Tag Archives: Dallas Theological Seminary

3 Reasons for Failing Mentoring Programs

Why Mentoring Programs Fail | Bible.org Blogs.

Blogger Laura Singleton wrote recently on the reasons she saw why mentoring programs fail. Essentially, she argues that they fail because they emphasis the program aspect of mentoring rather than the relational aspect of mentoring. Without disagreeing with her, the blog prompted me to consider other reasons why mentoring programs fail.

  1. Wrong purpose. Some people claim they want a mentor when they really want someone to follow. They want to be a disciple rather than a protégé. The character Mentor acted as an adviser to his protégé, sharing wisdom and insights. Similarly, in the mentor/protégé(e) relationship, the protégé may or may not adopt the viewpoint of the mentor. In contrast, in the disciple/master relationship, the disciple wishes to adopt the methods, philosophy, and ideas of his master. The disciple patterns him/herself after the master. The mentor/protégé(e) relationship is about guidance and growth; the disciple/master relationship is about imitation and duplication. A program will naturally fail when someone wishes to be a disciple rather than a protégé(e).
  2. Wrong program. Related to the reason above, some programs fail because they have the wrong programmatic elements. According to Dr. Michael Lawson of the Christian Education department at Dallas Theological Seminary, “Programs are just excuses for older Christians to get together with younger Christians.” In a mentoring relationship, the program (and any associated curriculum) needs to draw out the knowledge, values, and drives of the protégé(e); it is a student-centered approach to education. A master/disciple relationship needs to draw out the knowledge, values, and drives of the master; it is a teacher-centered approach to education. While there’s nothing wrong with studying the Bible, if the protégé(e) has needs and desires that go beyond Biblical study (perhaps they need career direction) then a curriculum exploring all 66 books of the Bible will fall short.
  3. Wrong people. Quite frankly, some people give bad advice. A mentor is an adviser, and must have the capacity to offer wisdom unattached from the need to see it adopted. In the Odyssey, Odysseus placed Mentor in charge of Telemachus, Odysseus’ son. Mentor acted as a guide and encourager rather than a father figure. It takes a particular skill-set, disposition, and personality to act in that capacity. A mentor must consider the needs of the protégé(e) and help the protégé(e) develop according to their own pattern. A master patterns his/her disciples according to the master’s way.

As you consider building a mentoring program or looking for a mentoring relationship, consider the purpose. Are you looking to make disciples, or are you trying to create opportunities to share wisdom? Are you looking for someone you can imitate, or do you want guidance on how to develop? Are you looking to be a disciple, or do you wish to be a protégé(e)?


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Racial Segregation and its Impact on Theological Education

Racial segregation continues to impact quality of education in Mississippi—and nationwide | Hechinger Report.

I thought this an interesting article by Alan Richard of the Hechinger Report, but it prompted some thoughts for me regarding our President and his religious views. Many of my religiously conservative (and incidentally, politically conservative) often decry more liberal theological views such as Black Liberation Theology. Consequently, they also tend to look down on those who hold to such views.

Let me point this out as a classic example of chickens coming home to roost. According to his wikipedia page, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright Jr. earned a Master of Arts in the History of Religions from the University of Chicago. Considering he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1968 and his master’s in English in 1969, one might surmise that he earned the Religion master’s around that time.

Consider that my current school of choice, Dallas Theological Seminary (and a bastion of conservative theological views), did not open its doors to blacks until 1965 ; as I understand it, DTS was one of the first to desegregate. The University of Chicago must have desegregated soon considering that Wright’s mother also graduated from the University of Chicago. Wright likely followed in her footsteps and toward an place familiar to him through his studies at Howard University. In any case, Wright landed in Chicago at one of the only schools which would have accepted him—a seminary with theologically liberal leanings.

Wright’s story is not unique: the black students who had the academic credibility and the financial wherewithal to pursue graduate-level theological education often had to choose the Chicago Divinity Schools of the world. Conservative schools simply would not educate them. In fact, I’ve heard one story (unconfirmed) of a major conservative seminary’s registrar who would discard the applications of qualified black applicants so there was no record of discrimination. Still, these gifted future pastors attended liberal schools and went on to pastor churches. Wright accepted his pastorate around 1972.

For more than 30 years, Wright pastored, taught, and led his congregation based on the theology he learned at the University of Chicago and later from Union Theological Seminary under James Cone. Among his flock? One Barack Obama, a community organizer who worked in and around the south side of Chicago, Illinois, and who would have worked with many pastors (with similar educations as Wright) in the area in order to bring much-needed resources to bear on the problems of the African-American community.

In short (and to use another metaphor), the seeds of segregation—planted and watered by conservative seminaries—blossomed into pastors who chose liberal institutions for their training. Those pastors then sowed the seeds of their new-found theology into their congregants who now hold significant political, social, and economic positions. Those congregants are the Beyoncé’s, President Obama’s, Oprah Winfrey’s, and Tyra Banks’ of the world. So, theological conservative: when you wonder why some people hold the views they hold, consider your history, and know that when the opportunity to influence minds came, theological conservatives built a chicken roost.

Now the chickens are home, and hungry.


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The Task of Christian Education

Warning: big words ahead. Bear with me, though. I will land in a relevant, practical place.

J. Scott Horrell, professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, describes the five divisions of sin in Genesis chapter 3 based on his meditations at L’Abri and the writings of Francis Schaffer. In a nutshell, once Adam and Eve eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, it causes a division or separation of five relationships: humanity/God, humanity/humanity, humanity/self, humanity/nature, and nature/nature. Jesus’ work on the cross reconciles these relationships, and will ultimately reconcile these relationships in the eschaton (eternity future, when Jesus returns and sets all things right).

However, we don’t live in the eschaton; we live in the here and now. Here  and now, the Bible describes the church as the body of Christ. In a sense we (the church) serve as the incarnation (Christ in the flesh) until the incarnation comes back to complete the job.* If you can accept that the church must carry out the work of Christ, and if you can accept that Christ came (in part) to reconcile the divisions of sin (in fulfillment of the protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15) then it follows that the church’s task is to carry out the reconciliation of the five divisions of sin.

This means that the task of Christian education is to teach the church how to carry out the task of reconciliation.

Implication: Christian educators need to reconsider the cognitive categories of education. We organize our educational system around content domains, based upon Greek philosophical categories. It seems to me that, while helpful, those categories may not offer the best method or categories.  I think that the Arts/Humanities/Sciences split doesn’t offer the best lens to think through the reconciliatory task. I will offer an alternative at a later date.

Implication: Christian educators also need to reconsider education in light of the academy/church/home split. I have suggested that the academy teaches to the cognitive (knowledge), the church teaches to the affective (values) and the home teaches to the conative (method/drive), but I think theses agencies can coordinate and cooperate more in their efforts to teach the students. In fact, I think these agencies need to do a better job in doing so. Perhaps this offers a path to doing so.

Implication: Christian educators must teach not only to the cognitive (content) aspects of education, but also the affective and conative aspects. I have said this before, but it bears repeating. Christian education involves the whole person, and our efforts need to do so with deliberation and with careful and prayerful consideration.

May we renew and pursue the task and the high calling of Christian education.

* – Yes, yes, I know this brings up post/pre/a-millenial arguments and interpretations of Revelation and the particular eschatological views. If you will grant me the basic premise that life now is different than life will be (in other words, that the future when all things are right will be different than life is now when all things are not right) without arguing over how we get there, I believe you might be able to accept where I’m going with this.

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The Church in Christian Education

At several points in this blog, I have or will mention the church. It occurs to me that I need to make my meaning clear when I refer to it for the sake of clarity.

Definition #1: I took a course in Sanctification and Ecclesiology, and another in Issues in Ecclesiology from Dr. Glenn Kreider of Dallas Theological Seminary. In that course, he defines what most describe as the Universal Church, in a definition from Robert Saucy’s The Church in God’s Program. So, when I refer to the church in a general way, I mean, the New Covenant Community of the Spirit. Christians are members and partakers of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Luke 22:20, Hebrews). We are a community of faith, united in and by the Spirit of God (Acts 2:14-21).

Definition #2: Sometimes I talk about it in connection or contrast to the home and the academy as a location for Christian education. In that case, I’m referring to the institutional, organized assembly where the new covenant community of the Spirit gathers to receive the ordinances and participate in the communal ritual expressions of faith. That definition is long and clunky, and I’m working on shortening it, but it’s what I have so far.

Definition #3: Rarely I refer to the building where the new covenant community of the Spirit assembles to participate in the communal ritual expressions of faith. This doesn’t happen often, however.

Definition #4: Rarer still, I might talk about the church in connection and contrast to the historical Israel of the Bible (Old Testament). In that case, I most likely mean the seed (descendants) of Abraham in relationship to God through the New Covenant. By this I mean the spiritual heirs of Abraham (Galatians 3:29) and inheritors of the promise. This means that not all descendents of Abraham will inherit his promise, but this should not surprise anyone (see Ishmael, for one example).

My other half would point out to me that I need to answer the “so what” question, as in, “So why should I care about this definition?” Firstly, I answer this question so that you, the reader, can understand what I mean, but that’s about me. I would encourage others to think through what they mean by “the church” when they refer to it, recognizing that, like me, they probably mean a couple of different things. Secondly, our understanding of the church influences our behavior when we carry out the mission of the church. My first definition implies something about what I believe the Bible to communicate about God, my relationship to God, how I should relate to others, and how I should relate to his creation. It all ties to the New Covenant and shapes how I will educate my children and lead my family. Thirdly, note that I have not defined the church as the body of Christ. I do this because, as I understand it, the New Testament uses the body of Christ as a metaphor to describe the church, rather than define it, a subtle but important distinction.

And there you go. The church, by definition.

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Defining Christian Education

While having a discussion with someone about the differences between the leadership degree and Christian education degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, they made the comment that (paraphrased) people who want to teach Sunday school or lead children’s ministries should choose Christian education (with the implication that anyone else should choose leadership). I have this discussion often, unfortunately. This common misconception plagues us (particularly in protestant evangelical circles) because it shows we really don’t understand Christian education. Today, lets try to remedy some of that by giving a couple of definitions.

Definition #1: In the interest of representing him well, I need to note that I gleaned this particular information from Dr. Mike Lawson, former chair of the Christian Education department at DTS, from several conversations with him and his students. He answers this problem by defining a Christian and defining education, boiling the essence of the definition into a core issue or phrase. Given our conversations, I suspect the root of his Christian education philosophy comes from Deuteronomy 6.

  • He describes a Christian as one who loves God through Jesus. Scriptural support comes from John 14:6 (I am the way…), Matthew 22:37 (love the lord your God…), and 1 Corinthians 15 (the definition of the Gospel).
  • He describes education as teaching which occurs at all times any by any means. I know that he recognizes education is more than teaching, but includes learning, curriculum, programs, and the environment, to name a few issues. However, at it’s essence, and when it comes to the actions and responsibility of the teacher, teaching is the main focus. Scriptural support comes from Deuteronomy 6, and particularly verses 6 through 9.

Therefore, one can define Christian education as “Teaching others to love God, through Jesus, by any means and at all times.”

Definition #2: Without disagreeing with a man who has forgotten more than I will ever know about Christian education, I follow his lead but take a slightly broader definition of Christian education. Deliberately relying on not only my understanding of the Bible, but also a broader theological base, I come up with the following:

  • There is a God.
  • God reveals Himself through creation (the universe), Christ, and canon (scripture).
  • We respond to that revelation, Christ being the highest revelation of God.
  • The appropriate response to God’s revelation is to trust and accept that revelation, and then to alter our behavior, values and beliefs accordingly.

Therefore, I define Christian education as, “Teaching others to respond appropriately to God’s revelation.

To tip my hand, I do not assume that everyone (namely the students) within Christian education are actually Christian, and so I believe that Christian education retains an evangelistic mission. I, in part, derive this from Deuteronomy 4, where God gives the reasons for giving the law in the first place (to make you wise and to bring Him glory). I believe that if Christians educate well, that educational excellence will draw people in to marvel at the God we serve. I believe we can and should promote and propagate the gospel through excellence in education.

Christian education: more than teaching Sunday school, however you define it.

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