Missions and the Seminary Curriculum -- By: Charles R. Taber

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 07:2 (Spring 1966)
Article: Missions and the Seminary Curriculum
Author: Charles R. Taber

Missions and the Seminary Curriculum

Charles R. Taber

[Charles Taber served as a missionary to the Central African Republic from 1952 to 1960. He is presently pursuing work for the Ph.D. degree at the Hartford Seminary Foundation.]

Evangelical churches and church agencies have shown a commendable zeal in promoting foreign missions. Through missionary conferences, missionary publications, and other means, the needs of the world have been kept before the Christian community, and thousands of young people have been induced to give their lives for overseas service.

Unfortunately, this excellent emphasis on promotion, motivation, and recruitment has not been matched by a corresponding interest in the training of missionary candidates. Personal experience, observation of and conversation with dozens of missionaries of many boards and fields, the results of an abortive study attempted several years ago by the writer and Phil Landrum, the perusal of a dozen representative seminary catalogs, and the findings reported in a recent book by Bailey and Jackson1 all confirm a sad diagnosis: neither seminaries nor mission boards, the agencies most directly concerned, have shown a serious interest in making sure that missionaries were competent as well as spiritual. As a result, many sincere missionaries are working at less than their full potential, and some are actually obstacles in the Lord’s work.

Fortunately, there has been lately an apparent awakening on the part of some boards and some seminaries. A recent series of articles in World Vision Magazine attests to a promising ferment.2 It is the purpose of this paper to make concrete proposals as to what a seminary curriculum suitable for the training of missionaries should look like. It is based on three premises. First, a standard seminary curriculum is not by itself adequate. Second, it is the joint responsibility of seminaries and boards to provide the needed training. Third, prospective pastors will also benefit from this curriculum revision.

Theological Curriculum

The theological curriculum is the foundation on which the education of both pastors and missionaries must be built. It comprises Biblical studies, doctrinal studies, and historical studies.

Biblical studies. This is the area most adequately covered by the present curricula. There is need, however, to give increased attention to the light afforded by studies of the cultural setting of the Biblical account. Not only would the missionary preacher, teacher, and translator be helped in finding the real significance of some feature, but...

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