Immersed in Kingdom work
by Jack Taylor
Like the men of Issachar, the leaders of Northwest Baptist College and Seminary (now located on the Langley Campus of Trinity Western University) have been men who understood their times. Since its 1934 founding in Westbourne Baptist Church, Calgary by Rev. Morley Hall the school has continued to change. Rev. George Dawe was the first principal until the war intervened in 1939. Doors opened again in 1945 with a new location in Port Coquitlam, BC. Dr. Don Carson served as the first seminary dean in 1976 when “the graduate division became a distinctive seminary unit.”
On September 28, the school took time at the Northview Golf and Country Club to honour many of its prominent leaders through 85 years. Featured honourees included Morley Hall, George Dawe, Vern Middleton, Doug Harris and a faithful team of skilled servants who escalated the academic and spiritual culture of the institution. The theme of the event, ‘Honouring the Past, Imagining the Future’ drew attention to the visionary expansion of the current Fosmark Building into a 7,000 square foot ministry center serving the world.
A new lease agreement with TWU means the enlarged center will cost only $1.6 million to build – most of which has already been raised through gifts, pledges and a matching grant from key stakeholders. Board chair Dennis Wasyliw states that, “A key for us is our new technology space that will allow us to have state of the art streaming capacity to push forward on our focus for competency-based learning around the globe.”
Henry and Richard Blackaby, in Spiritual Leadership, write: Modern history is once again calling upon men and women to rise up and fulfill their God-given destiny to impact their world. True spiritual leaders do not wring their hands and wistfully recount the better times of days gone by. Genuine leaders understand they have but one life to live and so they expend it with purpose and passion. God placed you on earth at this particular crossroad in history. (2011, p. 28)
Dr. Kent Anderson, president since 2010, is the current dynamic force behind ‘Immerse’, the first fully-accredited, Master’s level program to employ the Competency-Based Theological Education (CBTE) philosophy. In partnership with the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon and the Territories. Anderson took the concept of ‘Mastery Learning’ from the public sphere and worked through several iterations to create a program for the church ministry leaders of the future.
The school’s website states that “Great leaders are essential, but they can be hard to find. If the church is going to be able to fulfill its mission, it is going to have to accept its responsibility to identify and develop those people who will lead them in the future. Typically, churches have contracted this function out to the seminary, which they have seen as a kind of factory outlet for pastoral leaders. The results have been predictable. Immerse offers a better way.”
Anderson states, “Currently, we directly serve ten organizations across Canada, the US, and Latin America under the Immerse brand. More broadly, we have consulted with more than 70 organizations around the world and have helped incubate many new programs in what has come to be known as Competency-Based Theological Education. We have formed a new partnership called Symporus that offers technology, services, and academic credit for CBTE in other Seminaries, agencies, churches, and more. All of this has been birthed through Immerse. The Association of Theological Schools has affirmed CBTE (and Immerse) as one of the most promising and forward-thinking movements in theological education today. Every agency I know, that serves the world of theological education, is talking with us.”
Wes Parker, one of the first Immerse graduates, now serves as lead pastor at Dunbar Heights Baptist Church. He says “The success of Immerse is, in my view, a return to an age-old philosophy of pastoral training (think pastoral ‘residency’ program) where future pastors/leaders are trained ‘in-house’ and ‘real-time’ by mentor/trainers who invest in the development of leaders in a wholistic sense, i.e., not theological training alone but also character as well as competency training. For too long, training for pastors has essentially removed them from the very environment in which they intend to minister; Immerse addresses this issue while offering a guided/careful mentorship so students learn by example as well as hands-on experience.” Parker himself is now mentoring another immerse student named May Anne Then. Not everyone agrees with CBTE as an effective means for pastoral training. Some claim it isn’t “academically rigorous enough” – believing that students need a traditional classroom setting to be best-prepared. Some feel that this style of programming is “not spiritually formative enough.”
Northwest is attempting to disprove any naysayers. Currently, “Northwest partners with eleven different networks to run customized iterations of Immerse for the ministry leaders they are training.” This includes all five regions of the Fellowship across Canada for pastoral training; Fellowship International for cross-cultural missions training; a Spanish iteration for El Redil churches in Columbia; Northview Community Church (Abbotsford); C2C Church Planting Network; 17:6 Network in Texas and California; and the ACTS seminaries.
Parker says, “Immerse is a program with Kingdom benefits to both students as well as the churches in which they serve. I’ve seen the benefit personally in my own preparation and am now serving as the senior pastor in a growing Vancouver church near UBC. I’ve also seen the benefit, at a corporate level, to our church. Considering Immerse in your own local church gathering could mean the building up of tomorrow’s leaders and can also inject fresh life as passionate young leaders learn what it means to follow God’s call into ministry in a local church context. Pray for the Spirit’s work among students and mentors and ask the Lord of the harvest to raise up more labourers.”
Immerse involves “contextually demonstrated mastery; integrated outcome assessment; static outcomes and tailored pathways; team-based mentoring; student-paced development; and collaborative missional partnerships.” It is an 87 credit Masters of Divinity degree program.
Anderson concludes that CBTE is the “most effective way to develop ministry leaders because it locates every aspect of the process (academic and applied) in the context of the ministry for which the student is being trained under the guidance of experienced and trusted mentors. If the goal is mastery, there is no better way to get there.”