Re:Envisioning the Church, a review

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : June 2, 2006

Last night my friend Joel Nelson and I finished our spring quarter course at Bethel Seminary–Re:Envisioning the Church: An Adventure in Applied Ecclesiology. We proposed the course in the fall, and at that time it felt like a long-shot. After all, I was still a student, and though I feel like I’m being faithful in my ministy context, few would call us a success-story. But my desire to have a course at the seminary where students could actually do constructive ecclesiology washed away my feelings of inadequacy and propriety. The course was accepted and we had plenty of students register, thus securing it for spring 2006.

This has been my favorite seminary experience. I didn’t feel like the teacher…and the students didn’t feel like students. It felt as though we had gone through a 3 month adventure with one another. My friends and I struggled through important issues, voiced our frustrations with the Church in America, hoped with one another as we each began to re-envision the church within our own contexts.

And we each came from different contexts. Our group was disproportionately diverse. Urban, suburban and rural. Black, white, and asian. Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, charismatic, Lutheran, and others. Men, women and (for one evening anyway) a child. We all came together and sharpened one another. It was what seminary is supposed to be.

I actually experienced the gratitude of some of these friends of mine. Some said it was the most important class they’ve had at seminary. Others said that it was the most practical. Others remarked that it should be part of the core-curriculum. One said that he sees everything in a completely new way. Others said nothing. There are a few students that I wonder to myself if they really appreciated the class, but the overwhelming sense was that this class meant something. We finished the class at 9:45pm last night, but I didn’t leave until nearly 11:00pm. I stayed to talk with various students. Some of us hugged. It was more like the end of a week of camp than it was the end of a seminary class. I was moved. It was good.

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5 Responses to “Re:Envisioning the Church, a review”

  1. JVD on June 2nd, 2006 7:26 pm

    Mark -

    I am glad your class went well. I heard from a few folks that they really enjoyed it. Any talk about House Churches and how that plays into the discussion?

    Did you ever bring Thorsten in to dialogue with? If not, that would seem to be a thought for next time. As he is someone who cares deeply about the topic, much like you and Joel. Just a thought.

    Keep up the good work -


  2. mark on June 3rd, 2006 12:09 am

    We did talk a bit about house churches. Unfortunately, Thorsten had a class going concurrently with our class, so that rule that out this time. If there is a next time, then I’m definitely thinking of inviting Thorsten to come share some thoughts.

  3. Zane Anderson on June 5th, 2006 1:39 am

    Do keep us posted about your house church discussions and what ideas come to the surface.

    I see no reason why each denomination mentioned above might consider them in their various plans for missions.

  4. Corey on June 9th, 2006 4:15 pm

    The class really was fantastic. You and Joel did a great job getting to the core issues and forcing people to wrestle with their preconceived assumptions about church. The powers that be had better listen to the overwhelmingly positive evaluations and let you teach it again next year.

  5. mark on June 10th, 2006 12:40 pm

    Aw, shucks.

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