I don't think so. (At least not most of them.)
The trigger for this post comes from blog and Twitter friend, JR Rozko, who has begun a series of posts on A Missional Vision of Theological Education; (UPDATE: His second post in the series is here.)
After having given several posts to the consideration of bi-vocational ministry, its relationship to missional ecclesiology, defending it as a spiritually formative leadership model, and then commenting on its relationship to theological education, I have been thinking more and more about how we are equipping leaders to lead truly missional communities. Though it’s in no way a brand new topic of interest to me, I want to unpack, in a more focused manner, some of the shortcomings of our current system of theological education and begin sketching what I find to be a more faithful way forward. [Note this quote is full of great links @ JR's blog.]
I'm married to a recent seminary grad and have great affection for seminaries. But. I believe their model has to change if they have any hope of surviving the next 20 years – let alone having the kind of impact they should be capable of as we engage in this missional adventure.
In an interview I shot with Eddie Gibbs a couple of years ago (no longer available online, I'm afraid), Eddie talked about the present seminary model that leads to students incurring huge debts in pursuit of their Masters Degrees. He commented that his banker, financial advisor and a real estate agent he knew were all M.Div's who couldn't afford to work full time at a church – they wouldn't be able to service their seminary education debt.
Eddie was bold enough to suggest that seminaries needed to learn how to give their education away for free – like MIT and Stanford are doing. (Not that I expect to see that any time soon.) He also suggested that churches needed to be the ones sending folk to seminaries, paying for that education and expecting the seminarians to return to their sending community to work there or to be sent out from that community to plant new churches.
Cam Roxburgh, Al Hirsch and Don Goertz talk about seminary missional-leadership engagement in the later part of this video (embedded in small size on the right) – with Al strongly suggesting that seminaries need to break out of the habit of training almost exclusively for one aspect of the five fold ministry we find in Ephesians 4 – shepherd/pastor. (Al provides more insight into APEST or five-fold ministry here.)
However, seminary output cannot begin to provide the necessary leadership to see the church missionally engage with society in hopes of having any kind of kingdom impact. And the present church reality is that most seminary grads are going to need to be bi-vocational, unless they can find a megachurch gig that feeds their debt monster whilst stealing their soul. See Dave Fitch here on Bi-Vocational – or – Go on Staff at a Big Church. (Also make a point of reading Dave's latest, Can Missional Be Multi-site?)
Insight from an English Missional Practitioner
I've talked about Pete and Kath Atkins a number of times on this blog. I've had the pleasure of being with them twice in the past three years. The second time was with Imbi where she and I shot hours of footage for her upcoming documentary release.
Pete and Kath are team members for Fresh Expressions in the UK and have been planting mission-shaped expressions of church in Lincolnshire for more than a decade. (UPDATE: Read George Lings on Threshold – the church planting movement that Pete & Kath work with in Lincolnshire.) They are the primary designers of FXUK's Mission-shaped Leadership Course – a course "designed for laity, clergy and for all trained church leaders."
In the unedited clip below from Imbi Medri-Kinnon's documentary (to be released in early 2010), Mind the Gap – Church Leadership in the 21st Century, Pete talks about how we are going to need to mobilize the laity as the primary mission-shaped church leaders. We must do this if we expect to have any kind of kingdom impact on a region…or a nation. Seminary-trained church leadership will need to play a supporting and equipping role – more apostolic, rather than pastor or teacher, I would strongly suggest (in agreement with Pete, I think.)