The Journal of Christian Studies volume 2, issue 3, will be shipping soon! The focus of the issue is "Ministry and Ordination," with excellent contributors offering insight into pressing questions for churches.
Included here is Keith Stanglin's editor's note and the table of contents. A sample article by Dave Bland is also available on our JCS back issues page. Be sure to subscribe today to ensure you receive this issue!
For a long time, scholars have observed that we live in a “post-Christian” world, and most people have now come to recognize the coincidence of the decline of Christianity and of churches in the West with the decline of Western civilization. For better or worse, our culture no longer privileges Christian doctrine and practice. Christians are living in what Aaron Renn recently called the “negative world.” At the same time, there is an ongoing crisis in higher education, many years in the making. Along with the declining numbers of Christian young people, this education crisis has contributed to the shuttering of many Christian colleges.
Congregational ministry in particular, like institutional Christianity and higher education in the West, is also in a state of crisis. Related to both of these realities, we find that fewer people are being trained for ministry and going into ministry. Many churches are unable to support the same number of full-time ministers they once could, which makes it even more challenging to inspire their young people to answer this calling. Similarly, willing and able lay leaders and elders seem hard to come by. Bi-vocational and volunteer ministers, now increasingly in demand, are often under-equipped. Those who do seek ministerial training often cannot afford to go back to school, they cannot find the time, or they simply don’t trust seminary training—sometimes with good reason. Enrollment in seminaries and universities that train ministers has been in steady decline for decades. Churches have generally been slow to recognize and adapt to these enormous cultural shifts, which were amplified during the Covid lockdowns and restrictions.
If congregational ministry is in crisis, then we must do what we can to equip churches and Christian organizations to face the challenge. In light of all these realities, we have devoted this issue of the Journal of Christian Studies to the theology of ministry and ordination. We invited reflections on the vocations of full-time ministers and of elders, on ordination in churches, and on how congregations can partner more effectively with ministers, elders, and their spouses.
As with every issue of the Journal of Christian Studies, the articles and interview represent a variety of perspectives, such that it would be difficult for a reader to agree with every contributor and point asserted. Indeed, we hoped for such diversity—including asking a member of Churches of Christ to write on ordination and priesthood, and a member of the Roman Catholic Church to address the priesthood of all believers. We believe in the value of hearing and learning from one another.
Our hope is that, in the spectrum of reflections offered in this issue, readers will be intellectually stimulated and will find encouragement for moving forward in these challenging times. Ministry is a gift from God to the church and to the world. May God bless us as we seek to use his gifts in ways that bring him glory and honor.
Finally, we would like to dedicate this issue of the journal to the memory of Libby Weed, who passed from this life while we were working on it. After a lifetime of service in Christian education, including as a behind-the-scenes editor for the old Christian Studies, Libby was also a founding Board member of, and generous donor to, the Center for Christian Studies, the publisher of the Journal of Christian Studies. Libby was a powerful voice of grace and wisdom, and her leadership is already greatly missed. We thank God for this good and faithful servant. One of the last communications I received from Libby included her responses to the interview questions, which we are pleased to include here as part of the final article in this issue.
Keith D. Stanglin
Table of Contents:
Devin Swindle (Harding University), "Calling All Ministers."
Dave Bland (Harding School of Theology), "Backgrounds, Qualities, and Functions of Elders in the Church."
Steve Cloer (Harding School of Theology), "Nurturing Pastors: A Modern-Day Job Description for Elders."
Keith D. Stanglin (Center for Christian Studies), "Apostolic Succession as a Means to an End."
Brad East (Abilene Christian University), "The Fittingness of Holy Orders."
Anthony Rosselli (Ohio Dominican University), "Catholics and the Priesthood of All Believers."
"Partners: A Word from Elders' and Ministers' Wives."
"In Other Words..."