God has not stopped calling people into ministry

Posted Feb 12, 2014 | The Discipleship Project

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By Carol F. Johnston


Carol JohnstonThe Discipleship Project is exploring innovative ways to equip them for life-giving and world-transforming ministries.

God has not stopped calling young people into ministry, just because churches are shrinking and increasing numbers of young adults are saying they don’t belong to any religion. Yes, church membership is down. Yes, seminary enrollments are down. Business as usual cannot go on. A lot of effort has gone into trying to figure out how to “fix” the churches and “fix” seminary education so we can all go on, but it’s not working. Maybe we have been going about it from the wrong direction and with the wrong focus.

God has not stopped calling young people into ministry—calling young people into a lifetime of wholehearted service on behalf of God’s work of redeeming and transforming the world. Some will wander off into other work, at least for a while. And many others are finding ways to serve God in non-traditional ways. They are flocking by the thousands into Teach for America, Americorps, and other service programs. Some are engaging with the new movement of asset-based social entrepreneurship: They are working to develop sustainable small business projects, innovative forms of health care, and other creative ways to leverage their talents and those of new partners across the world on behalf of alleviating poverty, disease, and oppression wherever it occurs. While they go about it, many are forming small groups that gather together to pray and read scripture and encourage one another. They are making “church” in their own ways and resourcing themselves via social media, mutual encouragement, ongoing conversation, and such gatherings as the Wild Goose Festival.

In the last several years I have gotten acquainted with these various ways that young adults are responding to God’s call to give their lives to make a difference. I have been inspired by their creativity, effectiveness, dedication, and willingness to sacrifice traditional career paths for the sake of their callings. At the same time, it seems to me that there is an astonishing amount of “reinventing the wheel” going on, in part because these young adults are inexperienced. The good news is, they are learning fast, getting better, and many are doing pioneering work to revitalize neighborhoods and alleviate poverty at home and abroad. But I have often found myself thinking, “These young adults are wonderful: what great things would they do if they had the grounding and mentoring that a seminary education can provide?”

At Christian Theological Seminary we are experimenting with how to shift away from the “business as usual” that educates pastors for a church that is radically changing. We hope to learn how to address these changes. We aspire to go beyond “equipping pastors for a church we can’t see yet” and dream of shaping that unseen church. Even more than that, what if we can learn how to contribute to a movement to foster renewal of the Christian movement for the sake of ministries that are life-giving and world-transforming, whether inside the church or outside?

The Discipleship Project is at the heart of this experimentation. We want to partner with those God is still calling into ministry and learn from them, as well as connect them with the riches of Christian and other faith traditions that can ground them for a lifetime of transformational service.

If you are a young adult with a deep spiritual curiosity and a passion to change the world for the better, join us, and help us figure this out. And if you know such a young adult who has been blessed with gifts for ministry, curiosity, imagination, and potential for leadership, we hope you will send them our way.

Carol F. Johnston is the interim director of The Discipleship Project. She is also Associate Professor of Theology and Culture and Director of Lifelong Theological Education at Christian Theological Seminary. She is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The Discipleship Project is a groundbreaking approach to theological education at Christian Theological Seminary that is inspired by Jesus’ pedagogy in the New Testament gospels. To request permission to repost this content, please contact centerforpastoralexcellence@cts.edu.

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