Theological Education as Discipleship, Part Two

One of the values of Winebrenner Seminary is to be “Centered on Christ and Rooted in Scripture.” The spirit of that value is similar to the definition of discipleship offered by Dallas Willard: “the process of establishing the character of Christ in the person.” Regardless of what words we use to express this commitment, it is part of Winebrenner’s core to approach theological education as discipleship.

This commitment is not just about content but also about the structure, format, and process of the educational journey. Let’s begin with the question What problems exist in the lives of Winebrenner students that Winebrenner solves? (click here to read more about how this question fits within Winebrenner’s larger “business model”). For some there is a lack of ministry knowledge, or having the necessary prerequisites for a degree, or even the lack of a degree.  For others, the educational journey helps clarify uncertainty around one’s calling and provides a context for deeper spiritual formation. All of these fit within the way Reggie McNeal has defined discipleship – as “people development” (you can watch my brief interview with Reggie from a few years ago by clicking here).

By providing solutions to problems that exist within the lives of our students Winebrenner becomes an active part of their discipleship journeys. In many cases, there is a need for “just in time” training and learning. An older model asked students to withdraw or relocate from their context to spend a few focused years on learning. And, then, after the educational journey was “complete” they could return to a ministry context.  A commitment to theological education as discipleship invites students into a formational experience that integrates into their local context, ministry settings, families, and communities.

Integrating education into the lives and ministries of students pushes the boundaries of how much faculty, staff, and administrators can rely upon their own educational formation.  It’s a great challenge to teach and create classroom environments that look very different from one’s own experience.  However, the educational environment at Winebrenner Seminary will be a combination of three distinct, yet interconnected, approaches to education: structured learningin-context learning, and on demand learning.  With a monthly recurrent tuition model, Winebrenner continues to move in the direction of ongoing learning opportunities as opposed to the way a previous generation of Winebrenner students experienced their education.

None of this is “change for the sake of change” but for the purpose of more fully aligning all operations with our mission and strategic priorities.

– Dr. Brent C. Sleasman, President