The philosophy and practice of theological education that Veritas uses is called Integrated Leadership Development (ILD™).
Integrated Leadership Development seeks to provide a philosophy of theological education that will serve the church in the twenty-first century. Such a philosophy should fulfill two main conditions: It should be faithful to the biblical principles of theological education and it should be relevant to the needs of a changing church in a changing society. The interplay between these two requirements should become clear as the different characteristics of ILD are discussed. Veritas is committed to ongoing discussion regarding the ILD philosophy in order to ensure its continual reformation and lasting effectiveness for leadership training.
The Characteristics of ILD
1. Integrated into the life of the church
1.1 Training in the context of church life
As the training institutions have largely replaced the church in the area of theological education and the training of church leaders, ILD is an appeal to the local church to shoulder its responsibility in this regard. Theological education should be done as an integrated part of the life and ministry of the church. The apostle Paul understood this by following a strategy that integrated evangelism, the establishing of churches and the development of leaders:
He preached the gospel and led people to God.
He organized the believers into the community of the church, leading them to spiritual maturity and to impact the world in all spheres.
He discipled people into leadership ensuring that they were well-equipped for ministry.
Paul, in turn, encouraged these churches to evangelize, plant churches and train leaders locally and further abroad.
ILD could be done by a single local church or by a number of local churches forming partnerships with one another. Organizations, theological seminaries and Bible colleges could function as resource centres and consultants for them.
ILD that takes place in the context of the church has many advantages:
- Leadership is developed in the context of the ministry of the whole church; it has an immediate impact on all the activities of the church.
- The leader or prospective leader learns in the context of his church; the training binds him more strongly to his church and does not alienate him from it.
- The leader ministers as he learns; this strategy is time efficient - the learned skills and knowledge feed back into the church.
- The training takes place in the context of the local church and its activities; it is relevant to the needs of the church and is practically applied.
- There is a continual process of leadership development and discipleship; the future of the church is guaranteed as church leadership is passed on from generation to generation.
- The training is integrated into the life and ministry of the church; it covers all the areas of the life of the participant (not only the intellectual) and therefore produces mature disciples.
1.2 Promoting the objectives of church growth
ILD furthers the objectives of the church as it fulfils its calling in the world. The objective of ILD is not to encourage the individual to obtain knowledge for its own sake, but to equip the church to fulfil its part of the Missio Dei (God's purpose with the world). The success of ILD thus has to be measured by its influence on the life and ministry of the church.
The starting point for ILD is the formulation of sound objectives for the life and ministry of the church. These objectives must be relevant to the situation of the local church and promote biblical patterns of church growth. As the training proceeds, its success can be measured against the following biblical objectives for the task of the church:
- Understanding the biblical message of salvation and identification with Christ.
- Discovering and using relevant ways of leading people to Christ.
- Building up the church as a body and its individual members toward maturity.
- Involvement in a process of continuing reformation in order to ensure that the whole church practice is scriptural as well as relevant.
- Ability to impact society by showing Christ's love to the world and influencing worldview.
- Promoting the church's and the individual's ability and responsibility to practice theology.
- The church should take up its responsibility to train (disciple) its leaders and members, releasing emerging leaders into leadership and establishing a wider leadership structure.
- Commitment to the great commission of evangelizing, establishing churches and leadership training locally and in other cultures.
1.3 Equipping for body ministry
There is a growing tendency in the worldwide church to move away from ordained leadership in favour of the 'laity'. This provides wonderful and exciting opportunities for the mass equipping of members for real 'body' (every member) ministry. This shift makes it increasingly difficult for the traditional residential training methods of the institutions to provide the right kind of training. Not only will a different way of training be needed, but also a philosophy that will meet the challenges. Many recognize that because TEE (Theological Education by Extension) can have a tendency to over-formalize the curriculum and be over-reliant on written resources and programmed learning, it does not always provide the solution that was hoped for.
1.4 Effective in all parts of the world
Major changes have taken place in the spread of Christianity during the last century. The majority of Christians are no longer found in Western Europe and Northern America but in dynamically growing churches in other parts of the world. These churches are also experiencing a shift towards body ministry with an increasing need for training. As many of the countries where church growth is experienced are poor, it is financially impossible to provide residential facilities to meet their growing needs for theological education.
Because ILD is part-time and takes place in the context of the life and ministry of the local church, it can be adapted to the facilities and resources of the local church and can therefore be run in the poorest setting.
2. Promoting whole life development
2.1 Training in the context of all areas of life
ILD should not be seen as training people just for ministry in the church, but should touch on all areas of life. The average church member is experiencing increasing job insecurity and with the changing patterns of employment, it is envisaged that more people will be self-employed in the future. The need for one's faith to have an influence on one's everyday life, including employment, can be seen from the growth in the popularity of training based on New Age concepts for one's business, emotional and physical life.
ILD teaches how to practice theology and does not spend unnecessary time on teaching irrelevant theologies or trying to provide pat answers. Instead the participants are equipped and encouraged to interpret the Bible themselves and to apply it to the different areas of their lives. The more relevant to everyday life the training is, the more successful it will be. This is applicable to all one's relationships and areas of productivity. The latter could fall into five main categories:
- wage work (fixed salary)
- fee work (payment according to work done)
- homework (work done around home)
- gift work (eg. church and charity work)
- study work (constantly renewing and upgrading one's skills)
2.2 Equipping the whole person
The lop-sided focus on the training of one's rationalistic functions that characterized much of the theological training during the time of the Enlightenment, is being challenged by the current interest in experiential religion. (Enlightenment is the period starting with the 18th century, when men replaced religion with the belief that man would better himself through the use of human reason and science). The danger that theological training could in the new paradigm swing from rationalism to experientialism is real. Where rationalism tended to lead to the relativism of liberal theology, there is a danger that experientialism could lead to the same type of relativism that is characteristic of New Age.
ILD endeavours to emphasize throughout its training that the elements of knowledge, character and skills should be integrated. This is not only promoted by its approach to integrate the different theological disciplines, but also by the fact that the training is integrated into the life of the church with its checks and balances in the lives and interaction of its members.
3. Integrated theological practice
3.1 Practicing inter-active theology
ILD follows an approach by which participants are led to develop their own theological understanding through the inter-action of the Word with practice. Although the Bible is truth, we all tend to fail in our own theology or understanding of that truth. The challenge is to have our theology inter-act with the truth of the Bible as well as the reality of the practical world. Sometimes the reality of the world clearly reveals the inadequacies of our theologies and challenges us afresh to re-evaluate them in the light of the Bible. While this process holds to the authority of the Bible, it does tend to challenge pet theologies. It facilitates the application of God's absolutes to the needs of society.
By developing a curriculum that equips the church to find theological answers for itself, a major need is fulfilled, especially in the non-Western world. Where missiology has been proposing for a long time that churches should be self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating, it has neglected the element of self-theologizing. The latter is probably the most important one of all these 'selves'. For example, how can a planted church in a poor country be self-supporting if it follows a model of ministry that can only function within a wealthy Western setting? In such a case the planted church should know how to develop a model of ministry that could be self-supporting and that is based on biblical absolutes.
3.2 Establishing the rightful position of the Bible
Through the process of practicing theology interactively, the Bible takes its rightful, although much neglected, place in theology. It is treated as the authoritative source that it is and provides absolutes for the church in its calling in a society where everything is relative. As the Enlightenment paradigm fades away, we can expect many of the rationalistic presuppositions that had such a devastating effect on the authority of the Bible to also fade away.
As we can expect the historical critical method of exegesis to continue losing its influence, there is an exciting opportunity to provide more objective scholarly approaches and methodologies of exegesis to an emerging generation of faithful church members. This training in exegesis has to be easily accessible to the average church member by presenting and applying it in the local church setting. If we fail in that, the church will be much poorer and certainly not well-equipped to face the challenges of the post-modern paradigm that may even believe in the supernatural revelation of Christ, but then only as one amongst many.
Veritas presents an approach and methodology of exegesis and hermeneutics that could be used by churches to train their own members. For this purpose we have made extensive use of the insights and methodologies brought to us by semantics and semiotics. The methodologies to analyze exposition/ exhortation, narrative and poetry as applied to the different categories of Bible books have already been thoroughly field-tested.
The inter-active practice of theology not only takes the Bible seriously, but also the cultural context. It is theology in culture. This is different from the traditional paradigm where theory and practice were too often separated. The purpose is not to teach answers, as the questions may differ from context to context. As the context demands responses, answers are found in inter-action with the Word. This process not only requires good exegesis of the Bible, but also of the empirical situation. This presents a challenge to theology to develop instruments by which empirical research could be done, as those of the social sciences are not always effective.
3.4 Integrated curriculum
It is important to remember that up to the time of the Enlightenment, there was only one discipline of theology. Under the influence of the Enlightenment, a division between theory and praxis emerged. This in turn developed into the four separate disciplines of Bible, church history, systematic theology and practical theology. ILD does not work with these separate disciplines but seeks to integrate them through the practice of inter-active theology.
A particular subject like salvation (soteriology) will for example be covered through exegesis. The biblical answers are applied to the individual or society. How to effectively communicate them is then worked out. The way in which the church through the ages has answered its questions will also be taken into consideration. The answers are to be applied to the present situation to test their relevance. In this way all the different theological disciplines are integrated.
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