Evangelical churches running intensive theological education programs for members

Theological education programs have been growing in evangelical churches for members who want to study church history and theology without going to seminary or who don’t feel called to the ministry, reports Maria Baer in Christianity Today magazine (November). While congregations have always had Bible studies, adult education programs, and new member classes for teaching church doctrine, the new programs are different in that many try to focus more on education than devotion and often replicate aspects of seminary education without the high tuition. At a program in Arizona called Surge that includes dozens of churches, participants hear from pastors and guest lecturers and read seminary-level books. Participating churches then gather together for intensives. One pastor says that all too often congregations have transferred discipleship and education to parachurch organizations and seminaries.

Source: Surge School.

Other pastors interviewed were concerned about the biblical and theological illiteracy among their members. Baer writes that these programs and their leaders deny that they are trying to compete with or supplant seminary education and that some have cooperative programs with seminaries. Surge in Arizona has a cooperative arrangement with Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, and Village Church Institute in Texas, another prominent church-based theological education program, cooperates with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dallas Theological Seminary. Although churches in the Reformed tradition have been at the forefront of the trend, networks like Surge include Anglican, Pentecostal and Baptist congregations.

(Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60189)