologies

Context determines the methodologies applied in the missional-theological education setting. Both Jesus and Paul taught and made disciples in a variety of settings and ways. The setting for the present proposal is located in the classroom of a local church. This place of the educational process is to be sharply distinguished from that of the academy (1). “If discipleship has to do primarily with becoming like Jesus, then it cannot be achieved by the mere transfer of information outside of the context of ordinary lived life” (2). Instead, only active missional practitioners (i.e., active church leaders) are allowed to church. “Engaging in training in this way, the [missional student] increases his or her ability to grasp the issues, to resolve and integrate them. Mission is, and always was, the mother of good theology” (3).

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(1) Chester, Tim. Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 159.

(2) “The academy demands passivity in the student, whereas discipleship requires activity.” Hirsch, Alan. The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church. (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006), 122.

(3) Ibid.

Roles of the Missional-Theological Student

One role of the Christian missional student aligns with the discovery metaphor “that emphasizes the learner as one who develops new ideas through exploring stimuli and discovering what is there” (1). Jesus’ disciples often modeled this role rather well, even unintentionally so (2). The Spirit of God is necessarily involved in this process of discovery.

Assumed thus far, is that the student is a disciple, one whose mind and heart are being shaped in the educational process. Along the way, the missional disciple must become multi-faceted learners. That is, they must be attentive, responsible, participatory, and self-directed in their learning, as the Spirit shapes their worldview and affections (5).

Another role the Christian missional disciple plays is that of a member of the learning community. The student’s understanding progresses as he grows together in the body of Christ (6). Furthermore, his growth as a Christian is in some sense linked to the growth of the rest of the community. Only together does the community attain maturity.

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(1) “[Mission] is a constant continuum because mission is what we might call the steady state of God’s people.” Chester, Tim and Steve Timmis. Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 101.

(2) Ibid., 14.

(3) Matt 11.25-27; Matt 13.16-17; Mk 8.27-30; Luke 24.31-32; 44-47; Jn 16.29-30 .

(4) Estep Jr., James R., Michael J. Anthony, and Gregg R. Allison. A Theology for Christian Education. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2008), 274-5.

(5) Ibid.

(6) Eph 4.11-16.