Sundoulos - Fall 2005

Dean's Column

Ministry–Focused, Theologically Grounded

by Dr. Dennis Dirks

Paul describes it: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Col 1:28). This is the high calling at the heart of Christian Education.

Yet, as an academic discipline, Christian Education in North America has long labored under the suspicion of centering more on methods than content. A common perception has been that attention to the social sciences (educational theory, psychology, etc.) exceeds that given to scriptural and theological concerns. As one whose teaching has been in the field of CE, I am well aware that these perceptions have not always been baseless. At times, CE has been enamored with the innovative and new, more than the faith once delivered. The knee has occasionally bent at the idol of creativity rather than bowing at the feet of the Creator. But when its source and direction are intentionally and rigorously scriptural, Christian Education’s role in preparing leaders for the church is vital.

While ministry-focused by design, good Christian Education is consciously theologically based. Each of the major categories of theology contributes to a full-orbed understanding of biblical Christian Education. Talbot’s Christian Education program maintains a theological grounding as it seeks authentically to fulfill Paul’s instructions: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2).

Education and nurture in God’s ways, growing out of love for God, was spelled out early in the history of the Israelites (Deut 6:6-9). The church’s educational task is mandated in Christ’s Great Commission, “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:20). The highest purpose is to guide believers in fulfilling their pre-ordained calling: “predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29).

It is the responsibility of education that is Christian to pass orthodox faith from one generation to the next. But its mission is not complete until believers are effectively guided in making the faith their own, and in the application of ancient truth to life today. The process has the entire human lifespan in view, from early childhood to late adulthood. Each developmental stage presents unique concerns requiring the insights and direction of God’s Word. Each era of human history presents distinctive challenges representing the spirit of the age that must be confronted. Believers are not only to be salt and light in a dying world, they are to order their lives in ways that are appropriately counter-cultural. All this is part of growing up “in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Eph 4:15). Appropriate Christian Education is deeply concerned with such matters.

Talbot’s Christian Education faculty prepare leaders to address these concerns in a multiplicity of ministry settings — church, parachurch, Christian schools, Christian higher education, missions, and many more — in this culture and worldwide. The department’s responsibilities range widely from undergraduate to the highest levels of graduate education and include five degree programs:

Talbot boasts one of the largest Christian Education faculties in North America. Faculty are current practitioners, ministering in churches and other venues, not traffickers in past-their-prime ministry war stories. In addition to teaching classes, mentoring students in personal, spiritual, and ministry skills formation, they are actively engaged in writing (books, articles, curriculum, educational leadership guides), designing and leading conferences on and off campus, conducting seminars, consulting with churches, organizations, and denominations, and a host of other endeavors. Recently, the department was awarded a grant of $400,000 to promote teaching the Word of God.

In its many endeavors, Talbot’s Christian Education program seeks to be ministry-focused and theologically based. It is our pleasure, in this issue of Sundoulos, to acquaint you with this outstanding Talbot department.

Dr. Dennis Dirks is Dean of Talbot School of Theology and Professor Christian Education. He has been with Talbot for more than 27 years as a faculty member and administrator after serving on the staff of two churches.

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