Winebrenner Theological Seminary sits at the intersection of theological higher education and the Church. We have both a commitment to quality educational practice as well as the discipleship ministry of the church. My belief is that our unique mission allows us to provide a fresh expression of a theological seminary in 2020 and beyond.
Winebrenner’s mission is to “equip leaders for service in God’s kingdom.” While many faith-based organizations may have a similar sounding purpose statement, our dual commitments to higher education and the work of the Church help us clarify our reason for existence. As we continue on with our series “God’s Kingdom, Our Winebrenner,” I want to examine a few implications of our unique mission:
- A word that continually describes what we do is discipleship. Our mission is essentially an activity of discipleship in which we offer intense and intensive learning opportunities structured in compliance with our educational accreditation. Note the shared root between the words “discipleship” and “discipline.” In order to be a disciple, one must have a level of discipline. Our academic courses and programs provide a structured and disciplined path to grow as a disciple.
- Within this spirit, it seems as though “theological education” serves as a useful phrase to describe what we do and “where we fit” in larger conversations of education and the academy. There are many terms and phrases that can be used to describe Winebrenner and I’m finding “theological education” to be the most accurate and descriptive.
- While we continue to offer full academic programs, Winebrenner also assists in connecting students to their calling, ministries, and ministry training programs. Each student has a general and unique calling. If our task is truly one of discipleship and not “selling academic programs,” then we need to take seriously the value that a single course can have upon someone’s spiritual development.
As we continue to navigate a changing environment, I am challenged when I think about the use of the word “equipping” in Winebrenner’s mission statement. I remain committed to this term, but must work to make sure it aligns with sources such as Ephesians 4:11-12, in which Paul writes: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
There are times when I’ve encountered the assumption that equipping means we’ll provide the skills that you can implement in a particular situation. Students are equipped for “service in God’s kingdom,” but that is no guarantee that all the necessary skills and dispositions will be passed on through our education. There are limits to “equipping” language and we must work against suggesting we can train all people for all times. There is a uniqueness of calling and mission.
Next week we’ll examine how an organization like Winebrenner needs to continually reorganize for mission fulfillment.
– Dr. Brent Sleasman, President
– Image by photographer Mauro Mora from UnSplash accessed by AdobeSpark.