At a recent denominational meeting, we were given Gaining by Losing by J. D. Greear (@jdgreear).  Lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham (@SummitRDU), Greear writes as a highly effective ministry practitioner with a Ph.D. in systematic theology. The combination of scholarly theological education and ministry passion helps explain the book’s power.

Greear’s thesis, evident from its subtitle, unfolds in two sections.  The first, “Untapped Greatness,” explores the mission of the church. The second provides “The Ten Sending Plumb Lines” used to build the ministry of Summit Church, keeping the church “plumb” with Jesus’ Great Commission.

  • “The Gospel is not just the diving board, it is the pool.”
  • “Everyone is called.”
  • “The week is as important as the weekend.”
  • “A Church is not a group of people gathered around a leader, but a leadership factory.”
  • “The Church makes visible the invisible Christ.”
  • “The point in everything is to make disciples.”
  • “Every pastor is our missions pastor.”
  • “We seek to live multicultural lives, not just host multicultural events.”
  • “Risk is right.”
  • “When you’re sick of saying it, they’ve just heard it.”

While I found much to edify in this well-written book, what intrigued me most was what Greear didn’t say.  There was next to nothing on the theological education required to produce church leaders.

I thought I mind find it in a book emphasizing the importance of discipleship and leadership development.  Even though Greear himself benefits from formal theological training, he apparently didn’t consider it important enough to emphasize.

Greear’s omission is not unique; in my opinion, it is representative of today’s church multiplication movement.  In a future post, I’ll explore why theological education has become less important to those involved in church multiplication.  For now, I only offer two assertions.

First, the long-term success of church multiplication depends on making an important place for theological education. The history of the church supports this assertion; so does the example of leaders like Greear, whose effectiveness as a church multiplier has more than a little to do with the knowledge and skills developed through scholarship.

Second, the fault lies, not with the church multipliers, but with theological education which has drifted from its true purpose of strengthening the church. Kingswood and schools like it, for whom this is Job #1, clearly have a vital role to play in the next great awakening.