I can’t believe it. There actually is a seminary in Vermont. It’s not the kind that hands out the Master of Divinity degree or a Master or Arts, but it’s got “seminary” in its name, and that has to count for something. That’s right: New England Theological Seminary (link).
Actually, it has a neat focus: church planting and ministry preparation. It’s like a combination of seminary and a church plantiing center. It’s refreshing to see. The web site is rather sharp, and they just had a conference with Bryan Chapell (link, link), which is pretty sweet. Way to go NETS.
Of course some other things caught my eye . . .
The web site has the following question: Is NETS for you?
And the following reply: “NETS is looking for a few good men. Do you have what it takes to plant a church in dry New England soil?” Bold is mine (and note the shot at New England there. I think it’s ripe for harvest myself).
Men? Men? What about women? Reading on I found out that the training takes place as a family. The husband and wife are in it together. But the focus certainly is on the men who are expected to be senior pastors.
Humph. I know they can tout a Bible verse here and there such as 1 Corinthians and 2 Timothy about women in ministry, but I’d have to side with Webb’s book Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals with this issue. The Bible shows a progression towards liberation for women, but that’s a debate about interpretive methodology that can wait for another time.
More practically speaking, I wonder what NETS thinks about women on the mission field. Can women teach men provided that they’re in the jungle or something? Sorry, but that issue gets to me.
Another concern of mine is the doctrine. There is a link to the Baptist convention statement of 1951, but also a link the Westminster Confession of Faith from 1646. How closely are these doctrines followed? Must one adhere to them closely to be a part of NETS? It doesn’t say. I’m also concerned if these two doctrinal statements narrow the possibility of church planting candidates. We need a wide variety of churches.
Of course there’s the issue of doctrinal statements being static or dynamic. Since our doctrinal statements and confessions are rooted in time and culture, I think it can be dangerous to tack down a doctrinal statement “as is” for all time. Surely things have changed a bit since 1646. Of course if NETS uses them as guides and not hard and fast dogma that you have to sign your name to, then my concerns are not necessary.
And then I began to wonder if I really am the kind of guy NETS is looking for, let’s see . . .
Profile of a NETS Candidate
New England Theological Seminary (NETS) recruits four to eight couples every two years from top seminaries and established churches.
NETS looks for men who:
* … have completed or are completing a Master of Divinity (or rough equivalent).
Woo-hoo! Got it.
* … are married and have children, a happy wife, and healthy finances.
Well, I have the married part. I don’t see how having children would help me plant churches, besides having a lot of cheap labor for the ministry. The harvest is plentiful, but the children, I mean workers, are few. You’ll have to ask my wife about the happy part. That may change day to day with me around the house. Finances? Well, college and two grad school educations may put a damper on that one.
* … are physically sound and emotionally stable.
I’m going to physical therapy now, so we’re on track with that. Emotionally, me feel gud.
* … have a strong work ethic.
Anal, but hard working.
* … are risk-taking and adventure-seeking.
Probably more on the play it safe side. But of course risk takers could have their emotional stability questioned. Betcha didn’t think of that, did ya NETS???
* … desire mentoring: they are confident, yet humble and teachable.
I really would like to have a mentor, but who would want to hang out with me? I’m such a stupid loser.
* … are gospel-driven and Calvinistic.
I would prefer to say that I’m Spirit-driven, but being Gospel-driven doesn’t seem like a bad thing either. After sending out all of that spam mail to Anabaptists I’m feeling pretty good about the Calvinism option. But I’ll get to the point (or five points if you will), even if I was a Calvinist (which I may be) what kind of Calvinist would I have to be?
* … are fond of and savvy with people.
I’m not sure if I can simultaneously make my wife happy and be “fond” of many people. Maybe if I’m savvy about it I can pull it off???
* … have prior “real-world” experience.
I smoked a cigar once. I didn’t inhale . . . too much. My imaginary friend Chester from our neighborhood of Boigonsville enjoyed the cigar as well. I haven’t left the house for months.
Well I guess I’d better keep my day job. I don’t think I’d qualify for NETS. At least we got a good laugh at ourselves in the process (Julie was here for the list part of this post).
All of my kidding aside, I do think church planting can be a great way to spread the Gospel and I’m glad that someone is providing theological training here in Vermont. Even if I do not agree with everything NETS stands for, all of us want to see disciples made for Christ. Some of us may be a bit more inclusive, but all in all, we serve the same Lord, share the same Spirit, and preach the same message.