The M.Div. Missions track is a specialized M.Div. that allows students to redirect many of the electives and ministry courses specifically towards missions courses. This degree is the only one of its kind among all ATS accredited schools, providing a unique opportunity of preparation for those who are called to missional work.
The degree is designed for people who want to engage the world through church planting, intercultural missions, global missions, or other missional areas. The Missions track takes an already practical degree, and gears it even more towards application for on-the-ground ministry.
Engaging culture is an important emphasis in the contextual education component for all M.Div. students. The Missions track takes students even deeper in engagement with cultural issues. Missions courses take culture head on, enabling students to think critically and faithfully about how culture relates to the good news in its communication and to the shape of the church.
Missions classes teach students to exegete culture in ways that don't come naturally. Culture is like an operating system--it's always working--so many of us don’t take the time to stop and think about it. One of the most difficult things for Westerners to do is understand that many of our beliefs, practices, and convictions are essentially cultural. When facing other cultures its easy to point out cultural phenomena, but it can be difficult to aim the same scrutiny back on ourselves. Engaging culture, then, is about more than just understanding how to interpret foreign cultures. Through classes like the emerging church class, students learn to think critically about Western culture and then, based on this criticism, understand how to re engage the church in the West.
In learning how to exegete culture, students also learn to think about culture theologically, so they can develop the ability to judge or adjudicate faithful Christian responses to culture. There are multiple ways of addressing a different culture than one's one. Culture can be accepted or rejected wholesale, partially accepted, or accepted with a Christian tweaking. Missionaries
are faced daily with these sorts of dilemmas. In the Missions Track, students are exposed to such issues and encouraged to develop their own theological rationale for handling such difficult issues.
Tools for Ministry
Because of the complexity of planting churches and engaging different cultures, the M.Div. Missions track provides a solid grounding in scripture, church history, biblical languages, practical theology, and systematic theology. All of these areas represent tools and resources for handling the unpredictable situations and issues that might confront a person on the mission field. Knowledge of scripture, history, and theology train missionaries to respond to problems theologically.
Students in the Missions track collect a number of skills that will equip them to handle situations and problems that might be encountered on the mission field. Some of these tools are: critical application, history, theology, and text.
Critical application is the tool that binds all of the others together, helping a missionary apply their resources correctly in situations. This is cultivated through classes that teach particular missions-related fields as well as the "cases" and "Pathways Projects" in the Contextual Education program. Often, cases involve a complex situation on the mission field, requiring students to develop a concrete description for dealing with the issues. These provide students with an opportunity to hone their skills of problem solving and critical thinking in preparation for similar real-world situations.
Almost any problem a missionary faces today has already been faced at some point in church history. The study of church history is helpful for several reasons. First, it provides a strong grounding in the Christian tradition so that a student can understand the central issues and doctrines from the more peripheral ones. This is obviously important for the mission field
precisely because missionaries are called to bring the gospel into a culture different from their own. Second, history also provides potential solutions to problems that could occur on the mission field. History helps students to think about problems with a consciousness of how Christians in the past shared the gospel faithfully.
The study of Theology, including Systematic Theology, Philosophy of Religion, and Theological Ethics, provides future missionaries with a stronger philosophical understanding of the Christian faith. By attending to major doctrines defenses of the rationality of faith, or reasons for Christian ethics, students will be more prepared to engage non-Christians in dialogue and engage theology in the public square.
Finally, the text of Scripture is an obviously important tool for missionaries. While exposure to the tools for deep study of scripture is important for all ministerial students, learning biblical languages is an especially important tool for missionaries in places where there are limited translations of the Bible.
For more information about the M.Div. Missions track, please contact the Missions track advisor: Dr. Chris Flanders, firstname.lastname@example.org.