What would vocational training for pastors/planters look like?  (Part 2) Syllabus/Curriculum

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I’ve been sharing a little bit more about my desire to see churches planted and replanted in urban contexts. My own particular concern is for the urban West Midlands including north and east Birmingham, The Black Country and Wolverhampton. I believe that such an effort is going to need a lot more people from a wider and more diverse range of backgrounds to be called and trained for Gospel ministry. I’ve argued frequently that this will require training outside of traditional seminary contexts.  In this little mini-series of posts I’m writing a bit more about what that training would look like.

In my last article I said that overall, we shouldn’t be too prescriptive about the details of a curriculum or syllabus for trainee urban pastors/planters. A lot would depend on their context, their own individual needs, character, learning style, circumstances and that of those responsible for coaching/training them.

However, I think there are a couple of core components that I would like to see and certainly these would be included if you were training with me. The first is about missiology or how to understand, engage with and disciple people from the culture/community you are entering. At this point you can see why “in context training” is best.  This part of the training would follow a series of steps.  You will be encouraged to:

Step into the culture/community/world where you are going to be witnessing. This is all about “learning to see.” Here we’d talk about what it means to live among people and we’d introduce tools and methods for getting to know and understand a community.

Search out by getting to know what people believe, think, feel and the big questions they are asking. This will take you a step further into cultural analysis. Here we’d talk about belief systems and worldviews. We’d discover the points of contact where people have felt and real needs. We’d talk about what is cultural and what is wrong. This would include highlighting examples of common grace.

Show Up the problems of sin and idolatry in the culture. This is where we’d talk about the problem of sin and false belief. What are the lies that people have learnt about God?  What are the harmful consequences of this? What are the things that hold them back from trusting Jesus? What is going to be the baggage that new believers will bring with them?

Show off the truth of the Gospel. Here we’ll see how God reveals answers to their questions, fulfils their hopes and dreams, forgives their sin and sets them free from idolatry.

The other component is to do with what we might call pastoral or practical theology. It’s about discovering how what we believe affects how we live. In fact, this is not a completely disconnected stream, rather it’s about taking Systematic and Biblical Theology and applying it to five big questions which align with the steps above.

These are

  1. How do we know? How can we know anything about the world around us about God – if he exists, about ourselves and the future? This is all about God’s revelation to us.
  2. Who is God?  What is God like? What does it mean to worship the Triune God?
  3. How did we get here? What are our origins? What does it mean to believe in Creation? What are the consequences of the Fall?
  4. Who am I? What does it mean to be human, made in God’s image, fallen through sin, finding forgiveness in the Gospel?
  5. Where are we going?  What is New Creation all about? How will this world end? Why are we looking forward to Christ’s return? Heaven and Hell.

That first question “How do we know?” aligns with the first two missiology steps of Stepping in and searching out.  It provides us with the methodology for seeing and knowing. It shows us where to find answers to the big questions.

The other 4 questions are really about answering the big questions people ask “Is there more than this?” Who am I? Where did I come from? What is meaning and purpose?  In effect these overlap with the Showing Up and Showing Off stage because we either believe truth or lies about God, Creation, Us and the future/New Creation.

One of the things I’m planning to do over the coming months is to develop some of this content a bit more.

Are you interested in getting involved in supporting/partnering for urban ministry/planting? Is what I’m saying here whetting the appetite?  I’d love to hear from you if you are interested in:

Praying for this type of work

Supporting financially

Coming and getting involved as a trainee planter.

Encouraging someone else to come.

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