Reading this article about alternative tech education a day after John Vest lamented NEXT Church’s apparent unwillingness to “rethink theology and ecclesiology in the rapidly changing contexts of ministry in 21st century postmodern, post-Christendom North America” is making some synapses fire.
First, John’s objection: three years into its existence, NEXT seems no more willing to grab hold of the institutional levers of the PC(USA) than it did at its inception. Leaders in the organization continue to recite a “we don’t know” mantra when asked hard questions about what they want to build. What it is contributing–and this is undeniably valuable–is “a platform for innovative and creative leaders to share ideas and best practices” (just hours after John’s post went up, NEXT’s blog published a post by D.C. pastor Jeff Kreibehl celebrating that very thing).
My first thought was to wonder why such a platform can’t be considered a tool for the rethinking John is eager to see. I wonder how else that “hard work” gets done? Position papers? Overtures to GA?
Now come to the Time article about start-up tech schools. Here’s the money quote from Jim Deters, who started Galvanize in Denver:
“In most cases, people are wasting their money on traditional education. The future of employment is small businesses that will be forced to figure things out for themselves.”
This sounds a lot like the “they-didn’t-teach-me-this-in-seminary” you hear from pastors of all stripes. Deters threw a ton of his own capital into a new school–one that teaches techies how to figure things out for themselves (my “traditional” theology professors would have said they were doing the same thing: “thinking theologically” they called it).
Let me land this plane. The platform that NEXT is constructing has lots and lots of space for men and women in theological training; the national gatherings have scholarshipped seminary students every year, and seminary presidents are prominent participants and speakers at these gatherings. John’s desire to see a more assertive direction from NEXT mixed with Roya Wolverson’s description of these new schools makes me wonder if NEXT couldn’t galvanize this kind of thing for Presbyterians.
- NEXT grew its partnerships with Presbyterian seminaries to develop courses that help students practice the kind of relational and innovative “figuring it out” today’s context requires?
- NEXT cultivated communities of students on seminary campuses to lead within the organization?
- NEXT held one of its regional or national gatherings on a seminary campus?
- NEXT inserted itself into the emergence of new seminaries, like the one sprouting in my neck of the woods, to offer courses and seminars and other events?
These are just a few ideas sprouting in the slowly fading afterglow of NEXT 2013. Of all the things NEXT is offering to today’s church, an infusion of practical and entrepreneurial learning into Presbyterian education may be the most valuable.