This article is based on an address delivered on June 6, 2019, to the Kern Family Foundation’s Future Pastors Summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Kern Family Foundation has supported the publication of this article.
Your call to theological education today is more important, and in some ways may be more difficult, than it has ever been. As it is clearly no longer an option to do “seminary as usual,” it is also no longer an option to do “church as usual.” I want to discuss a few things about the moment we find ourselves in now — and about the special role that theological educators can play in setting tomorrow’s church on a firm foundation.
While American churches today are good at bringing a spiritual message, often the church is too inward-focused, with not much to say about our congregants’ daily, Monday-to-Saturday lives. What churches should be doing instead is preparing church leaders to offer love-motivated, Christ-centered attention to the flourishing of all people.
Church as usual is no longer an option because young people are the future of the church. And as ample data shows us, millennials and those even younger are leaving our churches. It seems clear that this loss has at least something to do with our inward-oriented model of church life.