Learning from, and with, people you’ll never meet.
At a recent Symposium on Shaping the Future of Missions Training, a question was raised that goes right to the heart of how CRC Training operates. It’s the question of whether online study, or any other form of distance education, can really be effective or even legitimate in the fields of theology and ministry. As we shared our responses, a few fascinating concepts came to the surface.
The Bible itself contains examples of very effective distance education! Paul’s letters, for example, were written and sent to various remote locations, unaccompanied by the apostle himself. In these places the letters were to be read publicly to people gathered in the churches. They were also sometimes just read by individuals. Some of these remote readers and hearers had met Paul, but many never would.
Whatever teachers we might have, we ultimately get all our theology and understanding of ministry and mission from the Bible, and we do so while having no possibility of conferring with any of its forty or so human authors. Thankfully, we have personal contact with the Bible’s Divine author, the Holy Spirit, and the good news is that he’s still with us as we learn together, whether it’s in a classroom or online.
As I look around the walls of my study now, I’m struck by how many of my teachers are dead people! On the bookshelves I see names like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, all of whom have shaped my theology and challenged me to go forward in ministry, although I’ve never met any of them. And they’re not just my teachers, they’re also my friends since they’ve helped and energised me, and encouraged me to feel their pain over things that were wrong with their world and still are with ours. And they’ve made me laugh, just like my other friends who are still breathing!
The point is that distance education is nothing new. Only the technology has improved! Like every generation of Christians before us, we can learn together remotely and the person we’re learning about makes our study, and our relationships with each other, fruitful.
That being so, I was still glad to be able to tell others at the symposium how greatly our experience of online education is enhanced by our times together at camp and by great student support people