Tag: fuller seminary

Thinking About a DMin Program? Ask Yourself 5 Questions

If you have a Master of Divinity degree, you might be thinking about taking the next step academically — obtaining a doctoral level degree.  If so, I’d recommend you check into a Doctor of Ministry program, a practical theology degree rooted in the practice of ministry.  One advantage to DMin programs is they are designed around a working pastor’s life and do not require full-time residential study like PhD programs, so you can stay in your current ministry field while completing your degree.  As a matter of fact, most DMin programs require that you have 2-3 years ministry experience before entering a program.  If you don’t have an MDiv, Some programs will let you combine your Master’s level work and DMin work in a longer program.

While they do offer flexibility, DMin programs are not without their challenges.  Ask yourself these 5 questions if you think you want to get your Doctor of Ministry degree:

  1. Do I have time? Fuller Seminary (where I am pursuing my DMin) estimates that DMin candidates need 15-20 hours a week to devote to reading and study before and after each seminar.  I’m getting ready for my final seminar now (yay!), and I have been reading almost non-stop since November, 2009.  Reading takes time, and some days my schedule doesn’t allow it.  Fuller requires 4,500 pages of reading for a 12-hour course, and 3,000 for an 8-hour course.  I’m doing 8, but that’s still 12 complete books and 2-page book reviews of each.
  2. Will my church support me? Most DMin applications will require church approval because DMin work is done in the local church setting.  The benefits are that a DMin program makes you a better pastor, and provides the church with the latest thinking in your chosen field of study.  The downside is that it will take some of your time, and you need church support to be able to say, “I’m sorry, but I’m writing a paper tomorrow.”  My church has been very gracious and supportive since I began my DMin in 2006.
  3. Can I commit 4-7 years to the process? Fuller allows a total of 7 years to complete the degree, but it could be finished in 3-4 years, including the final project.  Changing churches in the middle of the program is not unheard of, but may interrupt your academic schedule.  I took a year off the program while we were building the community center here because I didn’t have extra time to devote to both.  I’m still on-track to finish early, but not by much.
  4. Do I want an accredited degree or just the title? A wide variety of programs exist under the DMin banner.  Some are accredited by real accrediting agencies, some are not.  Some require little more than light reading, a short paper, and a big check to grant a degree.  You have to decide if you want to be called “Doctor” more than you want to learn.  Resume’ inflation doesn’t happen just in the business world.
  5. What criteria will I use to select a DMin program? When I selected Fuller, I did so because Fuller offered the option of individualized learning tracks, and I liked the schedule of 2 weeks on campus each year.  Some DMin programs meet more frequently, some are designed for commuting students, and some can be partially completed by distance learning.   However, some programs are pre-defined so that all DMin students take the same courses.  You’ll have to decide what you want to study, where you want to enroll, and what schedule you need.  Of course, there’s also the little detail of paying for it, too.

I am delighted with my DMin program at Fuller and would recommend their program to anyone interested in this degree.  But, other fine programs exist that might suit your needs better.  A DMin program requires commitment on the part of church and pastor, enough time to do the work and complete the program, and careful scheduling of courses.  Are any of you considering a DMin, and if so, what decision-making process did you go through?  I’d love to hear from you!

Is Wikipedia the source for The Great Emergence?

 In my review of Phyllis Tickle’s new book, The Great Emergence, I questioned the accuracy of Tickle’s information about John Wimber and her conclusions that credit Wimber as a “proto-emergent” who influenced the current emerging church conversation.  After I posted that review, I searched “John Wimber” on Wikipedia.  I was astounded at the almost word-for-word similarity between the Wikipedia article on Wimber and Tickle’s book.  Here are some excerpts:

Wikipedia:  In 1974 he became the Founding Director of the Department of Church Growth at the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth, which was founded by the Fuller Theological Seminary and the Fuller Evangelistic Association. He directed the department until 1978. 

The Great Emergence, p 157:  By 1974, he had become founding director of the Department of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, a position he would hold for almost five years.

My comment:  Very similar sentences, but the book truncates this section and wrongly identifies Wimber as affiliated with Fuller Seminary.  In fact Fuller’s School of World Mission (now Intercultural Studies) was headed up by Dr. Donald McGavran who is credited as the father of the church growth movement.  Peter Wagner was a faculty member at Fuller.  Wimber was an adjunct for the “Signs and Wonders” course at Fuller Seminary, which was a highly controversial course offering.  

Wikipedia:  In this time a House Church began to form in his home. This group began to embrace some of the beliefs of the Charismatic movement. This resulted in a split with the Quaker church that this group belonged to.

TGE, p157: During the Fuller years, a house church began in Wimber’s home.  Affiliated originally with his Quaker meeting, the group in time became first charismatic, and then so charismatic as to cause rupture with the Quakersim from which it had sprung.  

My comment:  Again, very similar and all the same elements appear in Tickle’s sentences that are contained in the Wikipedia entry.  

Wikipedia:  Wimber pastored this new church, which would later become known as the Anaheim Vineyard Christian Fellowship, from 1977 to 1994. Eventually, it outgrew his home and began to meet elsewhere. After initially joining Calvary Chapel, the church had some differences with the Calvary Chapel leadership, relating mainly to the practice of spiritual gifts. As a result, they left Calvary Chapel to join a small group of churches started by Kenn Gulliksen, known as Vineyard Christian Fellowships.

TGE, p157:  The Wimber congregation, predictably enough and shortly thereafter, outgrew the Wimber house and briefly joined itself to a Calvary Chapel.  The differences between the two groups, especially over the gifts of the Spirit, became too great, however: and the Wimberites left to join what was, at that time, a very small group of churches known as the Vineyard Christian Fellowships.

My comments:  Again, same thoughts as the Wiki article in the same paragraph.  

There are other examples, but you get my point, which is:  

If this is “one of the most important books of the year,” according to Brian McLaren, is Wikipedia the best research source Tickle could find?  

Tickle could have fact-checked with Fuller Seminary, interviewed people who knew Wimber, or read “Power Evangelism” by John Wimber.  Tickle also incorrectly credits Wimber with the “bounded-set, centered-set” concept for understanding church structure.  In fact, Paul Hiebert, missiologist and anthropologist, originated this discussion in his book, Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues.  And, Hiebert’s concept was far more complex than Tickle represents.  Plus, Tickle identifies “centered set” as “center set,” a small but sloppy error.  (According to Hiebert, “centered-set” churches have Christ as the center around which persons gather.  Hiebert, p. 125).  

Am I being incredibly picky?  Perhaps, but this lack of precision when dealing with contemporary concepts is inexcusable in a book that purports to give us a “sweeping overview of church history.”  More importantly, it leads Tickle to the incorrect positioning of Wimber as a more significant figure in the emerging church than he is.  Wimber was a thorough-going church growth advocate, but he used “power evangelism” — modern-day signs and wonders — as the attractional element in the original Vineyard movement.  I heard Wimber himself say that the Vineyard movement might not last 50-years, so he did not conceive of Vineyard as a game-changer, but a contextual form of church reflecting his own personal spiritual journey to “do the stuff” — perform charismatic gifts of the Spirit such as healing the sick and raising the dead.  

I recognize that Tickle is giving the reader broad brush strokes of church history in her sweeping overview.  And, the book is certainly not an academic account of church history, or the great transformations in the life of the church.  But, even though it is brief and general in nature, Tickle could have been more precise, more accurate, and in Wimber’s case, more original.

Closed door, open window

N.T. Wright teaches Missional Ecclesiology in 2009 at Fuller. I forgot exactly where I heard that saying — When God closes a door, He opens a window — but as corny as it sounds, it’s true.  Last year, I dropped out of the “Missional Leadership” Doctor of Ministry program track at Fuller.  The program is great, but the process we were to lead our church through was not working at our church for reasons that are unimportant here.  But, my point is, after spending a lot of time, study, and money, I decided it would be in the best interest of the church for me to discontinue that line of study.  Fuller was very accommodating, and I did not lose any credits in the transition, but it was still a disappointment to not be part of that cohort.

I am halfway through the DMin program, so I need two more seminars to finish.  As I looked at other course offerings, none of the courses Fuller was offering seemed to be a good fit for me.  A couple of weeks ago, Fuller posted a new courseMissional Ecclesiology.  That’s a good fit for me with my previous missional leadership courses.  “But, wait, there’s more,” as they say on TV!  The course is to be taught by N. T. Wright, who is one of my favorite authors and theologians.  And, I’m in!  This is The N.T. Wright who is the Bishop of Durham, the author of a new book, Surprised by Hope, and of the magnum opus, The Resurrection of the Son of God, plus about 4 dozen other books.   The course is offered Feb 23-27, 2009 at Fuller, which is also perfect timing.  So, as they also say, “God is good…all the time!”