A “telos” is the goal, end, or purpose of something. I believe that history has as its telos Jesus Christ. For those who love him, our purposes and ambitions become aligned with his, and we participate in his story. For almost seven years now, I have pursued an education to answer how I might align my life with the work of my King. I’ve pursued making my contribution through ministry in pastoral capacities. Those years have been some of the most difficult of my life, but they have served in giving me clarity and direction.
I have sacrificed a great deal for this education, both relationally and monetarily. Coming out the other side I see some things that disturb me.
First, the next generation of ministers are going into ministry in 10′s of thousands, if not over $100,000 in debt. Second, the cost of a theological education is such that it is by and large only accessible to people of privilege. Third, many theological institutions teach doctrinal distinction rather than Christian unity. I conclude then, that the academy has served to sever the body of Christ ethnically, doctrinally, and by the emotional and financial taxation of the future ministers to the church.
This is the well from which we draw our leadership; generation after generation after generation.
I have been thinking at length of ways this educational paradigm can be challenged, and a more affective mode of training leaders implemented. With the help of men like John Armstrong at ACT 3, and the people at Biblical Seminary shaping my thinking, I’ve come up with a few ideas to do this.
First, we’d like to open our home to young seminarians and bible college students to create a community where there is transfer between Christian traditions and cultural/ethnic experiences. This is coupled with the soon to be announced vision for a “House of Hospitality” in our home.
Second, we’d like to establish partnerships with surrounding theological institutes who would acknowledge the teaching offered in this institute as transferable for credit. This is precisely what ACT 3 is doing and offering with the Missional Ecumenical Cohorts, one of which will be coming to Philadelphia this Fall. We hope to bring one to Lancaster, Pennsylvania someday.
Third, we hope to educate and train those who hope to be bi-vocational ministers. It has been my experience that those with undergraduate degrees in ministry last on average 4 years in their field, and then move on to something unrelated. The debt we have incurred for a four year degree in a field that is increasingly part time strikes me as a robbery from would be pastors. This institute would train and prepare pastors for ministry with first hand experience in the local church. It would also prepare them for ministry through theological rigor, but not in traditional academic ways. Instead, theological ascent will happen through disciplined practices of prayer and meditation founded in historical understandings of developed interpretive methods of scripture and history.
This institute would be geared towards those who hope to have a foot in both the sacred and secular worlds – it would be for those who do not dichotomize the two, but see ministry as the equipping of congregants to minister in their own contexts.
It is my hope that these goals will fully develop Christian leaders in a post-Christian age, meeting the needs of contemporary society and speaking with clarity the Good News of Jesus Christ to a world which waits with baited breath to hear it.
This, I hope, is where I might find myself in the telos of history which is Jesus Christ.