There are two words for time in Greek. The first, chronos, refers to chronological time – seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years, etc. The second, kairos, refers to a specific moment in time or a specific time in which an activity or incident occurs.
For many years, the primary method of theological education has been based on the “chronos” understanding of time. Students progress chronologically through a specific set of courses over a certain number of years and, provided they pass the courses, receive a degree at the end.
Unfortunately, this model has, in many instances, developed a system of theological education that is prohibitively expensive, lacks integration, and is built around content instead of outcomes. Chronological time spent in class and the grades received in that class have been used as the primary measurement of student learning.
It may serve us well to a create a system of theological education that shifts the focus from chronos to kairos. In this system, students would be fully engaged, and learning would more effective because it would be built around moments in time that naturally encourage integrated learning. In addition, students would be held accountable to specific outcomes rather than to the chronological progression through a set of courses. As students engage in learning, life, and ministry, a team of mentors would walk alongside them, providing encouragement and assistance.
We are launching just such a program at this fall at Sioux Falls Seminary. It is for students with stories like these…
Doug’s story winds through college, becoming a founder of Kinko’s, the launch of a nonprofit to serve inner-city kids, and a three-year discipleship journey that brought him to his role as interim Lead Pastor at Grace Community Church in Detroit, Michigan. Doug writes, “It’s taken me a long time to reconcile my heart’s desire and God’s calling on my life, but I am there now.” He has a strong desire to serve God to the best of his ability and believes that theological education should be an important aspect of his development. However, his commitments as a husband, father, executive director, and lead pastor did not mesh well with the traditional model of theological education.
It was during college that Emily first felt a call from God to walk alongside others in their spiritual journeys. As others began to recognize this call on her life, Emily began to develop an understanding of how God might use her gifts and abilities. She writes, “Seminary was an impossible, lost dream due to motherhood, finances, my full-time job, and a long list of other responsibilities.” Emily is thankful for and committed to her calling as a mother, wife, and employee, and is searching for a way to integrate theological education into those roles versus being separated from them.
As the founder of and lead communicator for Restoration Generation, Tom speaks at music festivals, schools, camps, retreats, and conferences. His first book, Heart Not Hype, was published in 2013 and provides a seven-day discipleship journey for new believers. Throughout Tom’s 17 years of service in ministry, he has been encouraged to attend seminary and has often considered it. However, the traditional model would not allow him to continue ministering around the country. The prohibitive cost of theological education added another barrier.
The stories of these students are diverse, yet similar and they echo the stories I hear everyday from people who feel called by God. Each feels called to serve the mission of God but has felt as though the traditional model of theological education would not serve him or her well. Doug, Emily, Tom, and many others have desired a system that would involve a holistic journey, one that would more fully develop them for their unique callings.
My hope is that we learn from the Kairos Project. At this point, it is more of a research initiative than a new program. It will include 10 to 15 students who will participate in and critique this concept. Over the next few months I will share a few of the thoughts behind the Kairos Project. I value your feedback as well.
We will look at the concept of theological education as a platform versus a product, the cost structures of theological education, faculty-directed learning and academic oversight in an outcome-based model, and the concept of being a “full-time” student. Be sure to correct me where you think I may be wrong or ask questions for clarification. My desire is to spark a conversation for the good of the Kingdom.
Great article Greg. Of course, I am thrilled to participate with you in this effort, but that notwithstanding, your Chronos to Kairos distinction is a profound way to frame your fresh vision for delivering theological education in NT terms. Well done.
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