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A Picture of a Vibrant Church in the U.S. in 2030, part 6 of 7: Theological Education

A vibrant church has emerged in the United States in 2030. The hinge that swung the door toward a vibrant future hung on everyday followers of Jesus learning to disciple others to follow Jesus. Contrary to popular imagination a decade earlier, theological education in 2030 has become more important and more widespread.  

The shift from a Christendom world to a post-christendom world did not invalidate the theological education models that had worked so well for generations. The shift simply…hesitatingly…apprehensively…required a new paradigm.  

Three Notable Dynamics of Theological Education in 2030 


Widespread discipleship across the church has heightened interest in additional theological education. A decade earlier, congregational leaders…in small/big/tired/energetic/rural/urban/small town/simple/sophisticated/almost dead or vibrant churches…ordinary congregational leaders…stopped helplessly watching and started to learn the rhythms of discipling others. They saw it as more than the transfer of biblical information and doctrinal truth. They acted!  

So I urge you to imitate me.

1 Corinthians 4:16 

People following Jesus, and willing to count the cost, were no longer just recipients of the gifted work of professional pastors and leaders! They created a strong interest in theological education. Communities of people commended leaders for further theological education. They saw it as a sacred investment in the future.


The increased focus on discipleship placed greater emphasis on character development attached to theological education. Study in fundamental disciplines and the development of skills remained important but the recovery of trust in the church was built upon the development of character in its leaders.  


Theological education is connected to and delivered through life-giving ecosystems and networks designed to provide training and resources to people and the ministries they serve. Theological education was one of the fundamental resources provided. The use of technology and platforms made it accessible for a theological faculty to deliver training to disciples being raised up all across the country.


It’s never easy.  Each portion of this Vibrant Church series has offered no easy…silver bullet…to get from “here” to 2030. It’s placed the challenge on you as leaders to step boldly forward.

  • Grieving what you’ve loved and valued that might be lost.
  • Fearing what you don’t know.


  • A decade earlier it was critical that some of the great theological minds, respected seminary professors, missiologists, visionary entrepreneurs and practitioners collaborated to create what emerged as theological education in 2030. 
  • A decade earlier leaders knew that there was a lot at stake here! History had proven that it’s easy to go theologically sideways, and what started as biblical, Christ-centered, mission-focused training over the course of a few short years/decades can go sideways.  
  • A decade earlier trust in the American church suffered greatly from the examples of failed character among its leaders. Sometimes highly publicized failures. Sometimes covered up. Sadly, churches were not trusted. Pastors were not trusted. Most demonstrated integrity, honesty, humility, faithfulness with money, sexual purity, relational wisdom and compassion. But the collective reputation of church leaders was scarred by too many examples of arrogance, pride, lust, adultery, divisiveness, and gossip. As a result, the church suffered.
  • A decade earlier the people of God began to recognize their own “sentness” and stopped delegating it only to missionaries and chaplains and clergy. The baptized people of God started to own the mission of God and developed a thirst for additional theological education.

So… the conversation around the leadership table at your congregation!

  • First, a word of gratitude to you as leaders. And, to your pastor. (Allow us to encourage you to express your own gratitude to your pastor!) We all know that faithful service and leadership doesn’t come without sacrifices. And if there’s a spouse and family? Sacrifices there, too.  
  • Change usually doesn’t occur in congregations, or anywhere, if there’s not:
    • A “Why we can’t stay here.”
    • A picture of what a different…better…future could be. 
    • Leaders that are willing to lead for the sake of the mission.
  • SO… what is it that you need to start talking about… and keep talking about…and then actually do?  

Three final requests…

  • Please pray for our Liberia training team as they finish a week of training tomorrow.
  • Giving Tuesday is quickly approaching. Would you consider a gift?
  • IF you’re considering the January 9-11, 2020, start of Discipleship to Missional Community in Nashville would you contact Raechel and let her know you’re considering. We’ll be making some decisions next week about the scope of this offering.


Gail and Jock Ficken

One Response

  1. Robert Newton says:

    Super blog this week!

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