Integrating Culture, Context, and Call into Theological Education
November 4, 2019
Greetings from Armenia, Colombia!
I am here with Kairos students from across Colombia who are attending their first Kairos Gathering. The group ranges in age from early 20s to mid-60s, and the ministry contexts in which these students are engaged range from business to youth ministry and urban to rural.
With me are Geoff Hartt, Kenny Wallace, and Jay Campo, all of who are affiliate faculty with Sioux Falls Seminary. Our week has included worship, prayer, case study discussions, teaching, new student orientation processes…and coffee. Lots of coffee.
Students who attend gatherings in Sioux Falls and Edmonton often say that the case studies are their favorite part of the gathering. This has been reflected here as well. Having a safe place to talk through questions that emerge from one’s ministry context is something students greatly appreciate. The presence of the Spirit in those conversations, the way that students pray with one another, and the wisdom that emerges from the groups is wonderful to see. Praise be to God.
Yesterday, we spent time talking through the importance of rooting learning in the context of ministry and how Bible interpretation must engage the local community of believers, something our dean, Larry Caldwell, calls Ethnohermeneutics. It was fascinating to watch the students come alive when they began to see how each other’s stories and ministry contexts could inform their learning and their journey through Kairos. When that learning was coupled with the teaching on Ethnohermeneutics, the students expressed excitement and gratitude for the fact that Kairos empowered them to integrate faith, ministry, and biblical study in ways that directly serve their ministry context.
To put that more simply, students are excited about engaging in a journey of theological education that flows out of their local ministry and context (as opposed to a journey that is handed down to them from North America). It is this aspect of Kairos that has been most evident in my travels this month.
So often we think of theological education as a journey through specific content that is “complete” when the student has walked through all of that content. The issue with this approach or way of thinking is it assumes all content is cross-cultural and that it just simply needs to be translated, nothing more.
That simply isn’t the case.
One’s culture, context, ethnicity, family system, prior learning, and much more all greatly impact how one gathers, receives, and engages with content, learning, discipleship, and more. Sometimes we are willing to admit this is true when dealing with cultures separated by thousands of miles, but we tend to dismiss that this reality is also true within our local neighborhoods.
The Kairos Project fully integrated a student’s culture, context, and call into the entire journey of theological education. As a result, the program uses learning and discipleship as the foundational building blocks (not just content). Obviously, there is content but it serves as one of many tools that students and mentor teams can use along the journey of theological education.
When those administering systems of theological education begin to embrace this paradigm, as the wonderful staff, therapists, faculty, and board members at Sioux Falls have, a world of possibilities opens up, quite literally. Over the past three weeks, the following have occurred:
• Invitations to partner with local leaders in Hong Kong, Jamaica, Australia, Egypt, and South Korea;
• The launch of a new partnership program that leverages the Logos Bible software;
• An invitation to partner with an organization that has twelve seminaries around the world;
• Conversations with students in Dubai, Colombia, California, Canada, South Dakota, North Dakota, and more;
• An invitation to lead conversations on innovation in theological education and operational alignment.
By the grace of God, all of these conversations stem from the open-handed nature of the Kairos Project and the work that God is doing in and through his Church around the world. Being here in Colombia is a great reminder that God is at work, and we just need to try and keep up!