Encouraging The Character Formation Of Future Christian Leaders -- By: Judy TenElshof

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 42:1 (Mar 1999)
Article: Encouraging The Character Formation Of Future Christian Leaders
Author: Judy TenElshof


Encouraging The Character Formation
Of Future Christian Leaders

Judy TenElshof*

No longer can it be assumed that incoming seminary students have a working knowledge of the basics of the Christian faith. What is needed to serve Christ with moral excellence must be addressed in the training of our future Christian leaders. The challenges seminaries have to face today include the “fragmented self ” with which students enter seminary, their “weak” personal commitments, and reason-oriented versus person-oriented training models. As educators, we observe some of our students coming from homes which modeled values that contradict the Bible and we seek to develop proper values in seminary. How can we expect our students to trust and depend on God when they didn’t have parents who were trustworthy in nurturing them? How can we expect students to be honest when their experience is one of distrust? How can people express empathy and compassion when they didn’t experience them as children?

In addition, many seminarians have also been affected by the cultural relativism in which they were raised. The emergence of separate social sciences in economic, political, and social affairs which were to be value free changed the moral philosophy taught in the nineteenth century. No longer is there an objective moral foundation from which values flow. Rather, values are constructed as needed to meet the needs of the individual and society. By contrast, the real distinctive of Christian higher education is a holistic integration of faith and learning, an active penetration of all the disciplines and all life callings with the beliefs and values that make up a Christian world view. These values are objective and rooted in universal aspects of our lives in God’s creation, not relative to an individual or situation. These values are not only what is taught but are reflected in how they are taught. Everyone who teaches is modeling ethics, whether good or bad. 1

Consequently, seminary professors find teaching getting more difficult each successive year. As they see society changing, knowledge increasing, and families experiencing heartache and separation, educators feel the need not only to teach the basics, but to meet growing life needs that their students bring through the classroom doors. The feeling increases when one considers the needs of the community within the church of today to whom these future Christian leaders will be called to minister.

* Judy TenElshof is assistant professor of Christian Education at Talbot School of Theology, 13800 Biola Avenue, La Mirada, CA 90639–0001.

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