Each semester I meet with students who are passionate about missions. For many, their divine call and the pressure they feel as the learn about the needs around the world tempts them to bypass training and jettison theological education. In my experience, this is a recipe for disaster. Success in missions requires more than enthusiasm and passion. Like any ministry, missionaries need a body of knowledge and set of skills. The Great Commission is a call to plant churches and teach the scriptures; this means missionaries need biblical and theological training.
Missionaries must also be equipped with skills and knowledge specific to their work. This training is often the difference between success and failure. Missiological training can also make a difference in the sustainability and health of missionary families. When I talk with students who are considering dropping out of school, or bypassing education, I beg them not to neglect training. I remind them of a phrase that has been attributed to Charles Spurgeon, “A call to ministry includes a call to prepare.”
The International Mission Board has adopted “Limitless” as a vision for missionary sending. Dr. Platt, and his leadership team, have a passion for sending more missionaries, through more avenues, to more peoples and places. The needs of the world require a large and diverse missionary force. This is an exciting goal and one that we whole-heartedly embrace. The complexity of the mission also requires trained and prepared missionary force. At Southeastern Seminary, we have been working to provide quality theological and missiological training for students seeking to obey God’s call. We also embrace the IMB’s vision for a limitless missionary force and as a result, we have developed different degree options and different delivery methods.
1. Campus Based Training – Like any seminary, we offer a wide range of education and training opportunities for missionaries that take advantage of Christian community and face-to-face training. Our faculty has a passion for the Great Commission, and in every discipline, we have men who have served as missionaries in different places. They are experts in their specific fields of study and also have the ability to relate these studies to the mission field.
2. Online Training – SEBTS recognizes that, for many students, it is not feasible (or even beneficial) to study on our campus. For over a decade we have been working to create and provide training through multiple of delivery platforms. We provide quality training in open areas with easy access as well as places with technological difficulties and security concerns.
3. Church Based Training – Much of the training a missionary needs can be provided by their local churches. For the past several years we have partnered with hundreds of churches across the country to give students the opportunity for real life ministry training alongside qualified field practitioners. We empower the local church to be involved in theological/missiological training and offer academic credit for this work.
4. Field Based Training – There is nothing more exciting than meeting with missionaries and church planters in their location. The stories are fresher and training done closer to home is often better. This is why we regularly send professors around the world to meet with cohorts to deliver missionary training.
5. A Combination of any of the above – This is a new day in education and we know that missionary training should be offered in a variety of formats and different times. Any student may take advantage of any of these training opportunities as time and needs permit.
SEBTS provides missionaries with biblical, theological, and missiological training through multiple formats; we also provide multiple degree options to meet missionary needs. We know that the appeal for limitless missionary sending means that missionary education must to be available and gradual. This is why SEBTS provides a range of degree options. We offer moderately priced certificates consisting of only seven (7) classes. These certificate classes are accessible through any technological platform and are designed to fit within any schedule. We also offer Bachelor degrees, Masters degrees and post-graduate Doctoral degrees specifically designed around missionary training needs and fitting within lifestyle requirements.
SEBTS has a vision for equipping students to serve the local church and fulfill the Great Commission. We are embracing the opportunities and challenges of the day and, along with the IMB, NAMB, and thousands of local churches, we long to see limitless numbers of trained missionaries around the world laboring for our King Jesus.
Scott Hildreth is the director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies. He frequently speaks on issues of missions, spiritual formation, missiology, and theology. Scott also contributes to SEBTS faculty blog www.betweenthetimes.com