Bible Innovations

I grew up in a family in which innovation regarding the Bible was frowned upon.  If our version was good enough for dad, it was good enough for everyone.  Much of what is called “innovation” these days is really just marketing to generate sales.  However, recently I encountered two “new” Bibles that are truly noteworthy for their innovative merits.

The Books of the Bible

“The Books of the Bible” is published by the International Bible Society.  Its innovations are:

  • No chapter and verse numbers.  Rather, the texts are presented in paragraph, poetic verse, or conversation as is appropriate to the genre of the texts.  Granted, it makes it a little hard when you are looking for a verse, but it is no harder than it was for the original recipients of the biblical documents.
  • No headings or notes.  The editors have let the texts (and text blocks) speak for themselves.  And they have not inserted interpretation via headings and subheadings.   There are also no notes for explanation or interpretation.
  • Book order (OT).  The OT books are organized according to the order in the Hebrew Bible, namely Law, Former Prophets (historical books), Latter Prophets (prophetic books), and Writings (including Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel).  It is the only English Bible I’ve ever seen to give respect to the Hebrew order.
  • Book order (NT).  The NT books start with Luke-Acts, followed by Paul’s letters in the order in which they were likely written, and logical groupings of the rest of the books which came later (Matthew with Hebrews and James, Mark with Peter and Jude, John’s Gospel with John’s Letters, and Revelation).  Again, it is the only English Bible I’ve ever seen that takes the temporal order and logical grouping of books seriously.

I have to say that “The Books of the Bible” has become one of my favorite Bibles for reading.  It has also become a valuable tool for understanding the author’s intention in the form in which it was written.

The Voice Bible

 “The Voice Bible” is published by Thomas Nelson.  Its innovations are:

  • Screenplay.  The presentation bears resemblance to a screenplay, particularly with the character being identified whenever speaking.  Similarly, inserted notes function like a narrator’s comments in a movie.  “The Voice” is more than just a clever name, it accurately describes the approach taken by the publisher.  It will be a welcome contribution to those who focus on the story of God’s plan as presented in the Bible.
  • Development team.  The people behind “The Voice” at the outset include a pastor (who is also a writer), a fiction writer, a poet, a Vietnamese pastor and poet, and a writer/research assistant.  The development team is marked by artists, performers, and writers, not just biblical scholars.
  • Divine names.  They claim that “Christos is not a name at all; it is a title,” so they don’t simply transliterate it as “Christ,” but translate it as “The Anointed.”  Similarly, rather than use “Yahweh,” “Jehovah,” or “LORD” as transliterations of YHWH, they use “the Eternal One” which is more in keeping with the meaning of YHWH. 
  • Contextual equivalence.  The translation of divine names above are examples of their translation philosophy of contextual equivalence.  Other examples includes “emissary” for apostles and “heavenly messengers” for angels.
  • Notes.  Unfortunately, the notes are so large and intrusive that they take on a “voice” of their own (they are even marked with a “V”).  The historical and interpretative commentaries inserted into the biblical texts often seem to drown out the sound of the text itself.  Nonetheless, the notes are helpful, but I would have preferred for them to have been kept to the preface or as footnotes.

The story and philosophy behind “The Voice” is published in The Story of The Voice by David B. Capes with Chris Seay and James F. Couch, Jr.

Roland Allen and The Ministry of the Spirit

Roland Allen is a great conversation partner. His books have provoked many of us to return to what he called “the way of Christ and His Apostles” (a term coined long before Jeff Reed started using it).  In The Ministry of the Spirit, Allen provides a marvelous model of doing theology in culture.  Not only does he address the role of the Holy Spirit, but does so according to a careful biblical theology of the Book of Acts that is applied to various issues of missionary work of the day.  The theological foundation is so solid that it can and should be readily used today.

If you want to know the essence of Allen’s understanding, consider this excerpt from the final chapter:  “In this large sense, if we believe in the Holy Spirit as He is revealed in the Acts, we must be missionaries.  We cannot accept the teaching of the Acts, we cannot believe that the one thing of importance to our souls is to receive and know the Spirit, without feeling ourselves driven to missionary action.  …  Activity world-wide in its direction and intention and hope and object is inevitable for us unless we are ready to deny the Holy Spirit of Christ revealed in the Acts” (p. 61).

Pentecost and the World: The Revelation of the Holy Spirit in the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ is the actual title of Roland Allen’s work on which we are focused.  It is more commonly known as “The Ministry of the Spirit” because that is the title given to the volume edited by David M. Paton that contains several of Allen’s works that are not readily available elsewhere.  Pentecost and the World is the first section, but it only takes up a quarter of the book.  Other sections include Non-Professional Missionaries, Mission Activities Considered in Relation to the Manifestation of the Spirit, St. Paul and the Judaizers: A Dialogue, An Illustration from V. S. Azariah, The Case for Voluntary Clergy, and To the Parishioners of Chalfont St. Peter.  It is not clear exactly why or how the volume got its name, but it is probably the work of the publisher, since it is not used as such by Allen in the text and not mentioned by Paton in the Foreward.

The Ministry of the Spirit is not as well-known as Allen’s other works even though Pentecost and the World was written in 1917 and published by Oxford University Press 5 years after the monumental Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? and 10 years before The Spontaneous Expansion of the Gospel and the Causes which Hinder It.  Perhaps this is simply because it was published as a pamphlet and was unavailable in book form until 1960.  In explaining the selection of works for The Ministry of the Spirit, Paton states, “They have all been long out of print, and most of them are now unobtainable even to persistent advertisers” (p. vii).

The publisher of the edition of The Ministry of the Spirit that I have (Eerdmans, 1970) puts “Three by Roland Allen” on the back cover and places it in-between Missionary Methods: St. Pauls or Ours? and The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church.  This volume was first published by World Dominion Press in 1960, perhaps in response a reference in the Biographical Memoir preface that says that “he [Allen] prophesied to his son that his writings would come into their own about 1960” (p. ix).

The foreward was written by David M. Paton who edited The Ministry of the Spirit.  If you think Allen is radical, you should read Paton’s work called Christian Missions and the Judgment of God.  This book is not about the importance of missions so that lost people don’t face the judgment of God.  Rather, it is about how mission agencies will face the judgment of God if they don’t take seriously “the Way of Christ and His Apostles!”  Although only a page long, the foreward gives a nice glimpse into the publishing of The Ministry of the Spirit.  Similarly, the Biographical Memoir by Alexander McLeish, who had extensive interaction with Allen at the time of the initial publishing of these works, is a fascinating glimpse into his life, ministry, ideas, and values.

Allen’s explanation of the role of the Spirit was not written with the Pentecostal Movement in mind, but it is interesting that it was first published in 1917, near the time of the conclusion of the Azusa Street Revival.  Allen is not responding to the Pentecostal Movement or caught up in any controversy about the Holy Spirit.  The closest he gets is one paragraph on discussions about the gift of tongues being “curiously uninteresting and unprofitable” (p. 22).  It is too bad that Allen’s work on the Spirit has not been more broadly read because it offers remarkable insight based on a solid biblical theology of Acts.  Allen’s theological work could be very helpful in addressing today’s various issues related to the Spirit.

Pentecost and the World: The Revelation of the Holy Spirit in the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ is only 61 pages in length.  It is composed of seven chapters and a conclusion.

Chapter I, “The Gift of the Holy Spirit,” begins with “The Acts of the Apostles is the record of the fulfillment of a promise made by Christ to His disciples and of the consequences which followed” (p. 3).  Despite his focus on the Holy Spirit in Acts, Allen takes issue with those who prefer to call the book “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” because that “obscures the human element.”  Allen proceeds to discuss the title of the book.  “In this degree, the title ‘The Acts of the Holy Spirit’ is true and useful, and should save us from the error of reading the book merely as the Acts of the Apostles” (p. 3).

Allen shows remarkable skill in doing biblical theology as he deals with the relation of Luke’s Gospel and the Book of Acts.  Rather than simply recognize Acts as the fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission, he notes that Luke does not focus on Christ’s command.  “He begins Acts, as he ended his Gospel, not with a command, but with a promise of the Spirit” (p. 4).  Allen draws attention to the statement by Christ in Acts 1:5 that “John baptized with water” to link the work of the apostles to the work of Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  He also explains how the Spirit given at Pentecost was “peculiarly Christian” and distinct from any prior manifestation of the Spirit.  According to Allen, the gift of the Spirit was 1) a definite gift, namely the “Spirit of the Son” received at a definite time and “given only to Christians;” 2) a real gift since “there was a day when the apostles had it not;” and 3) a sure gift because the apostles had a certainty that can “bring home to us a like certainty.”

Chapter II, “The Spirit Revealed as the Inspirer of Missionary Work,” begins with “Acts is the record of the events which followed the gift of the Holy Spirit” (p. 13).  Allen presents the book as a volume of Christian biography and church history.  As Christian biography, Acts is the account of prominent men and their missionary work.  Again, with astute biblical theology skill, he says “of the lives of those men of whom the most is recorded only certain events are told us” (p. 13).  Allen argues that the events told in Acts are almost exclusively missionary in nature.  As church history, Acts tells us “the missionary history, not the internal history” (p. 15) and “these considerations are surely sufficient to convince us that the book of Acts is strictly a missionary book” (p. 17).  Allen then takes several pages to analyze Luke’s references to the Holy Spirit in Acts, as well as to criticize the fact that “our best writers on the Holy Spirit have been singularly blind to it” (p. 20).

Chapter III, “The Revelation of the Spirit as Creating an Internal Necessity for Missionary Work,” begins with an acknowledgment that the Holy Spirit’s “first gift was a gift of tongues.”  However, Allen doesn’t allow contemporary debates, apparently from any side, distract him from his biblical theology work.  “Into this controversy I do not propose to enter.  To me, I confess, these discussions seem curiously uninteresting and unprofitable, and their conclusions equally dubious and barren.  They tend rather to divert the mind.” (p. 22).  He focused on what the apostles did with the gift of tongues, namely “preach Christ.”  Allen points out that except for Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian elders, “as for the rest, all are missionary sermons” (p. 22).  He shows how the disciples, even after the resurrection were still thinking in terms of “the restoration of the kingdom of Israel to worldly power” and their inability even “meditating upon the words and works of Jesus Christ . . . to perceive the real significance of them first for the Jews and then for the world” (p. 25).  They needed the Spirit to be given for them to have “an internal necessity to preach the Gospel” (p. 27).

Chapter IV, “The Spirit Revealing the Need of Men,” is about the “profound conviction that men needed Christ” (p. 29).  “Forgiveness of sins … takes as important a place in his [Paul’s] preaching as ‘that Jesus is the Christ’” (p. 30).  Although repentance had always been emphasized, “Repentance for sin which did not bring men to Christ was no longer adequate” (p. 31).  In application of this truth, Allen confronts a debate of his day regarding the priority of focus on bringing all men to the knowledge of Christ or just helping them do what they now know to be right.  The former leads to missionary zeal and the latter leads to lukewarmness.  However, to Allen, the zeal comes not from the need, but from the Holy Spirit “who came to them with the fire of divine love” (p. 35).

He then tackles a contemporary tendency that still has relevance for today.  If we value “heathen morality” too highly, namely the recognition that people can be good without being Christians, we are admitting that “If they can do very well without Christ, then so could we.  This is to turn our backs upon the Christ of the gospels and the Christ of Acts …” (p. 37).  “It is an essentially pre-Christian attitude, and implies that the Son of God has not been delivered for our salvation” (p. 37).  Although we may respect the “religious systems of the East” (remember, Allen was a missionary in China), he compares them to Judaism and Greek philosophers confronted in Acts.  “The apostles, inspired by the Holy Ghost, were troubled with no doubts whether the monotheism of the Jews or the philosophy of the Greeks were sufficient for their salvation” (p. 37).  Not preaching Christ is at best “an excuse of idleness” and at worst “a turning back from Christ to another gospel, which is not another” and a “flat contradiction of the whole teaching of the Acts” (p. 38).  “In the Acts these two meet, the redeeming Spirit and the utter need and it is the redeeming Spirit that reveals the utter need” (p. 38).

Chapter V, “The Administration of the Spirit” focuses on the giving of the Spirit to all who believe.  It is the “key of the apostolic work” (p. 42).  Allen explains that it was normal for it to be associated with the “laying on of hands,” but not always.  He once again relies on serious biblical theology to address an issue.  There were men “who had already received the Holy Spirit” (p. 39).  If we focus too much on the laying on of hands, “we are often in danger of laying the greater emphasis on that upon which he laid the less” (p. 42).  “Luke writes as though the gift of the Holy Spirit were the one thing of vital importance, by whatever means that gift was conveyed, whether with, or without the external act” (p. 42).

Chapter VI, “The Spirit: The Source and Test of New Forms of Missionary Activity,” begins with an odd statement, “Before Pentecost the apostles are represented as acting under the influence of an intellectual theory; after Pentecost they are represented as acting under the impulse of the Spirit” (p. 44).  This is not to denigrate the teaching of Christ, but to recognize that His teaching was not complete without the presence of the Spirit.  Allen explains that “Christ had given them a world-wide commission, embracing all the nations;  but intellectually they did not understand what He meant.  They found that out as they followed the impulse of the Spirit” (p. 46).  He acknowledges that “Their view was partial, but it was not false” (p. 45).  He compares their indecision regarding the selection of Matthias before Pentecost to their action after Pentecost. “The apostles no longer argue: they obey a spiritual impulse” (p. 45).  Allen recognizes that this sounds like a strange doctrine of “’First act, then think’” (p. 47).  He stresses that “the apostles did not act thoughtlessly,” but also that they “did not base their action upon a nice calculation of the probable consequences” (p. 48).  At this point, Allen engages in some serious theology in culture by stating that “Today we are more anxious about consequences, less sure about sources [the Holy Spirit]” (p. 48).  “From this the apostles were saved by their recognition of the supremacy of the Spirit.”

Chapter VII, “The Gift of the Spirit: The Sole Test of Communion,” is essentially an exploration of how Gentiles were added to the Church, “a story which occupies so important a place in the Acts of the Apostles” (p. 52).  Allen makes some interesting observations, such as Christ “called no Gentile to preach the gospel to the Gentiles” (p. 53).  After exploring various dimensions and perspectives on the dilemma, Allen provides a simple solution.  “God gave them the Holy Spirit” (p. 56).  He points to the various testimonies of Peter, especially his claim that God had “given them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us” (p. 56).  Allen relies on a practical theology.  “If they share the one Spirit, they are one” (p. 57).  “God gave the Holy Spirit; they admitted at once that nothing more was needed for salvation, nothing else was needful for communion” (p. 57).

Interestingly, Allen doesn’t draw out contemporary implications of this teaching in this chapter.  However, he does lean toward it in his “Notes to Chapter VII.”  “When the apostles spoke of men with whom they were not in communion, they used language that those … had not the Spirit” (p. 57).  All through these notes are elaborations on the nature of being in communion if you have the Spirit and warnings about tests that exclude someone from communion who has the Spirit.  Clearly, this is an important issue for Allen, even if he doesn’t address specific situations, since it comes at the end of his work.  Given the information in the Biographical Memoir, one might wonder if Allen himself has been the victim of exclusion from communion for propagating some of the teaching in this book and others.

The Conclusion could be titled, “The Spirit Makes Us All Missionaries.”  Allen summarizes his book by saying “In the preceding chapters I have tried to show that the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the coming of a missionary Spirit” (p. 59).  He acknowledges that “those who received the Holy Spirit became witnesses” and “the missionary Spirit was given to all … some received special direction … some received no such special call” (p. 59).  Allen explains why Luke focuses on the type of missionary work,namely so that the revelation of the Spirit would be most clear.  However, his point in the conclusion is that “the Spirit of desire for the salvation of the world may be expressed in any form of Christian activity” (p. 60).

“In this large sense, if we believe in the Holy Spirit as He is revealed in the Acts, we must be missionaries.  We cannot accept the teaching of the Acts, we cannot believe that the one thing of importance to our souls is to receive and know the Spirit, without feeling ourselves driven to missionary action.  …  Activity world-wide in its direction and intention and hope and object is inevitable for us unless we are ready to deny the Holy Spirit of Christ revealed in the Acts” (p. 61).

Perhaps in another future blog, we will deal more with the significance and implications of Allen’s contribution described above.

Online College Students: 2014 Survey of Online Learning

Occasionally, we like to put the Antioch School in the context of the larger landscape.  The 2014 Survey of Online Learning gives us such an opportunity.  Here are some comments about the Antioch School in light of 11 key findings about online college students in the recent work by the Babsen Survey Research Group and the Online Learning Consortium.

1. Online students are enrolling at institutions further away from their residence.

A slight majority of undergraduates report enrolling in a campus or center within 100 miles of where they live but less than half of graduate students do the same. Three-year trends show students are increasingly willing to attend an institution farther from home. (In 2012, 80% reported attending an institution within 100 miles of where they lived. This declined to 69% in 2013 and 54% in 2014.) 

The Antioch School certainly fits this finding.  Only a small percentage of our students live within 100 miles of our headquarters.  For most of our students, it is the location of their own churches that is important, not the location of the Antioch School.

2. Although cost and financial aid are important to online students, these are not deciding factors in their selection of an online program.

Although cost remained a top selection factor and the most-often-asked question of enrollment advisors, students demonstrated that they are balancing quality and cost. Sixty-six percent of undergraduate online students and 79% of graduate online students who had already enrolled report that they did not select the least expensive program available. Financial aid was critical for about half of those surveyed, yet only 20% say they would not attend an institution if their financial aid needs had not been met.

The low cost of tuition in the Antioch School is an important factor for most Antioch School students because many would not be pursuing a degree if they didn’t think it was affordable.  Although the Antioch School does not offer federal financial aid, many students still do rely on the financial support of their churches or ministry organizations.

 3. Online students are looking to improve their employment situation and are satisfied with their investment in an online degree.

A large majority of students pursuing online degrees and certificates are doing so for employment-related reasons. They want full-time jobs, new jobs, better jobs, or need more training for their current jobs. Within a year of graduation, about 40% report improvement in their employment status, typically a raise or promotion. About 60% of undergraduates and 70% of graduate students report being completely satisfied with their investment of time and money.

Currently, most students enrolled in the Antioch School who are looking for employment related to their academic programs are doing so in vocational ministry fields.  However, most don’t see the connection between Antioch School programs and other vocational fields.  Yet, there is vast potential for using the Ministry Practicum (and additional practicum in the free elective category) to help students vocationally in fields for which there are connections in their churches.

4. High job placement rate is the most appealing marketing message.

 Given a choice of 18 different marketing messages, the overwhelming favorite was “90% job placement.” Three messages were runners-ups: “Earn your degree in one year,” “study at your own pace,” and “free textbooks.”

The Antioch School doesn’t market its high placement rate.  However, most of our students are already “placed” and being trained for ministry where they already are . . . as well as for the church planting efforts of their churches.

 5. Although many universities prefer to price by credit hour, most students prefer to think of the total degree cost. In general, students appear to be confused about the price they pay.

 Most students, both undergraduate and graduate, prefer to think about cost in terms of the entire degree with per course pricing their second choice at 33%. Per credit is the least favored way to think about price.

 The Antioch School is ahead of this trend because our program enrollment has tuition tied to programs and monthly payments rather than tuition tied to credit hours.

 6. About 80% of online undergraduates have earned credit elsewhere and transfer credit is important to them.

 As in 2013, a large majority of online undergraduate students bring credits with them. About half report having “most” or “all” of their transfer credits accepted. Almost 80% report it is very important that they can easily find information about transfer credits, have their questions answered quickly, and receive prompt decisions about transfer credit from institutions of interest.

It is also true that most Antioch School undergraduate students utilize transfer credit for General Education and/or Free Electives.


7. Business continues to be the most common field of study.

 Business and related fields continue to enroll the most online students with more than 25% of the total. Professional fields such as IT, criminal justice, and nursing are also popular. Although there are a handful of disciplines that attract large enrollments, students report more than 140 different fields or specializations of interest. Within the business discipline, for example, undergraduate students select a wide variety of specializations with accounting, business communications, and business administration being the most popular, while graduate business students are more likely to specialize in a functional area such as accounting, marketing, IT and leadership.

Although the Antioch School does not offer degree programs in “business” and some of these other popular fields, it is important for churches to include in their Antioch School program students who are pursuing other fields so that they have a well-trained team of elders and benefactors, as well as ministers of the Gospel.  Students can use Antioch School credit to transfer into other programs of other institutions, as well as bring the other fields inside Antioch School programs through the Practicum and Free Electives.

8. Reputation and price continue to be key selection criteria.

 Although a number of factors influence the choice of a college, reputation and price continue to be most important. The primary driver of reputation is accreditation followed by recognition, rankings, and recommendations.

The Antioch School’s accreditation is certainly valuable, but it seems that most students enroll in our programs because of the reputation and commendation of the churches and church networks that partner with us.

 9. Some students have a clear preference for online study.

 Almost 90% of online students surveyed report that online study was equal to or better than classroom study. About one-third report they were not likely to have considered classroom or hybrid programs. Among those who started on campus but didn’t complete their degree in that format, most report issues such as personal events, a new job or relocation as the reason.

Antioch School students don’t necessarily prefer online study.  They enroll because of a clear preference for studying in their churches.  We leverage the use of online e-Portfolio assessment in order to provide opportunities to study in churches.

10. A higher percentage of online students are unemployed.

The number of individuals working full time declined from 60% in 2012 to 55% in 2013 and 46% in 2014. The number working part time has been constant, while the number of those who are unemployed rose from 16% to 24% to 30% over the past three consecutive studies.

We don’t know how many Antioch School students are unemployed.  However, we know that nearly all Antioch School students are fully engaged in ministry in their churches.

11. A higher percentage of online students rely only on financial aid to pay for school.

 Since 2012, there has been an increasing trend of students paying for school with “student loans and other financial aid only,” selected by 31% of respondents in 2012, 37% in 2013 and 40% in 2014.

The Antioch School doesn’t make federal financial aid available to our students, so they don’t rely on it at all.  However, they often rely heavily on the much lower tuition of the Antioch School.

What Is Biblical Theology?

“What do you mean by ‘biblical theology’” is a great question.  It is being asked often as people hear about BILD resources and its Antioch School being based on “biblical theology.”

Simply stated, we consider biblical theology to be a study of the teaching of God’s Word that deals with it according to the manner in which we have received it.  This means that we treat Bible books as complete documents, not collections of verses or scattered descriptions of events.  We study to find the author’s intention for the biblical document and then proceed to examine its literary design in order to see what teaching is unfolded in the text, (rather than starting with predetermined categories and searching for verses or events that relate to those categories).

This is a simple and straightforward definition of biblical theology that relates naturally to Bible study and application.  However, it is not the only approach to biblical theology.  Lately, I’ve been reading several attempts to address the various definitions and approaches to biblical theology.

The Present and Future of Biblical Theology” by Andreas J. Köstenberger, Senior Research Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a significant contribution to this effort.  It was published in Themelios (2012): 445-64.

Here are a few comments that help to summarize Köstenberger’s explanations and contributions, but also provide our perspective based on our definition of biblical theology:

Köstenberger presents a survey of approaches to biblical theology as if they are mutually exclusive options rather than each being legitimate perspectives on the biblical theology process:

  1. Classical Approaches emphasize the hermeneutical methodology of doing biblical theology.  It relies on the handling of the texts themselves as a controlling mechanism.  Whatever biblical theology is, it must be found and/or confirmed in the actual study of biblical books.  This is the same sort of process that is emphasized in BILD Leadership Series II courses.
  2. Central-Themes Approaches emphasize the likelihood that central themes will emerge (or have emerged) during the classical approaches to biblical theology.  It is possible that biblical theology will produce such a diverse array of content that it cannot be brought together into central themes, but the inter-textuality and actual practice of doing biblical theology has shown that indeed central themes are present.  Further, central themes should be understood as something different than common themes occurring often, but not necessarily being central.
  3. Single-Center Approaches emphasize the core that provides unity to the whole.  Perhaps it is best to think of the single-center approach as finding unity in the central themes.
  4. Story or Metanarrative Approaches emphasize the relationship of the central theme of God’s Word with the historical reality of God’s work.  It isn’t just that there is a literary metanarrative, but there is a historical metanarrative to which that literary metanarrative relates closely.  In fact, it could be argued that Scripture is a primary tool in the perpetuation of the historical metanarrative, not just its own literary metanarrative.

So, rather than treat these approaches as mutually exclusive, I would recommend the following based on a combined use of the approaches:   Biblical theology allows texts to speak for themselves (Approach 1) does so in a manner through which central themes emerge (Approach 2) around a truly central core (Approach 3) that is closely related to the historical metanarrative (Approach 4).

Conversely, once we have a sense of the historical metanarrative (Approach 4), it helps us to focus on the truly central core (Approach 3), identify inter-related central themes (Approach 2), and see the literary design of biblical books (Approach 1).  This illustrates the “tension between an inductive and a preconceived [deductive] conceptual approach” (p. 11).  Both are at work as we do biblical theology as part of an actual historical metanarrative.

A few things stood out from my perspective as I read this article:

  1. Apostolic Statements.  Very little emphasis was given to the statements by the apostles themselves as narrators of texts (or as characters in texts) regarding their literary intentions (or metanarrative intentions).  For instance, kerygmatic sermons in Acts or summary statements about Christ in the Gospels should be key indicators of biblical theology.  Further, their own statements about Scripture itself, such as 2 Tim. 3:16 would seem to be determinative of how we use Scripture (in connection with an ecclesiological metanarrative).
  2. Church.  Surprisingly little is said about God’s people and particularly the church in God’s plan.  The references to “God’s people” seem to emphasis only the continuity between Israel and the church, rather than also the discontinuity which is fundamental to the nature of the New Testament as literature written to guide churches and church leaders.  Although it makes reference to the importance of the “original cultural, historical, and ecclesial contexts,” there are no statements that would lead one to think of the New Testament as establishing tools for a church planting movement.  I would think of the New Testament’s historical context as an ecclesial context!
  3. Abstract Doctrine.  There is a strong tendency in the article toward the abstraction of theology.  For instance, Köstenberger calls us to “turn away decisively from ourselves and our time to what was found in the men through whom the church came into being [i.e. the NT writers].  Our main interest should be the thought as it was conceived by them and the truth that was valid for them” (p. 11).  So, what were they doing (these “men through whom the church came into being”)?  They were writing to establish churches, equip leaders, and sustain a church planting movement.  They never seem to be doing theology in a manner that separates truth from church life into something like modern abstract theology.  However, this article wavers on whether the best biblical theology work operates on the fourth level of its significance to the “interpreter’s larger hermeneutical proposal” (which I understand to be their real-life ministry situation).
  4. Scholars.  It seems odd that there is no mention of Kaiser, Childs, Sailhamer, and others who have contributed so much to the consideration of biblical theology.  Perhaps this is an indication of just how many scholars have addressed biblical theology and you can’t refer to everyone.  More likely, Köstenberger leans toward particular approaches to biblical theology that don’t rely on the contributions of Kaiser, Childs, Sailhamer, and others.  It is disappointing that he doesn’t help us see their contributions in light of his analysis of the present and future of biblical theology.

Biblical theology is not merely an academic exercise.  It is a practical endeavor being done by leaders of church planting movements and church networks around the world.  For them, the fulfillment of the Great Commission is at stake and they are using the Bible in a manner similar to those in the Early Church in order to be responsive, not just knowledgeable about the teaching of the Bible.  BILD’s partners truly are the present and future of biblical theology.

Grounded in the Gospel

When a book is loaded with some of my favorite BILD terms (such as kerygma, didache, catachesis), it really gets my attention.  Consider this great quote from Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers in the Old-Fashioned Way by J. I. Packer and Gary Parrett.  “Perhaps 2 Timothy 2:2 best portrays the idea of raising and cultivating catechists [the teachers]” (p. 196).

Packer and Parrett make a superb contribution in this book by building a very strong case for the biblical concept of catechism, which they define as “the church’s ministry of grounding and growing God’s people in the Gospel and its implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight” (p. 29).  My favorite part of the book was Chapter 2 “Catechesis is a (Very!) Biblical Idea.” The authors state that, “One of the most important arguments for ministries of catechesis today derives from the simple fact that believers have been commanded to teach others catechetically” (p. 47).  The chapter concludes, “Catechesis is, indeed, a very biblical idea!  More than that—the ministry of catechesis is actually a biblical imperative” (p. 50).

The term “old-fashioned” in the book’s title and first chapter is clever and could hearken back to the first century, but in the book it refers more to models used in the fourth/fifth centuries and to the Reformation.  Packer and Parrett use the apostle’s letters to make the case for catechism, but don’t really find the content and model for catechism there.  The historical models they present are insightful and helpful, yet it seems that doing more with the catechetical model of the early church, as a biblical model, not just a biblical mandate would have been appropriate since the authors make a case for the New Testament writings being “explicitly catechetical documents” (p. 44).  Similarly, the book’s biblical kerygmatic statements are summaries with little attention to the actual statements of the apostles presented by Luke in Acts.

A rather elegant model is presented in Chapter 4 of the content that Packer and Parrett recommend for catechesis.  It is called “5-4-3-2-1” which refers to Five Founts (Triune God, Scripture, the Story, the Gospel, the Faith), Four Fixtures (Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Decalogue, Sacraments), Three Facets (The Truth, The Life, The Way), Two Fundamentals (Love of God, Love of Neighbor), and One Focus (Proclaim Christ).  As you can tell from the model, there may be some important things missing from a BILD perspective.  For instance, the church itself is assumed, participation in the church is presented largely through worship services (probably because that is where the sacraments are dispensed) rather than as a family of families, there is not a synthesis of the practical instructions of the epistles related to household order, and the apostolic mission of church planting and church establishing does not seem to be emphasized.  I wonder if Packer and Parrett would think that BILD’s First Principles are too simplistic, too focused on Paul’s letters, and not connected tightly enough to the historic church and its institutional expressions.  It would have also been interesting if the authors had done more critique of current Christian Education curriculum and formal theological education programs, perhaps re-envisioning seminaries and Bible colleges are training programs for catechists based on their model, especially in light of their recognition of 2 Timothy 2:2 as referring to catechists.

Packer and Parrett get practical in Chapter 9 and show what their model could look like when implemented in a church.  They present it in terms of three phases: procatechesis (perhaps better called precatechesis), catechesis proper, and ongoing catechesis.  They also address the program in terms of its formal, nonformal, and informal manifestations.  It is in this chapter that the concerns from a BILD perspective mentioned above are confirmed.

The various levels of a catechism are presented in a manner than helps determine levels of dogmatism (my word, not theirs) and nature of compliance (again, my word) that should be associated with the various levels.  There are matters of Christian Consensus (that extend beyond evangelicalism), Evangelical Essentials, Denominational Distinctives, and Congregational Commitments (p. 150).  This also illustrates the author’s aptness for alliteration (see, I just did one there myself).  This taxonomy is extremely helpful in thinking about what it means to be orthodox and biblical.

Toward the end of the book, in the practical section, the authors challenge us to “accurately assess the current situation” (p. 198).  However, they never even mention the idea of assessing the catechumens [students].  It seems that any catechetical system must have a trustworthy assessment component to be truly effective.  The description of the causes for the historical decline of catechesis in Chapter 3 on “The Waxing and Waning of Catechesis” provides a nice set of warnings to be heeded in practical implementation.

Perhaps my biggest concern with the book is evident in the subtitle “Building Believers.”  It is vitally important to build believers, but we are building believers in order to build churches and participate in the progress of the Gospel.  Of course, I don’t think that Packer and Parrett would disagree, but they don’t do enough to address this explicitly in their book.  One of the hazards of evangelicalism has been to make assumptions about the local church, invest heavily in parachurch ministries, and marginalize churches in the process.  For decades, evangelicals have attempted to build up believers and train leaders without focusing directly on the strengthening of churches, and now we all bemoan the general state of irrelevance and biblical illiteracy in our churches.  The New Testament model of catechesis in the early church emphasizes “equipping the saints for ministry . . . so that the body of Christ may be built up . . . attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4) as the core work of the church so that it can participate fully in the progress of the Gospel.  It was a matter of “strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:41), not just “building believers.”  Packer and Parrett describe the “ends for which we catechize” (pp. 184-5) largely in terms of the development of individuals and “unity” is largely a matter of common beliefs and worship practices.  However, catechesis is not a just program that a church offers to individuals, but the essence of what a church is as a corporate unit on mission in Christ’s kingdom.

Let me end with one of the nearly hidden gems of this book.  Gary Parrett is a prolific hymn writer.  The first appendix provides several hymns that are very well-suited for catechetical use.  The role of music as a catechetical tool has been terribly overlooked, particularly in light of passages that tell us to “admonish one another with songs, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16).  Many BILD partners around the world that work in areas characterized by oral culture give testimony to the power of song in the communication of the Gospel, building up of believers, and even the training of leaders.  And in these cases, there is no doubt that “building believers” is being done in the context of planting and establishing churches to participate in the progress of the Gospel.

Mission Economics: How does 1 = 100 = 10,000 = 1,000,000?

A trend in mission economics seems to be underway in North America.  Investment in missions is shifting from traditional Western missionaries to indigenous missionaries.  In this post, I argue for an even more important shift to take place, namely to investment in key leaders of indigenous, large-scale church planting movements, church networks, and ministry organizations.

1 = 100

For most of the 20th century, missions was primarily the sending of Western missionaries to cross-cultural situations all over the world.  However, in the 21st century, there seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with the traditional missionary model.  Some think that Western missionaries are too expensive (sometimes as much as $100,000 per year), take too long to prepare (Bible college + seminary + mission orientation + language school), struggle to overcome cultural issues, and are sometimes not held very accountable for their efforts and results.  Many North American churches have concluded that it is better “mission economics” to support indigenous church planting missionaries.  Their cost of living is minimal, they are already deployed, they already know the language, they are already familiar with the culture, and they are perceived to be more effective (in terms of unbelievers converted, believers discipled, leaders developed, and churches planted).  In terms of mission economics, the ratio seems to be about 1:100 for North American churches who want to shift their investment from traditional Western missionaries to indigenous missionaries.

However, there are often unseen, yet serious problems implicit in the shift to support of indigenous missionaries. For instance, getting support for living expenses from North American churches often creates a relationship of dependency for the indigenous missionaries.  Further, dependency on outside funding often prevents these indigenous missionaries from training their indigenous churches and networks to be benefactors that support the indigenous mission.  Some members of indigenous mission organizations choose to leave the structure, support, and accountability of their agencies once they become financially independent (often through funds that most North Americans would consider to be minimal).  And while often quite sincere in their mission endeavors, many indigenous missionaries are poorly equipped for ministry in terms of character, ministry skills, and biblical knowledge.

1 = 10,000

A few North American churches are making an even more radical shift.  They are investing in the key leaders of indigenous, large-scale church planting movements, church networks, and ministry organizations.  Rather than providing support for ordinary living expenses, support is directed strategically toward important immediate needs that are beyond the economic and cultural capacity of the ministry to deliver.  For instance, an investment in the training of a “competency cohort” (the key leaders of an indigenous church planting movement, church network, or ministry organization) means that you are building much greater capacity for those key leaders to carry out their ministry.  Each member of a “competency cohort” who is enrolled in an Antioch School degree program using BILD resources is also learning by training their own cohorts of subsidiary leaders (who are also doing basic training of other cohorts of leaders to train others).  Investment in 100 key leaders (at nearly the same cost as a single traditional Western missionary or 100 indigenous missionaries) results in 10,000 leaders being trained for ministry.

1 = 1,000,000

Once 100 key leaders have been trained through “competency cohorts” (along with nearly 10,000 subsidiary leaders), there is now the capacity in these indigenous church planting movements, church networks, and ministry organizations to implement training systems that function entirely within their cultures and at their economic levels.  If each of these trained leaders trains an additional 10 leaders (whose training also includes learning by training others to train others), there are now 1,000,000 emerging leaders being trained.  This exponential growth cannot occur unless key leaders are equipped to provide the direction, support, and correction needed during implementation.

At BILD, it is common to hear from someone in North America who knows someone somewhere in the world for whom the BILD resources would be beneficial.  Some of these contacts have turned into significant partnerships in church-based theological education.  Most are indigenous missionaries or ministry leaders who are primarily operating independently.  In other words, they are in the “1 = 100” category, not the “1 = 10,000” category that leads to the “1 = 1,000,000” category.

It is rather uncommon for us to hear from someone in North America who simply wants to invest in the partnerships that BILD thinks are most strategic.  It is also uncommon for someone in North America to put us in contact with the key leader of an indigenous, large-scale church planting movement, church network, or ministry organization that could operate in in the “1 = 1,000,000” category.  However, some of the most effective Western missionaries are those who have aligned themselves with these indigenous, large-scale church planting movements, church networks, and ministry organizations in order to provide specialized support, such as for leadership development programs within these networks and organizations.

My plea is for you to consider partner strategically with us as a matter of mission economics. Regardless of whether you choose to continue to support traditional Western missionaries and/or indigenous missionaries, I hope you get a better glimpse of how far funding can go when it is invested in key leaders of indigenous, large-scale church planting movements, church networks, and ministry organizations.  The same level of investment needed for a single traditional Western missionary can result in the training of entire large-scale networks.

If you want to come alongside BILD as it works at the “1 = 10,000” level (which becomes “1 = 1,000,000”), please contact us at

“One great opportunity to start your partnership with BILD at the “1 = 10,000” level is to attend our annual BILD International Conference being held Nov. 4-9, 2013 at our headquarters in Ames, Iowa.  You will be able to receive further training in the BILD resources, be exposed to some of the cutting edge things that BILD is doing around the world, and be introduced to some of the key leaders of indigenous, large-scale church planting movements, church networks, and ministry organizations.”

Formal and Nonformal Education

Here is an article written for the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Christian Education, called “Formal Versus Nonformal Education” by Stephen Kemp, Academic Dean of the Antioch School.  We thought you might enjoy an early sneak peek.  See our blog for other sneak peeks of articles on “Church-Based Theological Education” and “Leadership Development in the First Century: Paul.”

Formal models of theological education are characterized by the schooling paradigm, whereas nonformal models are not. Rather, nonformal models of theological are characterized by intentional learning in real-life contexts. The differences can be seen through descriptions related to the following categories.

Location. Formal theological education most often takes place on an academic campus. More specifically, it takes place primarily in classrooms according to academic structures. Even distance education programs largely attempt to replicate campus experiences. Nonformal theological education takes place primarily in churches and other ministry contexts according to ministry structures.

Orientation. Formal theological education recipients are generally called students and are expected to be able to function as scholars-in-training with a pre-service orientation. Nonformal theological education recipients are generally called apprentices and are expected to be able to function as ministers-in-training with an in-service orientation.

Curriculum. Formal theological education organizes largely according to academic disciplines and the fourfold curriculum (Bible, Theology, Church History, and Practical Theology) expressed in an often fragmented array of courses. Nonformal theological education may vary greatly in terms of curricular structure from mere observation and reflection on experiences to an intentionally designed set of integrated competencies that are carefully assessed.

Learning Community. Formal theological education learning communities are composed of students enrolled in an academic institution being guided by faculty members. Even in distance education online courses, the discussion forums are composed of students from around the world in conversation with each other and a faculty member. Nonformal theological education learning communities are composed of apprentices in the midst of relationships in their churches, ministries, families, and other forms of community.

Assessment. Formal theological education assessment takes place primarily through examinations and research papers related to content acquisition and critical thinking. Nonformal theological education assessment takes place primarily through review of artifacts and attestations related to character and ministry skill development.

Credentialing. Formal theological education provides academic credentials that are often closely linked to ministry credentialing processes. In most cases, it is difficult to participate in formal theological education apart from an academic credential track. Nonformal theological education is usually linked to ministry credentialing processes, but not always linked to academic credentials, though it is becoming much more common, such as with the Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development.


  • Kemp, Stephen. “Situated Learning: Optimizing Experiential Learning Through God-Given Learning Community.” Christian Education Journal, Series 3, Volume 7, No. 1 (Spring 2010): 118-143.
  • Reed, Jeff. “Church-Based Training That Is Truly Church-Based.” Ames, Iowa: BILD International, 2001. Accessed April 30, 2013.
  • Ward, Ted W. “Education That Makes a Difference.” Common Ground Journal 10, no. 1 (Fall 2012): 22-25.

Sneak Peek: Church-Based Theological Education

Here is an article written for the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Christian Education, called “Church-Based Theological Education” by Stephen Kemp, Academic Dean of the Antioch School.  We thought you might enjoy an early sneak peek. 

Church-Based Theological Education (CBTE) is training for ministry leadership that is rooted in local churches. Those being trained emerge from within a church or become part of a church. Those doing the training are the leaders of a church. Participation in the real life of a local church is the essential core.

It may be best to understand CBTE in light of its contrast with other types of training programs that take place in churches. For instance, “Church-Based Christian Education” tends to focus on discipleship training for everyone in a church whereas CBTE is generally understood to refer to the higher levels of training for church leaders.

Most distance education and extension programs of traditional academic institutions may use the facilities of a church or allow students to remain in their churches rather than relocate to a campus, but these are usually still “school-based” and only “church-housed” because the training is not truly rooted in the churches and church leaders are not truly central to the training. Those being trained must still be admitted by the academic institution to take part in the training, trainers must be approved according to academic criteria, and curriculum is firmly controlled by the academic institution. Those being trained in CBTE programs are selected by the church leaders and trained by the church leaders according to training processes that they develop and control.

Many traditional academic institutions grew out of CBTE programs, such as groups of pastors gathering regionally for informal continuing education. Some students enrolled in traditional academic institutions have educational experiences with CBTE features. For instance, some students are on staff with local churches or have extensive ministry experiences within local churches while enrolled. Others maintain mentoring and accountability relationships with leaders of local churches while they pursue traditional school-based forms of theological education.

“Nonformal” is often used to describe CBTE because it is based in a real church situation and relies extensively on real relationships outside the formal structures of traditional academic institutions. The curriculum is composed largely of mentoring and in-service apprenticeships with intentionally designed goals and assessments regarding character development, ministry skills, and biblical and theological understanding.

Increasingly, CBTE is being used as an alternative to traditional campus-based and school-based distance education forms of education, particularly for those experiencing mid-career changes and early retirements from non-ministry vocations. It often is tied to ordination and other ministry credentialing processes as high levels of leadership development are achieved. It is also being used extensively to support the in-service training of church planters and leaders emerging from church planting movements. Entire networks of churches in India are using CBTE to train all of their existing and emerging leaders.

Biblically and historically, CBTE refers to the manner in which leaders were developed in the first few centuries as described in II Timothy 2:2. Paul was not merely mentoring Timothy one-on-one to take his place, but guiding him in a process of in-service learning as he participated with Paul in ministry that included the training of others to train others in a manner that supported an apostolic movement of exponential church growth.


Partner Stories: Emory Brown

We appreciate all our Antioch School partner churches and their leaders . . . but to be honest, we appreciate some more than others. Pastor Emory Brown of Refreshing Springs Church in Buffalo, NY is one of our very special partners. He loves Christ, recognizes the centrality of the church in God’s plan, and after investigating nearly everything out there related to support for church ministry, he chose to partner with us. Emory leads a vital program of leadership development using BILD resources and Antioch School degree programs in his own church, but also directs a larger effort to serve the City of Buffalo, NY.

Dangerous Calling

Paul Tripp’s new book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, is a must-read for anyone who is serious about character development of church leaders.

Pat Bowler, Lead Pastor/Elder of Valley Life Church (Lebanon, OR) and a Certified Leader of an Antioch School program in his church, drew my attention to this book in an email.

“It is an extremely insightful book and one I thought would be of particular interest to you at the Antioch School; chapters 3 and 4 address an issue regarding the pastorate that directly relates to The Antioch Model (Chp. 3: “Big Theological Brains and Heart Disease;” Chp. 4: “More Than Knowledge and Skill”). Considering the paradigm of the school, I thought I would make you aware… Good stuff.”

I had already seen the book mentioned in a Christianity Today article, but Bowler’s email compelled me to order a Kindle copy even before I moved on to my next email.

Tripp’s deepest concern in the book is the peril faced by pastors with hazardous gaps in their character.  Pastors who try to do ministry apart from proper relationships with God, their spouses, and even their churches are pursuing a “dangerous calling.”  For example, Tripp asks hard questions, like “Does it seem best that most pastors are allowed to live outside of or up above the body of Christ?” (p. 68) and “Pastor, do you examine yourself daily by humbly placing yourself before the one mirror you can trust, the mirror of the Word of God?” (p. 157).

Some roots of the danger are traced by Tripp to the traditional form of theological education for church leaders.  “Over the years more and more professors came to the seminary classroom with little or no local church experience” (p.53).  “Academized Christianity, which is not constantly connected to the heart and puts its hope in knowledge and skill, can actually make students dangerous” (p.53).  “Their spiritual life became immediately more privatized when they left their home church to go to seminary in another city.  For many, the seminary became their primary spiritual community, a community that was neither personal nor pastoral in the way it handled Scripture and related to the student” (p. 84).

This non-pastoral approach to ministry training leads to a rather dangerous situation.  “Having graduated from an environment where, for three or more years, they were not pastored and had a rather casual relationship to a local church, they are now called by a church that doesn’t really know them” (p. 85).

Tripp longs for traditional seminaries to be different in terms of pastoral concern for its students.  “Shouldn’t every Christian institution of higher learning be a warm, nurturing, Christ-centered, gospel-driven community of faith?” (p. 49).  “What I am suggesting is that pastoral passion for the students shape the content of seminary education is delivered and applied” (p. 56).  “The goal of spiritual formation must dye the content of every area of study” (p. 56).

He illustrates this difference by describing the approach he uses to teach a pastoral counseling course for traditional M.Div. students.  He presents a “catalog of pastoral horror stories” and attempts to move students beyond their rather abstract biblical studies by helping them deal with some of the real issues in their own lives.  The complaint of one student highlights what he was trying to do.  “Professor Tripp, you’re preaching at us.  This is a seminary classroom, which means this is not your church, and we are not your congregation” (p. 46).

Think about that statement in relation to your Antioch School church-based theological education program.  Your “seminary classroom” is your church and you are a congregation.  Pastoral passion is a natural dimension of theological education when it is truly based in churches.  Rather than leaving home and church for seminary, ministry training is embedded in your pastoral communities.

On the last page of his book, Tripp issues a plea, “If you are a seminary, denominational, or ministry leader, work with others to address the places where your ministry training and culture are less than biblical” (p. 223).  We think this is what we have done with the Antioch School.  Some traditional theological education institutions are trying to make improvements in these areas, but we have recognized that the centrality of the church in the training process is itself a biblical concept.

Pat Bowler was right.  Dangerous Calling is an important book.  It helps pastors (and those who care for pastors) fulfill their calling.  And while Tripp focuses on improvement of traditional theological education, he also helps make the case for church-based theological education, particularly in terms of development of character and pastoral passion within the context of a church.