Dr. Winter’s Thoughts About Mission Education

Dr. Ralph Winter wrote an “Executive Summary” in 2002 that is focused on the state of mission education. He begins by explaining that for ten years, the U.S. Center for World Mission has been involved in one of the most extensive projects that has been tough to work on, and that is rewriting, enriching and restructuring the whole college and seminary curriculum. He poses the question of why a mission center would undertake this sort of project? The answer he offers is that “the university tradition that now blankets the earth tears into tiny course-sized fragments the reality of God and His Creation and even the human story.” These fragments prevent the average believer from ever seeing the complete picture. So Winter and his staff have felt that there are numerous reasons for putting the picture back together and making sure the result reflects properly the Biblical emphasis upon God and His mission to the world. While Winter is excited about the 50,000 students who have gone through the Perspectives Study Program by this year, a single course is only a drop in the bucket compared to what ought to be done. He is tired of trying to add to, patch up and reintegrate existing college and seminary courses. What needs to be done could not be accomplished by just adding another course like Perspectives. So Winter and his team decide to invade the mainstream curriculum of the liberal arts with proper content and perspective as they see it, teaching everything traditional to college and seminary (except for vocational specialties) and doing so with a broad global mission perspective that encompasses 4,000 years.

Yet one small university like William Carey International University in Pasadena, CA could do very little to impact the many students daily emerging from other schools. What benefit would be there to one specialized university offering a new mix of basic education, Winter asks. It could only be achieved in partnership with other schools. The idea is to sell this new boldly rebuilt curriculum to Christian colleges in hopes that they will enroll a large numbers of students. Winter writes, “Early on we received the unexpected request from Wycliffe’s new Language Survey department to employ a modified version of our graduate curriculum for those mission candidates who have only two years of college.” Since the material Winter’s people have prepared has linguistics and cultural anthropology as strong subjects which seminary curricula leave out, this connection with Wycliffe seems like an ideal bridge to a college degree for said candidates, and even more if they complete their study on the field! So the “Degree Completion” program has been instated at the time of this writing and Winter is enthusiastic about it impacting not only Wycliffe but other mission agencies too. It provides opportunities for thousands of mission-minded believers in their late 20s and early 30s who work in local churches for a mission cause but are hindered by not having a college degree, nor the solid knowledge that would enable them to be missionaries or mission mobilizers at a higher level.

Winter has to wonder if enough Christian colleges will take up the new curriculum and really make a difference to the mission world? How will this type of study program be available to field missionaries, Third World missionaries and national pastors? Winter says, “Could this also substitute for seminary in many fields where very few pastors have adequate training of any kind?” Could it be abridged for first-year college students? Yes, what this all means is that striking new, incredible events can now be talked through and are in the offing. Winter is glad that various mission leaders and executives he knows of are joining the discussions about this World Christian Foundations study program. Praise be to God!

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