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Vision 2016

Futurist Video: 

An imaginative visualization of the

New York Divinity School in A.D. 2016,

expressive of the vivid mission of this

training ministry.

JUST IMAGINE:   The Divinity School building in Manhattan is abuzz with words, wisdom and wonder.  Fresh from a weekend of both outreach and reflection, students are crowding into the library, quietly sharing first-hand reports of community renewal projects advanced; Biblical insights learned, taught and applied; conversions and compassionate service witnessed. 

Some students are lay leaders recognized at Church, at work and in their communities, leaders who cogently share transforming insights that they are exegeting from the Bible and learning from well-planned experience and excellent study—insights that will empower their leadership wherever they are.  Through the Divinity School, pastors, lay leaders and chaplains are engaged in accountable collaborations, “transforming Good’s Word into flesh” through excellent Spirit-led leadership in Church, community, relationships and work.

All the ministry students—all in the pastorate and in other leadership positions—are learning accurate, Spirit-led, Bible interpretation with skilled application in both behavior and belief.  In-hand and working knowledge of the Bible is the foundational reference point for all learning at the Divinity School.  Because Scripture is the final authority for behavior and belief, all these students seek mastery of Bible content, while being guided by the Holy Spirit and discipled in community.

Not all the students are “ministers”—not in the general 20th century use of that term.  In fact, 25% of NYDS students are enrolled in courses from the Master's-level Certificate of Arts in Faith and Practice track, a 36 hour program for effectual, Biblical lay leadership--because 12 of the 48 original academic hours have already been covered by transferable professional training.  These are marketers, corporate executives, artists, investment bankers, TV reporters, physicians, attorneys, architects, police, firefighters, community organizers, accountants, sales managers, government employees, brokers, armed service personnel, nurses, high school teachers, and retired executives – learning to excel in serving the Lord in their labors. 

Along with pastoral students, each student on the Faith and Practice track is taking courses in Bible content, as well as Christian ethics and worldview – in order to incarnate this Godly wisdom and knowledge into their lives and their weekday worlds.  Faith and Practice students will complete a publishable Master’s-level thesis with brilliant teachings of Scripture shown on a portion of their active professional “path.”  (Psalm 119:105).  Completed Master's-level theses are available to read in the Divinity School library, and several are also on the Divinity School’s Internet website—as in-hand ministry resources, especially for other lay leaders in similar professions and vocations. 

The Divinity School is committed to the John 1:14 exemplar: “the Word became flesh and moved in with us.”  Professors and students are devoted to “incarnating” Scriptural ideas into every dimension of their lives.  As models, all the Divinity School professors are engaged in front-line ministry in addition to their teaching; none of them lives in the library.  The result is transformational consciousness and conduct in the professions, in community leadership, and in ministry—through the penetrating light of Scripture.  The explicit goal is to bring the awakening and liberating power of God’s presence and of his Word to every person, and into every facet of community and social life – through enabled and effectual pastors, lay people and chaplains.  This deep, transforming spiritual awakening the Divinity School professors and students represent is for all people.

Two Powerful Keys

There are 300 students now in 2016.  In its development, it helped that dozens of Churches, from several denominations, have included NYDS in their regular prayers and strong mission support. 

Accreditation gives NYDS two powerful human keys to help unlock its subsequent phenomenal growth and service—contextual curriculum and major foundation backing.  Collaborative programs were very good, but they were designed for campuses hundreds of miles away, and for distant pastoral and lay ministries.  Support both inside and outside the City matters, since in the average seminary tuition covers less than one-third of total costs.  Christian community can learn to support excellent, Bible-based, Christ-centered, Spirit-led training for pastors and lay leaders.

Without accreditation, mere extension programs are limited to offering only parts of some of the academic programs selected by a distant institution.  With approval, this Divinity School has been empowered to customize the programs that best serve Christian ministers and lay leaders in the metropolitan area.  In 2016, programs including the Master's-Level Certificate of Arts in Faith and Practice, Master's-Level Certificate of Arts in Religion, and the Certificate of Divinity Programs—each with different specializations, strongly flavored by imperative New York challenges such as the Biblical worldview, leadership, evangelism, discipleship, family counseling, marketplace ministry, prison outreach, community organization, youth ministry, child development, victim care and chaplaincy. 

Without accreditation, very few foundations are willing to consider grant proposals from NYDSWith accreditation, several foundations began giving NYDS substantial attention.  Major foundations show an interest in the program because of its excellent ministry training, its ethnic community leadership development, its cutting-edge holistic urban ministry theme, its extraordinary multi-ethnic quality, and its recognized leadership and leadership-training for the City. 


The Primary Foundation and the Five Distinctives

In another sense, NYDS had experienced the best “foundation” because of the initial prayers and encouragement of fifty (50) pastors in the City.  They shaped the founding vision, including the “Five Distinctives.”  This multi-ethnic and multi-denominational pastoral group met for three-hour lunches on a monthly basis.  These pastors openly shared their prayers and passions for a Biblical seminary to be based in the City – where there had been no accredited seminary committed to the authority of the Bible since 1969.  

These five distinctives the pastors wrote remain the “birth certificate” of NYDS

*      Devoted to Biblical standards of justice, love, accountability, and righteousness.  In individual, social, and structural issues, Biblical teaching is upheld, including God’s standards of racial and ethnic justice, economic engagement and fairness, care for the poor, and sexual abstinence outside of marriage.   I Timothy 1:5:“The purpose of our instruction is love – from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a sincere faith.”
*      Committed to Biblical doctrine and mission.  All teachers and leaders both profess and articulate, sincerely and cogently, the historic Christian doctrines, undiluted by any factors, including rationalism, empiricism, skepticism, liberalism, or conservatism, and articulated effectively and cogently within the marketplace of ideas – including the doctrines of the authority of the Bible, the Trinity, the humanity and deity of Jesus, his death for us and his bodily resurrection.   II Timothy 1:13,14: “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.  Guard the treasure that has been entrusted to you, through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.”
*      Excellent in Godly personal and professional practice.  For God’s glory, excellence is the standard in the classroom, library, family, research, administration, and Church and ministry service.  Both in labor and in results, the LORD is honored as our minds and hearts are marked by a life of excellence devoted to him and his Word.    II Timothy 2:15: “Study to present yourself approved unto God, a worker that does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.”
*      Church-based.  To matriculate, students must be recommended by Churches that affirm their calling to ministry.  Churches also participate in their nurturing and training in ministry and generously support NYDS as part of their ministry.  Faculty and staff must be active Church members as well.  I Timothy 3:15: “…the Church of the living God, the pillar and stronghold of the truth.”
*      Engaged in mentored ministry.   Every student is intentionally mentored in spiritual development and in ministry skills, while they are resolutely engaged in evangelism and other ministry.  II Timothy 2:2:“The things which you have heard me teach in public, hand them on to reliable people, who are competent to teach others also.”


Especially momentous are the first two distinctives, with their clear focus on the special authority of Scripture – for both behavior and belief.   Here Jesus himself is the primary model, living, teaching and speaking from Scripture’s authority—first as a child in the temple, then during his temptation, then in his preaching, then from the cross, and also in his ministry after he conquered death.  Along with Jesus, we acknowledge that the Bible is trustworthy in revealing God’s perspectives and purposes for us.  God’s Word is the true lamp for each person’s feet, the only revealing light for each person’s path.

 

The Wake-up Call... and then the New Awakening?

September 11, 2001, New Yorkers experienced the brutal terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  The loss of thousands of human lives was devastating.  Also, hundreds of thousands of men and women were directly and personally injured – through physical and psychological injury, the loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, loss of business.  In addition, many New Yorkers saw their basic value systems and worldviews crash and burn right before their eyes.  “Nothing is the same; everything has changed” was the most repeated cliché.  However, it was far from clear what the new reality was going to become.  The losses in life and property were staggering.  The colossal emotional toll was incalculably huge, and the potential spiritual losses or gains were beyond human measure or prediction.  One thing was clear: suddenly New York was a very different place.  On the one hand, well-established hedonism and hard-heartedness were both getting more devotees, but on the other hand, so were the teachings of the Scriptures, the leadership of the Holy Spirit and commitments for human caring.

In the immediate aftermath, Church attendance rose dramatically for a couple months.  However, the classic Christian Churches [churches committed to the authority of the Bible] in the City and in the metro area were generally not equipped for the crisis.  Very few of their pastors were trained in counseling or relief work, or even had any professional-level Biblical, ministerial or leadership training – either for “normal” times, or now for a time of crisis and spiritual opportunity in the world’s leading City.  Within months, general Church attendance slipped below even what it had been before the attacks!

To tell the truth, not very many pastors had adequate spiritual and intellectual training for the 21st century challenges anyway.  Actually, according to a Pew research project in 1997, only 20% of the more than 5,000 classic Christian pastors within the five boroughs have taken even one seminary course, and most lay Christian leaders have no more than Sunday school level Biblical training.  The level of functional Biblical illiteracy has arisen beyond alarming heights – both in society at large and even in the Church.  The Lord Jesus Christ continued to minister through people, but many Churches in every community are weak, ineffective, uninformed and nearly empty. 

 

An Awakening Process

There is no programmatic progression – no insured sequence – guaranteeing that the 9/11 wake-up call would produce the needed spiritual awakening.  We do know that education matters, for great awakenings have been led by educated pastors.  Awakenings have always expanded pastoral and lay education opportunities as well.  Some of the greatest American educational institutions originated in either the early 1700s in the First Great Awakening or in the middle 1800s in the Second Great Awakening. 

Spiritual awakening and excellent ministry training are interdependent – and mutually supportive.  Most importantly, education does not create awakenings, and awakenings do not create excellent ministry education.  Rather, both are created and empowered by the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – who seeks our excellent, effective service to him, to his Church and to his world.  The Divinity School vision is founded on this truth.

 

Seven Dimensions

Now in 2016, the student body has grown to 300 men and women involved in one or more of the five dimensions of NYDS training.  Three focus programs, the lay leadership tracks (MA in Theological Studies and MA in Faith and Practice), the pastors’ M.Div. training – embody the five dimensions of this cutting-edge, urban leadership training program. 

1.  Preparation in Ministry for Young Adults, Youth and Children (MYC):  Young adult, youth and children’s ministries have been among the weakest areas of the Church in New York City.  Few Churches have special programs, even though the youth and children are especially crucial to the Church.  Even volunteer Church youth directors need training because sincerity is no longer enough.  Pastors ought to be proficient to help children, youth and young adults in the very complex urban world in which they live and grow.  In addition, especially amid the 40% of the City that are immigrants, there is now a tragic Church-drop-out rate among youth and young adults—80% drop-out rate among Hispanic peoples, and 90% drop-out in Korean communities.  Without actively including them, most youth and young adults will not stay in Church.  Remember what a marvelous role these younger ones have from Biblical times – Joseph, Miriam, Samuel, David, Mary, John, Mark and others.

 
2.  Immersion Mission Preparation (IMP):  Candidates for international missionary service come to New York City where there are Churches and communities representing virtually every culture on earth.  NYDS places the missionary candidates in the relevant ethnic community where they can speak the language, eat the food, live the customs, and actively assist in a related Biblical ethnic Church.  At the same time, the missionary candidates also take NYDS courses such as Church Planting, Biblical Mission Strategy, Biblical Worldview, Religious Sociology, Cross-cultural Communication, and also a required two-semester seminar to help the candidates continually debrief their real “third-world experience” right in NYC.  Since most candidates establish a relationship with a mission board before they complete seminary, these courses are then transferred back to their own seminary when the IMP year is completed. 

3.  Holistic Urban Ministry (HUM):  Students from other accredited seminaries around the country are also attracted to NYDS’ holistic approach to urban ministry.  Although they remain matriculated elsewhere for various reasons, they come to NYDS for a one-year mega-dose of Holistic Urban Ministry (HUM) training.  These ministry students know that HUM is the need of the present and future, New York City is the place to learn it, and NYDS offers the cutting-edge HUM education.  Effectual urban ministry is holistic, community-building, empowering, and interconnected into the vital fabric of the arts-business-Church-communications-education-enforcement-family-government-ministry-recreation-social services and street life of the City.   The one-year training package earns ministry students a nationally-recognized certificate and also 33 credits they can transfer back to their home seminaries.


4.  Non-pastoral Leadership Program:  While 125 students are in one or another of the three certificate programs, 175 other students are matriculated into one of NYDS’ Programs.  A creative programs for non-pastors is the MA in Faith and Practice.  12 credits are transferred from the student's professional graduate training, 18 credits for this Program are taken from the same core courses in the Bible and leadership skills, 10 credits are taken in Biblical/Christian Values in personal and marketplace decisions, and the remaining 8 credits are awarded for master’s thesis preparation and completion.  There are 115 students in these lay-training Program tracks.

5. Skilled Ministry Training Program:  The MA in Religion Program is a 48-credit program that has been called a “mini-Master of Divinity.”  It includes the same courses in Bible, ethics, theology, and ministry in slightly fewer numbers.  In fact, some who intend to work for the M.Div. later, apply and temporarily stop their training with this MA.  All those credits can be subsequently applied to the M.Div. Program instead. 

6.  Professional Pastoral Training Programs:  The M.Div. Programs provide professional ministry training, now for 90 students.  Initially, NYDS drew primarily active pastors into the classroom, pastors who were part of the 94% of the NYC Bible-based pastors without seminary training.  Each M.Div. student selects three or four specializations from a timely list: Biblical Ethics, Biblical Inquiry, Church Training Ministries, Evangelism and Mission Strategy, Ministry for Youth and Children, Ministry with Moslem-Background People, Pastoral Counseling, Prison/Prison-Release Ministry, Victim Care Chaplaincy, Writing Ministry, Worldview/Theology, and others.  In addition, each professional ministry student’s studies includes an essential 54-credit M.Div. core of Biblical Studies, Worldview/Theology, and Leadership/Ministry Skills.

7.  One step of training at a time approach:  While certificates are important to achieve, learning what you need now to honor the Lord Jesus better and to strengthen your  ministry is far more important.  The NYDS commitment is to enable pastors and lay men and women to excel in leadership and ministry, even one class at a time.

 

Learning Ministry in Active Ministry

To be enrolled, all NYDS students have had to be endorsed by their Church, and all students have been active in some ministry while they have studied – ministry in their Church, in their profession, and other settings where they are accountable.  All students are on Program tracks (Master's-Level Certificate of Arts in Faith and Practice, Master's-Level Certificate of Arts in Theological Studies—or M.Div. in different specializations or for certificates (MYC, IMP, and HUM)—or one class at a time.  Ministry creativity is enhanced by these accountability structures for courses and certificates in each Program.

In other words, at NYDS the true commencement begins at the end of every class period, every day.  At NYDS, students immediately apply what they are learning, 24/7 – engaging in the Incarnation of the Word of God into their present moments, opportunities, and challenges in the Church, community, relationships and work in AD 2016, for years to come… and for eternity. 


 


 

 


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