User-Friendly Seminary: Church Leadership Training in the Twenty-First Century -- By: Ebbie C. Smith

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 15:1 (Fall 1997)
Article: User-Friendly Seminary: Church Leadership Training in the Twenty-First Century
Author: Ebbie C. Smith


User-Friendly Seminary:
Church Leadership Training in the Twenty-First Century

Ebbie C. Smith

Professor of Christian Ethics and Missions
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
2001 West Seminary Drive
Ft. Worth, Texas 76122

In 1964, four notable leaders in the world of missionary thinking and education met in California to present papers related to world missions. Robert Calvin (Cal) Guy, Melvin L. Hodges, Donald A. McGavran, and Eugene A. Nida delivered important papers which were gathered into the book, Church Growth and Christian Mission (Harper & Row, 1965). One of Cal Guy’s presentations at this symposium was entitled, “Eliminating the Underbrush.”

I began planning for this article honoring Cal Guy by postulating a paper on “Still Underbrush to be Cleared.” Based on, but not mirroring, Dr. Guy’s contribution of 1965,1 envisioned contemporary, yet uneliminated, underbrush such as “the continuation of traditional leadership training models,” “training missionaries in the same categories as other Christian workers,” “the demy-thologizing of spiritual warfare,” “the continued emphasis on overstaffed, underproductive fields and ministries,” “the unbiblical and improper questioning of the need for salvation of those not in Christ,” and “the failure to target and adapt for the lower socioeconomic peoples.” These topics certainly point to underbrush that cries for clearing.

As I began to write, I discovered that each of these topics deserved, or demanded, treatment at least equal to the space allowed for this article. For better or for worse, therefore, I am submitting to the readers this one emphasis, an emphasis on “user-friendly,” “purpose-driven” training programs as the seminary for the 21st century. The other subjects must await their time!

Please, I do not suggest that Cal Guy will agree with all in this paper. The subject is not even one with which Dr. Guy often dealt. It is, however, a subject that resides where Cal Guy lived—on the growing edge of everything associated with world missions. So, here it is.

“User-friendly” and “purpose-driven” are often-heard adjectives relating to churches in contemporary discussions. If fact, “user-friendly churches” and “purpose-driven churches” have become established rallying cries among many

church growth advocates. The call for such churches suggests, even demands, that churches turn from traditional methods that often fail to speak to contemporary people, and embrace new ways that meet the needs, desires, and lifestyles of the multitudes of the unchurched population. The vast acco...

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