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Returning Theological Education Back to the Local Church—Worldwide

October 15, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many schools off their game since the national shutdown in March of this year. The founding four Senior Fellows of B. H. Carroll Theo. Inst. envisioned and built a seminary that has more than weathered the storm of this global interruption in our lives. Nothing in higher education will be the same after this disease is brought under control. As with any disruption in life, those who adapt and change (pivot is the cool word now) will thrive. Those who seek to hang onto how they lived prior to the disruption may limp along for a season but their future will not be bright beyond that season. 

The pandemic has affected B. H. Carroll as well as it has affected everyone else. While we have been challenged by the disruption, we have also found new venues to carry out our mission. From its beginning, Carroll has partnered with local churches who hosted classes that their members along with Carroll students could access. These Teaching Churches supported the mission of Carroll, and Carroll provided course content that supported the church’s discipleship and leadership development programs. Most of these courses throughout the years have been delivered face-to-face. 

The pandemic changed everything. (Understatement of the day.) As churches shut down gatherings like every other gathering institution in the world, we no longer could offer our courses physically in our Teaching Churches. We had begun “broadcasting” from the Teaching Churches across the Carroll Teaching Network via live video conferencing when the pandemic hit, but we preferred to be in the room with those we taught. What happened in response to the shutdown? We decided to offer classes 100% digitally to our church and association networks. This decision has opened the door to places and people we have not reached before.  

We opened the Carroll Teaching Network (CTN) to churches beginning the first of October of this year. We offer two live classes for readers (our term for auditors): Christianity in Politics (4 weeks) and Biblical Interpretation (8 weeks). Two other classes in the CTN are self-paced and can be accessed at any time. These are Paul on Leadership and Principles of Teaching. All four can be accessed at a COVID-reduced price. 

Want to know what accessible, affordable, achievable theological education looks like in the two live classes? 

  • 37 total number of readers in the two classes.
  • 10 in Christianity in Politics
  • 27 in Biblical Interpretation (In addition, there are 7 enrolled students in this course.) Of the readers:
  • 5 log in from India
  • 9 log in from Europe from churches who are part of the International Baptist Convention and the Missional International Church Network.
  • 9 log in from US supporting churches
  • 4 log in from US Baptist Associations with whom we have partnerships.

Carroll has had students and graduates from Europe, Africa, India, Vietnam, Cuba, and Russia, but the number of readers from different countries accessing our classes have not been as big. 

I’m not writing this to boast of our efforts. I’m writing to let you know that disruption can lead to new opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We opened our classes in order to carry out our desire to “return theological education back to the local church” in response to a disruptive event. What we found were opportunities to serve churches that we may have not discovered otherwise. 

We will continue to offer one or two live classes per term to equip men and women called to serve Christ in the diverse and global ministries of his church. Our prayer is that we can be a resource for Christ-centered churches who make disciples and develop leaders for the kingdom of God.

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