Planes, cars, and vans shuttled fifty plus theological educators and church leaders in the Methodist Church Nigeria from all across Nigeria to Calabar on January 11, 2015 for a retreat on “Rethinking Theological Education in Methodist Church Nigeria for Effective Ministry.” The first of its kind, the retreat sprang from the vision and passion of the recently-established Board of Theological Education for the Methodist Church Nigeria. This Board, created by action of the last General Conference and appointed in 2014, is chaired by Archbishop Mike Stephen and directed by the Very Rev. Dr. Chinonyerem C. Ekebuisi. Both men gave excellent leadership in planning and hosting the retreat. I had the privileged assignment of serving as the primary presenter in six workshops. In addition to my six workshops, there were twelve other men and women who each gave a presentation that challenged the cadre of theological educators to higher levels of excellence in educational ministry to the church.
Aligning with the theme “Rethinking Theological Education. . . ,” my workshops covered these topics:
- Three Dimensions of the Fully-Formed Leader
- Theological Education Curriculum and the Three-Dimensioned Leader
- Four Behaviors of a Good Faculty
- How to Construct a Course Syllabus
- Orality in Theological Education
- The Levels of Learning and Character Development
The heart of my presentation called for the Methodist institutions to posture themselves to produce “fully-formed leaders” who will show evidence of growth and maturity along these lines:
Theological Reflection deals with the mind. Theological reflection begins with the mastery of academic content, and moves to an application of the wisdom gained from such knowledge. It is the ability to see present realities in the light of biblical truth and theological constructs. Our ability at theological reflection progresses from the beginning stages of understanding Scripture until we give constant evidence of thinking theologically.
Community Engagement. Figuratively, this second dimension of leadership development focuses on the leader’s hands whereas theological reflection deals with the head. Leaders are more than intellectuals; they lead a community toward desired goals. These leaders engage the community in problem solving, in goal achievement, in world changing. These leaders give biblically sound sermons, offer solid teaching, engage in effective evangelism and mission, provide programs within the church and community that engender transformation, and help establish shalom in the society. The Christian leader seeks to bring about the peaceful and restorative Kingdom of God in today’s world.
Personal Formation. Leadership calls for more than theological reflection and community engagement that deal with the head and hands, respectively. As important as these dimensions are, we must attend to a third dimension that focuses on the heart—personal formation. Personal formation might also be called “spiritual formation,” “spirituality,” or “personal character.” Personal formation begins with our commitment to Christ as our Savior from personal and inherited sin. We choose to maintain a consistent walk of obedience to the Spirit as he unfolds God’s purposes for our lives. This walk shapes our character and enables us to embrace values that reflect God’s divine character.
I applaud the Board Chairman Archbishop Stephens, Board Director Dr. Ekebuise, Secretary of Conference Bishop Opoko and all other participants for the vigor with which they have embraced the challenge to focus and improve the theological educational ministry of their church. They realize the importance of well-equipped, spiritually-formed men and women who can assume pastoral leadership in the church. They have signaled a commitment to marching forward with the improvement of campus facilities, revision and refinement of the academic commitment, and the elevation of instructional performance.
Join me in prayer for the Board of Theological Education of the Methodist Church Nigeria as they lead in this critically important task. The needs will challenge resources. They will call for the best efforts. They will require wisdom and the “mind of Christ.” I am confident that this group of theological educators can rise to meet these challenges. May God “add grease to their elbows!”
Additional Pictures from the Retreat