August 2009

I posted this in relation to the Bible assignment this week in the Missional Church course.  This week’s assignment involves an interpretation of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
“…I think some of the best preaching is preaching ‘from the gaps’ of the text, getting into the heads of the characters or people and experiencing the story as you would have if you were there.  One goal I have for ministers is that they can tell the difference of where the text leaves off and where they and Spirit take it from there.”
“For example, Steve Deneff, my pastor, is a brilliant preacher.  He’s in a series on James right now.  But I or many of us could preach from the same texts and it wouldn’t come anywhere close.  It’s not because Steve is seeing more that’s there that I don’t.  It’s that he has more God-given wisdom than I do, with which he and the Spirit fill the gaps of the text with brilliance!”

On Friday the first two online courses, The Missional Church and Spiritual Formation: Change and Transformation, began.  Dr. Charles Arn is teaching the first and Dr. Robert Vaughan the second.  Tomorrow the onsite versions begin, with Bob Whitesel doing Missional and myself doing Change and Transformation with the pastors.

Stay tuned to an update here, probably tomorrow, from our Acting Chief, Russ Gunsalus.

Although this won’t post till Monday, I’m writing this Friday to celebrate a great finish to the first two weeks of MDIV classes.  I sat in on most of the Cultural Contexts of Ministry course today.  I was very happy at the camaraderie and depth of insight going on.  I was sorry I hadn’t been in on the course more during the week.

The teacher was Dr. Norm Wilson, who was excellent for the course.  This morning, he could hardly even get into the discussion of Philip Jenkins’ The Next Christendom because they were all so riled up over an article in Christianity Today from a few weeks back, “Power Pentecostalisms.”  With Norm a former missionary in Latin America and Jim Eckhardt a current missionary in Nicaragua, they skewered this seemingly typical CT article (Wesleyans and younger evangelicals might read CT with a critcal eye).

The degree of paradigm shift this week was apparently so great for some that Dr. Norm felt the need to talk about how you introduce change into a local church–slowly and relationally.   My personal philosophy here is twofold: 1) you cannot force a person to change anyway (Dale Carnegie’s, “A man [sic] convinced against his will is of the same mind still”) and 2) God is in control.  So when you are introducing new ideas, the focus is on freeing another person to choose. 

If a person only knows one option, they are in a real sense a slave to that option.  By exposing people to other options, you are freeing them, even if they remain the same.  But you are also facilitating change if they and the Spirit so move.  And when I am truly convinced that the change is the right thing, then I should be confident that those “with ears to hear” will in fact make those changes without me forcing the issue, if I have set out the new idea clearly.

Thank you, LORD, for such immense grace in this most excellent start to the seminary!

It was suggested that I put this spreadsheet of the Fall Missional Church course online so that you could see just how much Bible, theology, and Church history there actually is concretely in our courses (as well as how well integrated, in ministry, and intentional our curriculum is).  Bible, theology, and church history are in italics. It amounts to about 24/71 of these disciplines.  In other words, more than a third of this course is Bible, theology, and Church history.  Or to put it yet another way, Ben Witherington did not know of what he spoke…






Week 1: What is “missional”?  
Reading: Barrett, Congregational Sketches, Treasure in Clay Jars 20
Discussion: Defining missional 10
Bible: A Missional Hermeneutic 20
Action Research: Missional Temperature 50

Week 2: Your Local Missional Context
Reading: Guder chaps. 4-5, Missional Church 10
Discussion: My Demographic Research 20
Bible: Who is My Neighbor? 20
Action Research: Community Human Needs 50

Week 3: Gearing Up for Mission
Discussion: Christian Institutions 30
Church History: In Defense of Constantine  
Integration Paper: Statement of Problem (completion) 20
Action Research: Your Church’s Life Cycle 50

Week 4: Brainstorming for Mobilization
Reading: Roxburgh and Romanuk chaps. 1-5, The Missional Leader 20
Search: Personal Development Models 20
Theology: Prevenient or Predestination 20
Action Research: Forces of Community Change 40
Integration Paper: Picking Passages (recommended)  

Week 5: Missional Trends
Skim: Missional Buzz Book, Breaking, Emerging, or Shaping 20
Discussion: Coming or Going 10
Theology: Models of the Church 30
Application: A Mobilization Strategy 40
Integration Paper: Brainstorming Interpretations (recommended)  

Week 6: The Good News in Your Community
Reading: Pierson, Needs Based Evangelism 20
Discussion: Incarnated Community 10
Bible: Prophets and Social Justice 20
Application: Good Samaritan Strategy 50
Integration Paper: Background and Commentary Research (recommended)  

Week 7: Becoming a Sticky Church
Reading: Osborne, chaps. 1-9, Sticky Church 10
Church History: The Social Gospel 20
Integration Paper: Exegetical Research (completion) 30
Action Research: Church Stickiness 40

Week 8: Staying a Sticky Church
Reading: Osborne, chaps. 10-19, Sticky Church 20
Search: Small Group Clusters 10
Church History: Patrick and Boniface, Celtic Prayer 20
Application: Small Group Strategy 50
Integration Paper: Constructing a Biblical Theology (recommended)  
Week 9: Who is “in” the Church?  
Reading: Peace’s “Conflicting Understandings” 20
Bible: Conversion in New Testament 20
Theology: Wesley’s “Spirit of Bondage” 20
Action Research: Conversion Stories 40
Integration Paper: Theological Perspectives (recommended)  

Week 10: Who is “in” Your Church?
Reading: Guder, chap. 6, Missional Church 10
Church History: Not of the World 10
Action Research: My Church Membership 40
Application: Perfecting Membership 40
Integration Paper: Church Historical Perspectives (recommended)  

Week 11: Tracking Evangelism
Reading: Arn, chaps. 1-4, Master’s Plan for Making Disciples 20
Theology: What is the Church? 20
Integration Paper: Theological-Historical Research (completion) 30
Action Research: Relational Networks 50

Week 12: Planning Evangelism
Reading: Arn, chaps. 5-8, Master Plan for Discipleship 20
Discussion: Is evangelism the task? 20
Bible: Biblical Commissions 20
Application: Evangelism Strategy 40
Integration Paper: Personal and Corporate Spiritual Experience (recommended)  

Week 13: Multiplying the Church
Reading: Stetzer, chaps. 1, 4, 11-20,  Planting Missional Churches 20
Discussion: Inside and Out 10
Theology: Prophet, Priest, or King 20
Action Research: Brainstorming Possibilities 50
Integration Paper: Research in Supportive Disciplines (recommended)  

Week 14: Service in Judea and Samaria
Reading: Willimon, chaps. 9-10, Pastor 10
Action Research: Brainstorming Possibilities 20
Bible: Expansion of the Gospel in Acts 20
Integration Paper Due 250

Week 15: Global Missions
Reading: Wilson, “Current Issues in Global Missions” 20
Discussion: Glocalization 20
Theology: Indigenous Theologies 20
Application: Global Strategy 40

Week 16: Missional Strategy
Reading: Roxburgh and Romanuk, chaps. 6-11 30
Discussion: Missional Progress 20
Application Paper Due 250

Yesterday was the first all seminary convocation.  It was a great worship service with Keith Drury preaching and Nate & Julie Lamb leading the worship.  Elaine Bernius read the text from Acts 11.  I’m hoping we can post the service on YouTube later this week!  It was better than a great sermon… it was a good one (you’ll have to watch to understand).

We may have inaugurated some longstanding seminary traditions.  We sang a contemporary version of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” as candidate for Seminary Anthem, and we sang a version of “Ye Servants of God” as a Launching Hymn.  We took communion in Anglican style, said the Apostle’s Creed, and Charles Arn led us in a litany made from various psalms.  Bob Whitesel led in prayer and Russ Gunsalus led the service, also praying for the blessing of all the students.

Meanwhile, the second MDIV intensive course begins today, Cultural Contexts of Ministry, with Norm Wilson teaching.  Today they are looking at the nature of culture via the revised edition of Charles Kraft’s Christianity in Culture.  Then this afternoon they are looking at the demographics of their local church community.  Need I say that this is an assignment you can’t do in most seminaries… because you aren’t in a local church while you’re doing their program 🙂

Dear Friends,

Would you pause for one minute to pray for our students? 

They’re here! I just came in from a class full of amazing ministers beginning their Master of Divinity at IWU. This Monday at 8:30 a.m. 30 students arrived on campus for the inaugural class of the M.Div. program.  They traveled from around the globe and across the country.  We have students from New Zealand, Nicaragua, Florida, California, Oregon, Arizona, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and throughout the Midwest.  Last week we had 45 students in  for a course with Dr. Elmer Towns on prayer.  Next Monday another class of Master of Arts in Ministry students from across the country will be arriving on campus to start their program. To say the least things are hopping around here.

All of these students represent thousands and thousands of miles traveled to be equipped to build the kingdom.  Not to mention the investment of time, money and energy for the cause of Christ.

So when you close this email would you pause and pray for the safety, encouragement, and strength of these students and their faculty and staff, as we give ourselves to learning and growing to become better ministers.

May God continue to bless you in all you do for Him.


Russ Gunsalus
Chair, Graduate Studies in Ministry
Indiana Wesleyan University
765-677-2259 —information about the new Master of Divinity. —information on the Master of Arts in Ministry (Leadership or Youth Ministry)—our latest promotional videos on YouTube.

The very first MDIV class begins today with 30 students, our target number! Technically, the first seminary class was last week with 45 MA students in a class on prayer with Elmer Towns.


Today will largely be orientation to the program. For example, I’ll be giving the template for assignments each week of the six hour courses:

1. Reading
2. A Bible, theology, or church history assignment
3. An action research assignment in your local church
4. A supporting assignment
5. Some applicational element (e.g., Application Paper)