ICETE at Cape Town 2010

Every Paul Needs an Apollos:
Theological Education as Mission Beyond Evangelism

from a series of three dialogue presentations on theological education,
given during the Lausanne 2010 Cape Town Congress

3 Missional Theological Education as Global

Paul Sanders
International Director
International Council for Evangelical Theological Education (ICETE)



Evangelical theological education may at times be perceived by some missiologists and mission leaders as an obstacle to world evangelisation, as fostering an ingrown and ivory tower academy mentality, disconnected from the mission of the church. In this dialogue session we wish to argue that truly missional evangelical theological education should not be seen as an obstacle, but rather be seen as an integral part of world mission in both theory and practice.

In our three dialogue sessions under the title: 'Paul needs Apollos...', Chris Wright, David Baer and I affirm that, properly conceived and implemented in context, global evangelical theological education is not only a legitimate, but a necessary player in the Great Commission. Such an affirmation presupposes a view of evangelism that looks beyond short-term results and statistics to the longer-term integration of training and depth into our evangelistic activity and strategies. At the same time, we believe that our leadership development structures, whether formal, non-formal or informal, must be intentionally missional and viable.

We understand missional, evangelical theological education in all its forms to include post-evangelism activity in favour of the longer-term rootedness and impact of the Gospel, as Chris Wright has affirmed.1 We use it here as synonymous with 'leadership development' or formation.

Affirmation 1: the global nature of missional leadership development is supported in Scripture

Paul and his apostolic team were driven, implicitly and explicitly, by a global, missional vision of leadership development as integral to the Missio Dei. The apostolic multinational and multicultural teams worked as far as possible across the known world of the time 'to reach and to teach'. Biblically speaking, a worldwide vision involving missional leadership development is part and parcel of the Missio Dei in both Testaments.2 Paul's concept and practice of Gospel proclamation is in the 'full sequence of activities resulting in settled churches' having structured leadership development. In a sense, Paul himself was not only committed to doing Paul-type work but also Apollos-type work, not only to plant but also to water.3 Thus a worldwide vision of missional and sustainable leadership development was part and parcel of apostolic practice and corresponds paradigmatically to the realities and needs of global evangelical theological education today.

Paul's team included leaders drawn from a wide variety of locations in the Roman Empire. 'Recruited' by Paul, individuals such as Timothy, Titus, Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila came from different countries and cultures. Not only was Paul a facilitator for funds flowing from one place to another, he appears to make a clear effort to connect the churches globally (though it was a smaller globe!)4. Letters were circulated, people were sent back and forth to do teaching, to give pastoral care, and issues were dealt with across Roman space. These NT accounts appear as not merely descriptive, but also paradigmatic, presenting models to be applied flexibly across time and space.

Affirmation 2: truly global evangelical theological education must progress in becoming more 'equable'

This is what has been sometimes called the 'North-South' issue. Global 'equability' – a contraction of 'equality' (status) and 'ability' (reality) – speaks of global balance, equality and spread of resources (solidarity). But we can also include the notion of a 'global flow' of influence, information, insights and contributions. This second affirmation has, of course, tremendous financial and practical implications. Obviously there is not at present adequate equability within global evangelical theological education, for among different regions of the world there is evident disproportion in the available resourcing, in flows, in sharing. Our own ICETE-related theological organisations across the world are on a journey of growth in these arenas.

This means that we must continue to increase the global flow of theological insight, contribution, problem-solving, and teaching, finding mechanisms to make our leadership development strategies more global and accessible, whether through literature, publishing, internet access, or teaching exchanges.
Certainly we realise that being 'global' does not principally mean recruitment from abroad of international students and faculty for our institutions, though we can all see how that would benefit our schools and training structures with increased visibility, reputation and fundraising potential. However, 'equable' evangelical theological education does not mean principally that our school has 'gone multinational', but rather that we are sharing in something that many around the world are also doing together alongside us. Truly 'equable' evangelical theological education needs to become more reciprocal and less one-way draining, both in method and in vision.

Such a vision for 'equability' could involve sharing, solidarity and collaboration on four fronts: (a) capacity-building resource sharing; (b) availability of training resources; (c) professional leadership development; and d) finances. Evangelical theological education is on a journey to becoming 'truly global' in each of these four areas, but this journey needs to be pursued and encouraged.

Affirmation 3: global evangelical education must energise global community

We praise God that evangelicalism is now spread all across the world. This is the new reality of our time, as Andrew Walls, Lamin Sanneh and Philip Jenkins have demonstrated for the global Church. How extraordinary it is as well to recognise that theological education in the evangelical tradition now exists in our day for the first time on a global scale! In addition, evangelical theological education viewed in global perspective now has in operation in every global region proactive, indigenously-led service networks which link evangelical theological schools for contact and collaboration. Despite their weaknesses and shortcomings, the potential represented by these regional network communities for supporting renewal and excellence in missional theological education is nothing less than extraordinary! Standing on the shoulders of past generations, grounded in biblical imperatives, we are called to be family together in the Lord, within a common calling to serve His global body in leadership formation.

However, beyond mere global geographical presence, we must find these institutions increasingly linked together in practical collaborative community, first regionally and then globally, in this way giving tangible substance to evangelical theological education's now global presence. Organisations like Langham Partnership, Overseas Council, ICETE, and other crucial support ministries share a global vision for theological education, and they are finding their place as 'docking stations' in support of global evangelical theological education. This is very encouraging to us all, as global evangelical leaders like Geoff Tunnicliffe (WEA), Daniel Bourdanné (IFES) and Doug Birdsall (LCWE) have affirmed.5
Just as Paul called his churches to mutuality, and worked to cultivate contact and collaboration among them,6 those of us principally involved in leadership formational responsibilities are called to energise and nurture community together among ourselves, on all levels: theological schools, theological educators, denominational training structures, theological networks and organisations, leadership formation resource providers. And this is precisely why we are here in Cape Town, to see our place more clearly in the global mission, and to occupy that place more effectively for the good of the larger body in its mission.

Between churches, missions, ministry organisations and training institutions, in behalf of world mission, not only must the eye not reject the hand by saying 'I have no need of you', we must go beyond merely acknowledging, 'I do have need of you' by also saying: 'How can we, eye and hand, best work together for the better interests of our larger Body, and of its Head?' What concrete steps can we take to nurture collaborative networking amongst ourselves? This is costly, for it means getting up higher on my priority list an additional item on my job description. For example, heads of theological colleges should take on some part of the duties not only of running their institution but also of opening and maintaining roads that connect their institution with other institutions, and putting those roads to good use. This should be done not only from the perspective of what I can receive from doing this, not only for what I can get to contribute, but even more for what I should be doing as part of my calling, and my institution's calling, within the Body of Christ. This is part and parcel of true, fruitful 'globality'.

Yet we must confess the unfortunate reality that as individual institutions and training organisations become more effectively established and well-resourced, they can lose that feeling of need for collaborative community.  When it is not kept in proper bounds, institutional self-interest will lead us to lose our sense of spiritual responsibility to support collaborative community for the sake of others. Even parachurch ministries whose raison d'être is to support theological education can undervalue in their priorities the provision of community formation and networking services in behalf of their partners. We all need to encourage one another to a renewed commitment to sustaining fruitful community among ourselves, for the sake of Christ's global body and her mission on earth.7  


Evangelical theological education is now global.  So let's collaborate to make it work globally ... in behalf of the mission of the Church. This can happen as those of us involved in global evangelical theological education work towards greater mutuality and equability, bridging disparities, and as we commit to and work for networking collaboration within regional and global frameworks, in close synergy with the churches.

We are convinced that evangelical theological education need not be perceived as a hindrance to mission. Rather it should be allowed to assume a rightful place as an integral and sustainable part of missional theory and practice.  The nature of the Missio Dei and apostolic practice, coupled with current reality, support the necessity of global evangelical theological education.  Indeed, if the mission of the Church is to reach and to serve the world, then the mission of evangelical theological education is to serve the Church in its mission.

We are thus called in a new way to make community happen among our theological schools within this global reality, going beyond global presence to pursue global community, prepared for the attendant challenges and blessings that this will entail. We have in our time new tools by which we may serve our generation, and we must therefore intentionally nurture among ourselves capacities for global cooperation and mutual assistance, and enhance our facilities for joint reflection and common initiative.

It must work on all sides of the evangelical ministry spectrum: Church leaders, ministry leaders, missiologists and mission leadership need to recognise and prioritise structured leadership development as part and parcel of their theories and strategies. And theological training structures (residential, extension, distance, non-formal, informal, church-based...) must keep their missional and global raison d'être before them and be exemplary in modelling community. To paraphrase the title of a well-known book by Michael Griffiths, let us all avoid the 'Cinderella with amnesia syndrome' and constantly help recall to one another our reason for being.


1 Chris Wright affirms that Paul 'worked tirelessly to make sure that they (the newly-planted churches) grew in depth and maturity' through visits, letters, questions, challenging mistakes, prayer...). He also asserts that Paul and his colleagues (Apollos, Timothy, Tertius) were part of a whole network of church leaders whose primary task was in mission beyond evangelism - teaching, training, writing - all of equal importance (planting, watering, reaping – 1 Cor. 3.5-6). Whatever the form of leadership development used (schools, extension courses, non-formal education), especially in its inception, 'the church needs teaching; and the teachers of the church need training'.

2 Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God. Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative, Nottingham, Inter-Varsity Press, 2006, 581 p.  I am especially grateful to Chris Wright and Paul Bowers for their thoughts and writings in this area.

3 W. Paul Bowers, 'Fulfilling the Gospel: The Scope of the Pauline Mission', in: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, xxx.2 (1987), 185-98.

4 Thanks to Chris Wright for the expression of these thoughts.

5 Note that this global networking among evangelical theological schools has been a 'bottom-up' development; institutions in the majority world recognised a biblical call to cooperation, to networking, not going-it-alone, and took action to address that need, first regionally and then internationally.

6 Just as the Jerusalem Relief Collection was used not only to solidify relations between Gentile and Jewish Christian communities, but to get Macedonian and Achaean churches in conscious collaboration (2 Cor. 8-9), as Paul called on the Colossian church to share its letter with the Laodicea church, and get a copy of theirs in return, as John in Revelation lets all the seven churches share in hearing what is addressed to each of them, so that they feel common body-life among them (comment from Paul Bowers in personal correspondence).

7 Here allow me to quote our ICETE Manifesto (Article 12): 'Our programmes of theological education must pursue contact and collaboration among themselves for mutual support, encouragement, edification and cross-fertilization. We are at fault that so often in evangelical theological education we attend merely to our own assignments under God. Others in the same calling need us, and we need them. The biblical notion of mutuality needs to be much more visibly expressed and prag­matically pursued among our theological programmes. Too long we have acquiesced in an isolation of effort that denies the larger body of Christ, thus failing both ourselves and Christ's body. The times in which we serve, no less than biblical expectations, demand of each of us active ongoing initiatives in cooperation.' (