In the last few months, I've picked up on a lot of the "buzz" about "The New Seminary." The idea is circulating that the bricks and mortar seminaries will face increasing pressure from several directions: the rise of the nondenominational church and church planting movements, the cost, the perceived out of date nature of the training, and the rise of alternatives.
I've certainly experienced some of those during the time I've pursued theological education. Many of my friends and I have been frustrated in the extreme by a system that demands so much from us, but refuses to acknowledge anything is amiss in how it faces its "customer." While I intend to finish my degree program in a denominational seminary eventually, I was led to enter Rockbridge Seminary a couple of years ago in order to get solid, practical training in a way that fit my life and budget. I'll finish (Lord willing) a Masters in Ministry Leadership degree this fall.
This term I was somewhat limited in my course choices, simply because I am nearing the end of my tenure here. The prospective courses boiled down to "Preaching for Life Change" and "Understanding Other Cultures." While I appreciate Rick Warren and what he and Saddleback have added to the Body of Christ, after my experience with 40 Days of Purpose and having already previewed the notes from the "Preaching For Life Change" seminar, I opted for "Understanding Other Cultures."
The instructors at Rockbridge have typically been very high quality professors who are engaged in the fields they teach. This course was no exception, being led by Dr. Jeff Ginn, who serves as a pastor and on the SBC International Missions Board. He has been on the field as a missionary, led a seminary, and was really helpful in my efforts to bend this course to fit where I serve.
As someone not called to the "mission field" as it has traditionally been presented, but who believes that where ever God puts a believer THAT is their Jerusalem, I thought going in the course would have little practical value now. Our area is pretty homogeneous. The one people group different from most places is the military. We have plenty of people in uniform. Dr. Ginn could relate well, since he serves just outside a military base too. So I took the classical tools presented as basic anthropology and applied them - not to a people group overseas - but to the people all around me.
My findings, even after almost 9 years here, have really helped me see areas of opportunity for ministry in and among the military. I've shared some with other people within my church and at a meeting with a sister church where we were looking for ways to bless our "parishes" and their eyes were opened too. So the course I dragged myself into reluctantly, proved to be a real blessing.
Now on to the next course!