In my office there is a frame. Inside it is a diploma. That small piece of paper holds a special place in my life as it commemorates a finished work. In the spring of 1983, I completed my graduate studies and received a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS).
For many who serve in ministry roles, our diplomas hang on the wall as markers of an important accomplishment, as reminders of a season of preparation and as emblems of commitment to divine calling. They stir in us a sense of pride and gratitude.
I am proud that I received mine from TEDS, and I pray this is true for all who have made sacrifices to achieve such an academic honor in preparation for service in the local church and beyond.
As the news of transformation at Trinity International University is processed, it’s important to acknowledge the feelings of sadness alumni, current students and friends of Trinity may experience at this time.
While these days are filled with various emotions, many of which I have experienced in recent days, I am grateful for the ministry of Trinity International University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Three generations of my family studied at Trinity; and though change is difficult, I believe in Trinity’s future, its commitment to the gospel, its value to the Evangelical Free Church of America and its broader service to the Church. I pray that all of us, regardless of the length of time given to our academic endeavors at Trinity, can say God used the faculty, staff and our peers to shape our lives and propel us into gospel work.
The influence of faithful professors, church leaders and theologians like Walter Kaiser, D.A. Carson, Gleason Archer, Harold O.J. Brown, Grant Osborne and John Woodbridge are imprinted on my life and ministry in ways that reveal God’s provision, grace and providence. They made investments that had a profound impact on my pastoral ministry, and their wisdom continues to serve me to this day.
I believe stories like mine are commonplace, strewn throughout the EFCA and beyond. And, as Trinity repositions for the future, these stories will continue to mark their gospel impact moving forward.
Trinity's Impact on the EFCA
Trinity is—and will continue to be—an invaluable partner to the EFCA. From local churches to international ministry contexts, the marketplace, schools and more, leaders benefit from an intentional season of rigorous education that molds and shapes their understanding of theology, the Church and our world.
If you pause and consider all the challenges churches faced in the last three years—a pandemic, political tensions, economic uncertainty, issues related to race, human sexuality, gender dysphoria, and so on—I know you’ll join me in praying for the encouragement, strengthening and resourcing of pastors and ministry leaders, and also in thanking God for the ongoing support of Trinity, specifically Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
I believe in Trinity’s future, its commitment to the gospel, its value to the Evangelical Free Church of America and its broader service to the Church.
These challenges require pastors and leaders who are rooted in God’s inerrant Word and steeped in sound theological training. The winds of the world are stiff, but the foundations established through training at an institution like TEDS provide church leaders with the skills needed to navigate the days ahead and continue fulfilling the Great Commission.
That is why I am both prayerful and hopeful about this season of transition. As the leadership of Trinity look to the future, they are focused on significant investments in TEDS—ones that maintain the residential offerings of the seminary in Deerfield and further develop the quality and accessibility of their graduate level programs as a whole. I believe this move has enormous potential to impact pastors and leaders in the EFCA.
A few weeks ago, I was on Trinity’s campus for the annual EFCA Theology Conference. Over 400 men and women from across the country came together to learn from highly regarded pastor-theologians. I sensed that those in attendance were hungry to be encouraged in their convictions and deepened in their knowledge, not for the sake of posterity or intellectual dialogue, but to faithfully serve God’s people and His Church.
The EFCA and Trinity are committed partners.
What I saw at the Theology Conference reminds me of what I know to be true about TEDS: highly regarded leaders investing in the next generation of EFCA church leaders, encouraging them in their biblical convictions and affirming their calling for a lifetime of service in the Kingdom of God. A direct outcome of the continued ministry of TEDS will be the multiplication of disciplemakers, the extension of gospel ministries, and the strengthening, revitalization and planting of new churches within the EFCA.
TEDS has long been known for its academic excellence, its influence on Christian higher education and its service to the Church. By God’s grace, we will continue to see this prominent institution set the standard for theological training for pastors and ministry leaders.
Where Are We Going
I can’t help but reflect on the early Free Church leaders who saw the need for ministry training and invested their lives and resources to establish a school. 125 years later, and we still see the evidence of their vision to serve pastors and the Church. That vision will be maintained throughout Trinity’s season of transformation as they refocus on their gospel “why” and continue to invest in pastors and ministry leaders.
The EFCA and Trinity are committed partners. As we move into the future, I look forward to deepening our relationship and building on established pathways to provide one another with opportunities for mutual benefit, especially as the vision for fully online courses for undergraduate and graduate studies becomes a reality this fall.
Last week, I spoke with President Nicholas Perrin to discuss the future of the EFCA’s partnership with Trinity. I hope you will watch to learn more about the school’s significance to the EFCA.
I see a future where EFCA churches become a helpful and healthy training ground for practical ministry experience for TEDS students and alumni. I see a future where ReachGlobal missionaries and Trinity students gain cultural competencies and sound gospel contextualization from one another on the mission field. I see a future where the next generation of well-equipped church planters are raised up through TEDS and more.
There are many reasons why this kind of partnership is vital, but I’ll come back to our mission. The Lord has given us a task. EFCA brothers and sisters, if we truly want to see God glorified by multiplying transformational churches among all people, you’ll join me in praying for an outpouring of God’s favor on Trinity. As Great Commission people, the continued training of pastors, ministry leaders and the body of Christ at large, by God’s grace, will bring our mission to life, and Trinity will help get us there.
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