Talking with professors from various seminaries, as I tend to do, I’m struck by the shrinking resources devoted to the discipline of Christian Education. Fewer CE classes are offered as time goes on. Now, many of these institutions no longer have a degree major (or even a minor) in Christian Education.
I realize that the nomenclature has changed. Seminary catalogues are more likely to call this discipline “Spiritual Formation,” “Discipleship Ministries,” etc., but I believe this signifies more than just a change of name. It indicates a sea change in our understanding of the ministry and mission of the church. We’re sailing from the Atlantic to the Pacific around a stormy cape, where many a ship has foundered on the rocks, and I fear that the old Ship of Zion may be perilously damaged in this transit.
On the “Atlantic” side of this sea change, we understood that Christ called the church to be primarily a school of godly living. On the “Pacific” side, we see it as a support group, a therapy group, or a focus group where individuals can share the serendipities of their Christian experience.
This has made the 21st century church a more friendly, welcoming place for seekers and believers alike. We all need such a place.
However, this change also means that the 21st century church is a more dangerous place, because everyone’s views (no matter how eccentric) are affirmed without their being trained in how to use the tools of biblical faith and church tradition to test the validity of these views.
I left a response to this excellent observation:
Insightful post! In a postmodern world people are afraid of appearing dogmatic; I fear people are too enamored—even obsessed—with their doubts than their certainties. It is seen as urbane, sophisticated and tolerant (I’m beginning to hate that buzz word) to be filled with existential angst and unformed mystery and, conversely, it is viewed as rude, simplistic and intolerant to say that we, “have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1.19 ESV).When Paul told Timothy, "what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim 2:2 ESV) he meant exactly that. The gospel has content; the gospel has correct doctrine. Never confuse that acknowledgment that people struggle to understand all aspects of The Truth with the spiritual ruin that comes when people begin to believe everyone is equally entitled "his" truth.