Theological Education, the Local Church & the Midwestern Training Network

In recent days, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary launched the Midwestern Training Network, a strategic partnership with churches and individuals to train the next generation of gospel ministers. The Midwestern Training Network originally began as a St. Louis initiative with The Journey church, but quickly metastasized throughout the region.

Though it is only a few days old, we have been absolutely astonished by the response we have received. We have been inundated with positive feedback and interest, surpassing our most optimistic expectations. Yet, the collective enthusiasm off campus is yet to catch up with the enthusiasm on campus. I, along with the entire Midwestern team, am thrilled with the Midwestern Training Network. Here’s why.

Missiologically Right

From the first moments the Midwestern Seminary Presidential Search Team reached out to me in the summer of 2012, God gave me a vision for Midwestern Seminary to exist for the Church. This vision is why I uprooted my family and moved across the country to Midwestern Seminary. Over the past many months, it has been a joy to see “for the Church” mutate from being my vision to being our vision to now being the vision of Midwestern Seminary. We exist for the Church.

Thankfully, this is not a vision I had to inflict upon the institution. The aspiration to serve the church already existed, and now our faculty and staff take it up with renewed intentionality and joy. We are implementing this vision across every square inch of the campus and throughout every aspect of our academic program. Training pastors, ministers, and evangelists for the Church is a vision our faculty celebrates, our constituency appreciates, and that animates our entire seminary community.

Midwestern Seminary has trimmed its sails to be the seminary in North America known to exist for the church. There are many healthy seminaries in North America, most especially our sister SBC seminaries; however, we have a particular passion and feel a unique sense of calling to serve the church. The Midwestern Training Network is the natural extension of this vision; thus, it enables us to even better fulfill our calling as a seminary.

Biblically Right

To best serve the church, we are pushing theological education as close to the local church as possible. You cannot get any closer than within the church; that is why the Midwestern Training Network allows us to fulfill our vision of being for the Church by being in the church and with the church.

The New Testament makes clear that a seminary’s only rationale for existence is to serve the local church. In Matthew 16, Christ promised to found and build his church, and then he died for his church. The church is birthed in the book of Acts, and throughout that book we see churches planted, growing, and multiplying. The New Testament Epistles each speak to church life, church doctrine, church government, church growth, and maturing saints within the context of the church. The New Testament concluded with the specter of Christ returning to judge the world and gather home his church.

The church is God’s primary kingdom work, and in this age, Christ is calling out pastors, teachers, and evangelists to serve the church. Herein is the strength of the Midwestern Training Network. We enable students to parallel their biblical and theological formation with local-church ministry praxis. Theological education and church service is a match made in heaven. Why would one separate the two?

Practically Right

The Midwestern Training Network is accessible, affordable, fully accredited, and through its practicum offerings gives special emphasis to the church’s key needs—leadership, church planting, and preaching and pastoral ministry. It is synchronized with residential classes and conferences, thus integrating on- and off-campus opportunities. Moreover, every class can be applied to the Master of Divinity degree, which we will strongly encourage students to do.

We have not sought to be innovative for the sake of innovation, but, in the final analysis, there is nothing else quite like the Midwestern Training Network and the MATS degree it facilitates. We removed every barrier that might preclude one called to ministry from pursuing theological education and strategically hardwired the degree to the local church. To learn more about the Midwestern Training Network, I encourage you to visit


Growing up on the Gulf Coast meant one of my father’s recurring assignments for me as a boy was holding the boat by the dock. A small boy holding the side of a big boat is a tall order. Add a strong current or a stiff wind and it is all but impossible. The key is to hold the boat as close to the dock as one can. The farther the boat drifts from the dock, and the more outstretched the arm, the more tenuous the hold. Disaster can quickly strike.

So it is with a seminary and the local church. The further a seminary drifts from the local church, the more likely it is for theological and missiological disaster to happen, and the more tenuous the church’s oversight becomes. Herein lies the beauty—and the security—of the Midwestern Training Network. In the church, with the church, and for the church—we are Midwestern Seminary.


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