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Theological Education in the Context of World Christianity

Author: Dr. Timothy Tennent
Date: 30.05.2012
Category: Theological Education

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Originally Posted in English

Dr. Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary, delivers the keynote address at the 2012 Lausanne Consultation on Global Theological Education, held at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Introduction by Mark Chan, with Dr. Tennent’s address beginning at 2:40.

A transcript of Dr. Tennent’s address is available here or via PDF download using the link below.


We are gathered together this week because of two remarkable developments in world Christianity.  First, the rise of global Christianity and the re-discovery of Christianity as a post-Western faith.  This theme has been well rehearsed and documented in the writings of Andrew Walls, Lamin Sanneh and Todd Johnson.  I am referring, in particular, to Andrew Walls’ collection of essays in his books, The Missionary Movement in Christian History and his The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History.[1]  I am referring to Sanneh’s Whose Religion is Christianity?  The Gospel Beyond the West and the excellent demographic work in Todd Johnson and Kenneth Ross’ Atlas of Global Christianity.[2]  It has also come into the broader consciousness of Christians around the world by the more popular writings of Philip Jenkins’ The Next Christendom and The New Faces of Christianity and by Samuel Escobar in his book, The New Global Mission:  The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone, among others.[3] 

The second remarkable development is the emergence of the West as the fastest growing mission field in the world and the collapse of Christendom.  No one has documented this more carefully than Elijah Kim in his 2012 book The Rise of the Global South:  The Decline of Western Christendom and the Rise of Majority World Christianity.[4]  We must, of course, appreciate the real differences between the European story of Christianity and the American story as evidenced in Peter Berger’s Religious America, Secular Europe? and Philip Jenkins’ popular work, God’s Continent.[5]  Nevertheless, these two developments are the more important twin shifts of the twentieth century which continues to have profound implications for theological education throughout the world.  Never before in history have the richest theological resources (books, libraries, endowments, developed theological faculties) found themselves situated squarely inside an emerging mission field.  Furthermore, we have to go back to the work of sixteenth century Reformers in Europe and the remarkable expansion of the church through the work of Jesuits in Latin America to find a time when the church was growing so rapidly in a context where access to theological training was under such strain.  Martin Luther, for example, once lamented that even many of his pastors did not know the Ten Commandments.[6]  Many church planting movements in the world today could echo those sentiments.  

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Keywords: theological education, global Christianity, Timothy Tennent

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