In context training needs to be … in context

There’s been a lot of rethinking and reforming going on around theological education in the UK. One of the big moves has been towards providing training away from the seminary campus and in the local context. There has always been the option of distance learning but the provision of Union’s Learning Communities model and Crosslands flexacademy take things up a level.

Regular Faithroots readers will know that I am a passionate supporter of this move. I believe that in context training is the best way forward for many potential pastors, planters and missionaries, especially in the urban context. You will also know that I believe that the training offered should not be a dumbed down/stripped down “cheap option” but we should make sure that in context and/or vocationally trained pastors and planters are also the best possible gift to the church.

Now, whilst I think progress has been made, I still think we’ve got some way to go. You see, proper in context training is about more than just taking the same teaching materials and delivering them away from campus. In context training should be an opportunity to contextualise training. In other words, it means that the training should be shaped and interact with the culture and community in which it is delivered.

What is the best way to learn about urban mission? The answer is that it isn’t to go and sit a module or read a book on urban theology. Rather, it is to be immersed in the context and on a day to day basis be reflecting Biblically on how what you believe about God, Creation, Humanity and New Creation affects how you live and witness in that community.

What this means is that the theology which we teach potential pastors, missionaries and planters becomes shaped by the missiology. The missiology provides a framework for the programme/syllabus. What do I mean by this? Come back on Monday and I’ll run through a worked example of how in context training might be shaped.