August 20, 2008

Rizone Communities, Theological Education for Postmoderns

I really enjoyed this article by Carl Raschke (author of the forthcoming book GloboChrist and The Next Reformation), where he unpacks what theological education means in our "post-churched" culture. Here's a few quotes, but go and read the article in its entirety.

The crisis of theological education ultimately stems from Christians who aim to become professional leaders in a world where Christianity itself is increasingly deinstitutionalized, and its leaders are rapidly becoming deprofessionalized.

A postmodern theological education is both relevant and irrelevant in the same breath. Or to put the matter more mischievously, it has to steep itself in its own irrelevant classical particularities in such a strategic manner that it is able to engage, critique, and transform the culture in a way that is genuinely relevant.

Theological education is comparable to what in the computer business is known as network engineering. A network engineer needs to understand how the guts of a computer work, but even more importantly, she or he is required to design and implement novel, creative architectures for sharing and processing complex configurations of information with different spatial distributions and topographies. Similarly, someone with a seminary degree needs to know how to read and interpret the Bible (even in its original languages), to be familiar with the history of Christianity, and to have facility in the kind of faith-based intellectual reflection we know as theology. But more importantly, they should understand how to begin to deploy those base competencies in a multitude of interpenetrable contexts.
Jesus said “go and make disciples of all nations,” not “go find a good location to start churches.” The difference is not all that subtle. As disciple-making disciples we need to be gearing our theological studies toward becoming makeover artists in redesigning our Father’s house, not plodding toward one day becoming junior partners in the management of his firm.


Anonymous said...

I like it - particularly the first paragraph. The interesting thing I think he misses (at least in these excerpts - I need to read the whole thing) is that theological education, at least the "base competencies" he talks about, may not take place at a seminary or school as much as it has in the past (and I mean nothing against seminaries when I say that). In this "increasingly deinstitutionalized" and "deprofessionalized" world, I think many of the new leaders will be able to get the educational framework outside of institutional and professional educational structures.

JoeBumbulis said...

I think you are right and this theory that much of the educational framework can and will and does happen outside of educational structures is proven by many business people w/o degrees who are successful.

But at the same time there must be something said for the reason and necessity of law school or business school or ______ school.

Our world is not deinstitutionalized or deprofessionalized, but rather these things are happening within the institutional and professional realm.

Too many times things are juxtaposed against one another when they actually are changing each other so the deinstituionalization of education is converting how education is done, and vice versa.

Raschke's point is that for many people institutional education is less about base competencies and more about learning to life long learn and then getting the nitty gritty in other situations.

I don't think anybody would disagree that new leaders will be able to get the educational framework outside of institutionalized and professional educational structures, but this does not make institutional education illegitimate or does it?

What point does institutional education, especially theological/seminarian training serve for you? (i feel like i'm mumbling through different ideas here, hopefully it connects with what you were talking about)

Adam said...

Joe - I think I agree with what you're saying. I still think seminaries are important. I just think the role is shifting some. Also, in the professional structure of church that still exists we see more and more non-professionals with as much or more theological education (whether formal education or not). This makes for another interesting dynamic in churches. The pastor/leader is no longer The Authority.

Anyways, all of this is interesting stuff to think about (at least for me).

Adam said...

Oh, and by the way. I still see much value in formal education. There is much that can be gained in a classroom with a professor that can't be gained by simply reading a book, listening to a podcast, etc.

JoeBumbulis said...

Certainly. So for you, what is the role of the pastor in a church where more people have theo ed? Just curious, I've been bumping into this question and think its a good one.

of course one answer is to say that pastors aren't needed, and for some communities this is true, but it seems to me that most "emergent" churches or "missional" churches have a few personalities driving, forming, or shaping the community.

So without the Authority, what is the role of the pastor? I'd love to hear your thoughts for both traditional and emerging type settings, not that their exclusive to one another.

Adam said...

Let's see...I think the role of the pastor in most traditional settings will stay pretty much the same. There will just be fewer people in these settings. And fewer younger pastors going into those positions. This will be more true for mainline than less formal denoms/non-denoms. I suppose the role will change some, but I think most people who are not wanting same-old same-old will go elsewhere (maybe just to a "lower" church setting).

As for more emerging type churches, this is harder to answer I think. I'm not sure exactly. I think there will be more churches without official full-time paid pastors. There will be more part-time pastors who have less overall authority. I think of Solomon's Porch and Doug Pagitt. He only works 1/3 to 1/2 time at SP I think. As far as what these "less Authority" pastors do, I'm not exactly sure. It will probably vary based on each church.

By the way, in churches without pastors, there would still be leaders. You can't do away with leaders even if you wanted to - it just happens naturally. But these leaders won't have Authority like a pastor. Pete Rollins says the role of the leader is to refuse leadership. I'd like to think this will become more common. We'll see what happens...

In short, I think there will be examples all across the spectrum - from no pastor to pastors with all the Authority. And then everything in between. But I can't imagine things won't be shifting more towards the "no-pastor" end of the spectrum.

These are just preliminary thoughts off the top of my head. What do you think?

JoeBumbulis said...

I agree, even in a flat leadership system there are always some personalities that seem to form or shape the community more then others.

I also agree that as time goes by the pastor will not be seen as the figure of authority, but that does not diminish other images for the pastor.

Images such as prophet, evangelist, teacher, hospital care, organizer, etc are all roles that assume some authority, but often authority is given to the pastor within the community.

Obviously authority can and does get abused, but that does not mean authority is bad in itself.

I feel where you're coming from using Pagitt and some of the emerging churches that have a different style of leadership. I think it's great and creative the things they are doing.

At the same time though young evangelicals and post-evangelicals are still attending mainline churches according Diana Butler Bass and other denom's where the pastor is an authoritative figure: Orthodox or even conservative reformed churches ( i hate to use them as an example).

As for the comment about the "no pastor" move in the spectrum, my first inclination is to agree, but I wonder if that a correct evaluation of the way things are. I can't remember now, but there was an article out last spring about emerging churches simply filling a niche, and as niches go they do not speak for the universal or even general. I wonder if this thought is a transposition of one's own perception on reality, i.e. postmodern styles of leadership that are flat. So, all that to say, I don't know what it's going to look like in future but for now all ranges of the spectrum are present and serving their contexts. Both have negatives, both have positives. OBviously, some of the negatives shine brighter then others, but still.