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The SMC is equipping campus ministries leaders and SMC staff for multiplication around the world. After running the School of University Ministries & Missions (SUMM) four times on three continents in 2010 & 2011, we will again run the SUMM in North America in 2012 and South America in 2013, this time as mobile schools incorporating mobilization events in various cities into the curriculum. In addition, our six friends from Madagascar who took the SUMM last year in Seoul are requesting the SUMM to be run in Madagascar for their growing university ministries; they’re completing their sixth UDTS and they are pioneering a second university ministry in another city. Aldrin Bogi and his team in Bangalore, INDIA are planning to run the SUMM again soon, perhaps in 2013.
The SUMM is UofN Student Mobilization Centre’s core training for all YWAM staff and students serving university students. (UofN Code: STU/HMT 293). The following is a rationale and purpose statement for the next SUMM in North America, scheduled to begin on December 27, 2012 at the URBANA Student Missions Convention in St. Louis, MO.
Mobile SUMM North America 2012-2013
During 2011, we convened two Consultations, one in Northfield, MA and one in San Francisco, CA, where we met leaders representing several new YWAM campus ministries which have emerged in the past few years in North America. The universities in North America represent a particularly urgent context with strategic importance to the future of the Western missions movement and the need for partnership with the new majority Church outside the West. It is time to cultivate and assist those new ministries and equip leaders for greater effectiveness and growth through collaboration and pioneering new ministries.
The SMC’s commitment to student involvement in world missions will be evidenced not only in the curriculum of the SUMM, but also through active mobilization and prayer with potential student volunteers at various campus events during the North American Mobile SUMM.
Since 1986, SMC’s Field Ministry Internships (FMI), the principal program of the SMC, has mobilized students from over 100 different colleges/universities onto 75 internship teams in over 35 countries. We have mobilized students, as learners and not experts, for every sphere of society. To date, the FMI program has been designed by and directed by SMC leaders. Beginning with this SUMM, we are making a change to the FMI program; we are emphasizing internship placements.
Participants in this Mobile SUMM will not only practically experience the mobilization process at events, they will also be involved in the planning and coordination of internship projects for which they are recruiting students. Every SUMM participant will identify Field Partners (YWAM and non-YWAM organizations) to help them design and register their own internship programs for students in 2012 & 2013. During the SUMM, we plan to have 100 internship FMI Field Partner Hosts and their Field Projects posted on the SMC website.
We are championing university students to serve Christ’s Great Commission through their life-work. Students and Associate Field Partners are challenged to partner together in the next major wave of collaborative missions and holistic witness in and from university communities worldwide.
North American Mobile SUMM Context:
Today’s university students are more diverse, more pluralistic, more internationally aware, and more cross-culturally connected than previous generations. Students travel abroad and study abroad more than any previous generation. The number of internationals studying in the United States has more than doubled in the past twenty years, from 325 thousand to well over 700 thousand today, most of whom are from nations in the 10/40 window. Those seeking to plant churches among unreached peoples ought to make ministry to these strategic persons a priority. International concern about human tragedy and injustice, such as impure water, human traffiking, and HIV/AIDS orphans, have captured the conscience of this generation. Today’s students, both Christian and non-Christian, are seeking to make a difference and they are seeking a vital community that shares their concerns. Christian students, many of whom have desperate need for family and community, are at the same time seeking God for his justice and his mercy to be extended through a shared vision of a community and through their own life’s work.
North American Mobile SUMM Strategic Objectives:
This twelve-week interdisciplinary course emphasizes the impact and strategic importance of the mobilization of students toward their life work and calling. It is the SMC’s objective to recruit, equip, and place student volunteers ready to practically serve communities caught in a cycle of poverty resulting from unproductive worldviews. International Student Ministries (ISM) are a priority of the SMC. It is our objective to help North American YWAM centers within reasonable reach of university communities to adopt this priority. In addition, we will be encouraging YWAMers and former YWAMers currently enrolled in university to form missional communities with fellow students. It is the aim of the SMC for students to learn more deeply the importance of a biblical worldview, their calling from God, and what it means to love our global neighbor. Participants in the SUMM will therefore:
- Examine and practice teaching how God’s calling relates to the destiny of nations.
- Research the migration of students, the growing international student population, and learn how to equip university students for effective witness in their generation and in various areas of society: arts, business, education, government, media, science and technology.
- Gain understanding and practical knowledge of university student ministries as a mission strategy with particular application the variety of cultures in the North American context.
- Study the historical and biblical basis of university student ministries,
- Learn how to lead an intensive and integrated discipleship and outreach experience, and
- Gain practical instruction for pioneering and leading a campus ministry and for leading Field Ministry Internships.
We accomplish our objectives through a four-part strategy, which will be applied to this SUMM:
- We Gather - We will gather students & leaders from university communities in several North American cities through mobilization events.
- We Train – We will further develop curriculum through contextual and practical research in university communities in North America.
- We Send – We will recruit students for 100 different service projects related to global human need, their individual fields of studies, and their future influence in the spheres of society. Students will have opportunity to participate in short-term outreaches, serve long-term field projects, and discern their life-work and calling.
- We Network – We will cultivate missional collaboration and partnerships with various organizations, churches, and agencies in and around university communities in North America for the purpose of mobilizing an emerging generation of student volunteers serving Christ’s Great Commission.
North American Mobile SUMM Plan:
This Mobile SUMM in North America will visit several cities to observe and serve some of the most effective campus ministries and leaders. The SUMM mobile community will participate in and/or help organize mobilization events in several cities, including St. Louis, MO for the URBANA 2012 Intervarsity Student Missions Convention (Dec. 27-31, 2012). Every SUMM participant will enroll with the expectation of participating as one of the YWAM international exhibitors at the URBANA 2012 event. (SUMM tuition fees will include URBANA 2012 exhibitor registrations fees.)
SUMM staff assignments are limited to those who have completed the School of University Ministries & Missions -or- current YWAM staff with a Four-Year College Degree and Student Ministries Leadership Seminar (STU 195). All staff members for the North American SUMM will make a full 12 month commitment, in order that they may serve as participant mentor/overseers for SUMM Field Assignments.
The Foundational Values of Youth With A Mission are integrated into the teaching/learning experience in a variety of ways. The Values we find most closely relating to the School of University Ministries are:
- Godly Character & Servant Leadership: SMC seeks to build Godly character and demonstrate principles of servant leadership; humility and integrity are essential to produce in the student a trusting relationship with God.
- Championing the potential of young people: The SMC seeks to mobilize today’s university students recognizing this population may be the most potent missionary force on earth.
- All ministries and functions are equal in the Kingdom of God: the SMC course seeks to promote calling in relation to a broadened understanding of the character and ways of God to reach and teach all nations;
- Commitment to the Word of God: SMC is committed to the authority of the Word of God, to seeking to know and hear God’s voice, and to a lifestyle of intercessory prayer.
- Visionary: Students come with a desire for revelation of how their field of study in university (other than the UofN) relates to God’s call on their life. The SMC curriculum is designed to foster the development of that vision.
- Great Commission & Discipling Nations: Believing that the Gospel of Jesus can transform not only individual lives but the structures of society, SMC is dedicated to fulfilling the Great Commission to disciple all nations.
- Hospitality: The Biblical meaning of hospitality is ‘friend of the foreigner’. God has always instructed His people to love and care for the strangers and sojourners in their land;
- Communication: SUMM participants will communicate and methodically follow up with students and leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. Participants will articulate succinctly and clearly what today’s students need to be able to serve as missionaries in a 21st century mission field, emphasizing YWAM’s commitment to the Christian Magna Carta and a spirit of collaboration in response to dramatic shifts in the Church globally and extraordinary economic and societal crises. Communicating to mobilize students on cross-cultural, serving-learning experiences is an integral part of YWAM’s discipleship of students in every campus ministry location.
If you or someone you know would be interested in the SUMM course in North America or another part of the world, or if you can host the North American Mobile SUMM for a campus event at one of the cities we plan to visit (St. Louis, Minneapolis, Madison, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Baltimore, Richmond, Atlanta), or if you know of an organization leading a project that needs interns to serve and learn for a few weeks or a full semester, contact us. We’ll be really glad to help you connect with this exciting series of events.
The Student Mobilization Centre is a centre of the University of the Nations, a ministry of Youth With A Mission. The SMC is not a local ministry; we are an international network of YWAM staff fostering the emergence of a new movement of university students serving Christ’s Great Commission through their life-work and calling.
Through our ministries, university students are challenged to lead the next major wave of collaborative missions by partnering with global projects with holistic witness in every arena of society and major field of studies. In addition, we are affirming and assisting the emergence of student missional communities in universities worldwide.
To recruit, equip, and place students ready to serve and learn cross-culturally.
We Gather - Students & Leaders through Consultations, Events, and Projects.
We Train - Developing curriculum through contextual research, and conducting seminars and schools.
We Send - Mobilize students into service projects according to their field of studies and the spheres of society. Our short-term programs, while bolstering long-term projects, serve the students as they discern their calling.
We Network - Cultivating missional collaboration in and around university communities for the purpose of mobilization of an emerging generation of student volunteers serving Christ’s Great Commission.
Immediate SMC Goals
- We will host Passion Points Conferences: 3-day events in 2013.
- We will host Consultations in Australia, Europe and Africa – By Sept. 2012.
Train: We will post Best Practices and Curriculum Resources for all our SMC Programs and Courses on web site by Mar. 2012
Send: We will send hundreds of Field Ministry Interns (FMI) by Jan. 2013
- Redesigning to attract non-christians
- Tie internships to UDTS outreaches
- Focus FMI for Thematic, Passion Points, Causes, and Projects in Society
- International & year-long projects: Megacities/Africa
- We will unveil a new Web-based Project Development Registration Process for Hosting FMI – By Jan. 2012
- Develop new Strategic Alliances/International Partners (Call2All-Students, UofN Colleges, YWAM CMI, Christian Colleges, Churches, National & International Student Organizations, IJM, etc.)
In addition, the new SMC Web Site will provide a collaborative information gateway for strategic networking.
The SMC offers student organizations and churches access to a missions networking centre where credit card payments, donations and field support can be channeled to mission projects globally. The SMC is providing a new framework for student groups and campus churches to cooperate with YWAM and other global partners and nongovernmental organizations.
The SMC represents a global Kingdom community for the emerging student missions movement. Our goal is to provide the arena—the forum—where students who are embracing a missional life-style and life-work can learn from one another.
John Henry – SMC International Leader
“What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Key #2: A Kingdom View of the Poor.
“Line up!” shouted the man who climbed out of the Ford Econoline 350 box truck. “Stand back! Stand de vuelta!” Clowns, balloons, and face painting helped attract people from the nearby pueblos. The dry wind swept up the grey dirt as the crowd of people from Cuidad Juarez, and the surrounding Mexican border squatter villages, gathered to receive clothes, food, and other donated items. Obediently, the people stood in line and waited for the man to open to back of the truck. I have no doubt the man and the others with him had kind intentions, however my heart sunk as I watched these people reduced to pitiable passive recipients of American excesses.
The truckload of donations was part of an outreach ministry of a church on the El Paso side of the Rio Grande. It was the summer of 1990. We were in Juarez for six weeks with our Field Ministry Internship student teams of Youth With A Mission‘s Student Mobilization Centre. On this hot July afternoon, we were assisting the American group that came to plant a church. We were asked to conduct simple health examinations, primary health care, in a makeshift medical clinic. This personal contact also gave us opportunity to ask if we can pray for the children and their families.
However, the oversized sound system and overzealous worship leaders made it difficult to pray, let alone conduct any thorough examinations in the clinic. The loud and raucous singing and music was giving me a headache.
I stepped out of the clinic to observe the open air meeting. The music continued as young American evangelists, many with clown outfits, went into the audience to pray for the sick.
Please understand, I am a firm believer in prayer and God’s power to heal.
But this disturbed me.
A small Mexican child, obviously frightened by the clowns laying their hands on him, was crying and reaching out toward his mother. Others were surrounding “Mom” and praying for her. The noise and confusion even had me anxious to leave. I wondered what this child and family would think of Jesus after this traumatic day.
This brings us to the second key to ministry among the poor.
Christian ministries will always reflect their leadership’s view of the poor, their understanding of the nature of poverty. That view may be less biblical and more the prevailing view of the surrounding culture.
What is your view of the poor?
The way we approach our ministry to the poor communicates value, either positively or negatively. No matter how many dollars or valuables we donate, our posture and attitude in what we do and say communicates far more than what we give.
When Christians reach out to the poor, we too often unintentionally communicate what we think of their value.
This is what the poor “hear”:
“We are complete, you are not.”
Simply put, the goal of our outreach to the poor should be to avoid communicating that lie. Our goal should be to identify with the poor in our mutual recovery of identity in relation to God’s creative design and purpose.
How do we do that?
In order to communicate value to the poor, we must first communicate value to the volunteer serving alongside us in ministry to the poor.
This is why we emphasize “Calling” in our university student ministries and outreaches. If our outreach emphasizes the discovery of vocation in the life of the volunteer, the Christian participant in ministry to the poor, then we will effectively communicate the value of the design and purpose of God to the community in which we minister.
Then we will fulfill the commission to preach the good news to the poor.
Our aim is the same as that of Jesus’ public ministry:
“And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.’” (Luke 4: 17-19)
Our goal is to ‘set free’ the poor from their destructive relationships so they may enjoy Shalom, a Hebrew term for peace, completeness, and welfare. All of us are called by God to an abundant life of healthy kingdom relationships.
The way we reach this goal must begin with the right posture, the right attitude. We must begin by demonstrating a servant heart, the nature of our servant King Jesus.
In our outreach to the Poor we must represent a kingdom community, demonstrating the biblical story and representing God’s identity and purpose in our relationships.
Our outreach should portray the kingdom of God, which represents the character of God in all the various expressions of his callings.
God is healer, communicator, builder, author, creator, artist, counselor, teacher, etc. Therefore, these vocations are representing God’s character in community.
Outreach is best when we represent the kingdom of God in a community of servants. We represent the character of God and the holistic and interrelated spheres of His ministry.
Ministry to the Poor requires a view of the poor and a vision of the kingdom of God.
In this series, I am referring to the book: God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power, and the Kingdom of God, by Christian, Jayakumar.
Setting the stage for the historic prayer meeting with the five students who gathered under that haystack to find refuge from a storm in August 1806 was a little booklet written only a decade or so earlier by William Carey. The booklet was entitled:
“An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen.”
Carey was a cobbler and lover of maps. He was homeschooled and he made several world maps out of leather which hung in his shop where he made shoes. In that little booklet, Carey asks:
“Are Christians under an obligation to help transform societies that live in intellectual, moral, social, political, and spiritual darkness?”
This profound question provoked at least one elder in his church while listening to Carey’s presentation. The elder said:
“Young man, if God had wanted to save the poor heathen, he would do it himself and he would not need your help.”
Ruth and Vishal Mangalwadi have written an excellent little book about William Carey entitled: “The Legacy of William Carey: A Model for the Transformation of Culture” (formerly: “Carey, Christ, and Cultural Transformation: The Life and Influence of William Carey”). I am referring here to what I have learned from the Mangalwadi book.
Carey was known as the Father of Modern Missions because of his work in India and his written appeal to the institutional Protestant church of his day to respond to the Great Commission. Carey is mostly known for his commitment as a missionary to India, but few have understood that commitment or his understanding of the gospel and its power to reform society, Hindu Indian society as well as the powerful East India Company (a precursor to multi-national corporations). Though largely still unreached today, Carey had an incredible impact on India.
William Carey began his life work as a cobbler in England. Educated by his parents and a life-long learner, Carey developed a true concern for the calling of the Church to obey the commandment of Christ to preach the gospel to every creature. His understanding of that calling became personal as he endured the opposition of Church leaders and his own wife and set sail to serve God’s purposes in India for over 30 years.
What most do not know about William Carey is the extent of his work and vision for Christian missions. Mangawadi writes:
“He was a pioneer of the modern Western Christian missionary movement, reaching out to all parts of the world; a pioneer of the Protestant church in India; and a translator and/or publisher of the Bible in forty different Indian languages. Carey was an evangelist who used every available medium to illuminate every dark facet of Indian life with the light of truth. As such, he is the central character in the story of India’s modernization.”
Today India is the largest democracy in the world. What most do not know is that this simple cobbler from England was much more than a clergyman. His vision for the church and his understanding of the gospel to transform culture included nearly every arena of society, every sphere of influence.
Carey was not only a preacher and translator; he was a botanist who published one of the first books on science and natural history in India. He was an industrialist who developed the first indigenous paper for the publishing industry in India. He was an economist who introduced the idea of savings banks in India. He was a medical humanitarian who campaigned for humane treatment of lepers. He was a media pioneer who built the then largest press in India. He was an agriculturist who founded India’s Agri-Horticultural Society in the 1820′s, thirty years before the Royal Agricultural Society was established in England.
Carey was a translator and educator, a professor of Indian languages at Fort William College in Calcutta. He was an astronomer, introducing India to the scientific culture of astronomy, which made it possible for India to devise calendars, study geography and history, and plan their work and social order.
Carey was a library pioneer who started lending libraries. He was a forest conservationist who wrote essays on forestry and said that as the gospel flourishes in India, “the wilderness will, in every respect, become a fruitful field.” Carey was a crusader for women’s rights who was the first man to fight against the ruthless murders and widespread oppression of women, which was virtually “synonymous with Hinduism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”
Carey lived the life of a missionary, not hidden behind the confines of a church structure busying himself with merely religious duties. Carey was a public servant and moral reformer; Carey was a cultural transformer.
This man, his writings, witness, and work, is what inspired five students in a new nation, the United States of America, to pray and fervently seek the Lord for the people of Asia and for their own fellow students. And history continued to unfold…
BTW- Do you know what happened to that church in England where one of the elders told Carey to sit down?
That church is a Hindu temple today.
The story of the Haystack Prayer Meeting is an account of the power of prayer and a portrayal of the courage of colleges students who provided a new generation of Christian mission leadership. Led by Samuel Mills, this small, seemingly insignificant gathering of five students from Williams College in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts in 1806 changed the course of history.
“History is a search for wisdom from the past to help us today,” writes Kenneth Scott Latourette, Professor of Missions and Oriental History at Yale University. For example, understanding the Christianizing of the Roman Empire requires an analysis of the story, which was more than the deterioration of a corrupt society. The expansion of Christianity is “a series of power encounters, exorcisms, and healings,” writes Latourette. Ultimately, he adds, “the ‘mustard seed’ toppled the Empire.” History, it would seem from the Christian perspective, requires an understanding of the power of prayer. (Latourette 1970)
We will return to the story of Samuel Mills and his friends in this new series of posts. This new page on the Barefoot Blog will broaden the story of universities, their role in the discipling of nations in fulfillment of the Great Commission, and of students, professors, and others who have served God’s purposes as part of His-Story.
Learning, the kind of learning that can only transpire in vibrant community through service to the needs of neighbors, is foundational to the purpose of the Church. The modern university was borne out of such communities and, by design, served to benefit the Church. Pope Innocent 12th, 1243 AD said, “Universities are rivers of knowledge that feed and fertilize the universal church.” The attitude of the Church toward universities was at one time positive, however many in the Church today overlook the missional origins of the university. Jesus told his followers to “Go, make disciples,” that is to say, “Go teach students.”
Paul’s testimony of the “school” he ran for a few short years in the lecture hall at Tyrannus shows the mentor teacher role can be extremely effective with a wide area of influence in a relatively short period of time. Though we do not know much about the dynamics of that “school”, we must assume that there was mobilization toward practical application of what was taught. Paul, it may be assumed, mobilized his students to spread far and wide with a living witness of his message.
The formation of communities of learning was a response to Jesus’ command and core methodology for ministry and our task of completing the Great Commission. However, because many church communities have “failed to revisit the theological and biblical underpinnings of our mission,” we have reduced the scope of the Church and the scope of our mission. (Taylor 2001:7) “Crippling omissions,” such as reducing the gospel to proclamation, created Christianity without regard for culture or the nations. (2001:4) The mission for the Church is to make disciples of all nations, including the powerful institution of the university, which will in turn “feed and fertilize” the Church.
How then shall we again engage university communities, not merely to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God with students, but in addition to obey all that Jesus commands, extending his reign beyond individual hearts, into all the world, every nation, tribe, and tongue?
Biographers and historians have conferred the title, “Father of Modern Education,” on John Amos Comenius primarily due to his contribution to modern educational methodology. Comenius was born on March 28, 1592 in Moravia, now in the Czech Republic. Much of this Moravian theologian’s writings suggest that the overarching objective of his life and work was of greater consequence than reformed educational method. The examination of the life and works of this seventeenth-century educational reformer will help us to understand if it was the intent of Comenius to influence positively the work of world mission.
Kenneth Scott Latourette writes that Comenius was “a pioneer in an educational theory which was to exert a wide influence.” Comenius’ set out to organize the teaching process in a way that “everything be [sic] taught through the senses.” He demonstrated this idea by including pictures in a textbook on foreign languages, something that had never been done before. Comenius’ chief task may be lifted from the title page of his Great Didactic, “teaching thoroughly all things to all men.” However, the purpose of his task of teaching was broader; he sought to “shape the human creature into an image of the divine.”
His proposals for universal education and the use of pictures in children’s education make him a forerunner of many modern developments in the field of education. Comenius advocated many basic principles of our modern educational system, such as “the free and universal opportunity for education of members of all classes, and both sexes.”
He is considered the first educator to have put forward the concept of international education. Comenius’ efforts on behalf of universal education earned him the title of “Teacher of Nations.”
At the time of Comenius’ birth, the Catholic Church sought to recover territories lost to the Protestant Reformation, doing so by purging heresy and burning renaissance thinkers at the stake. The pope who had the greatest influence on Comenius’ early life was Paul V, a pontiff who was intolerant of the growing numbers of Protestants in Europe, including the Bohemian Brethren. Comenius lived during the time of the first truly worldwide war, the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which caused the destruction of wealth, cultural values, and freedoms the Bohemian Brethren had enjoyed. The Bohemians faced the fears and dangers of tyranny, accusations of heresy, and martyrdom. As we shall see, Comenius was not only aware of the over-reach of papal authority in previous generations; he was intimately acquainted with that tyranny in his own generation.
Exile and International Influence
The first decisive battle of the Thirty Years War between the Protestant and Catholic States in Europe directly affected Comenius when Catholic armies defeated Czech Protestant armies in 1620 at the “Battle of the White Mountain.” Comenius witnessed the horrors of Protestant leaders publicly executed in Prague and the brutal imposition of Catholicism on the total population of his people in Bohemia and Moravia. Comenius lost “all his property and library in 1621, when the town was taken by the imperialists.” All protestant clergy were banished from Bohemia by an Imperial mandate in 1624. Comenius fled to the mountains to hide, but secretly visited his congregation as often as he could. Exiled from his congregation, his home and his family, Comenius began the life of a writer who eventually had an international influence.
Comenius had an extraordinarily large circle of acquaintances, including royalty, and people from all branches of the Church. His life of travels afforded the breadth of multi-cultural relationships he developed. “I led a wandering life, I had no homeland. I was constantly propelled from one place to another, never and nowhere did I find a permanent home.” As a refugee, he came in contact with many of the intellectual leaders of his time in Germany, Poland, Sweden, England, and Holland. In 1641 he was called to London and in 1642 he traveled to Sweden and then to Prussia where he lived until the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648. After the war, he lived in Hungary, in Poland, and finally in Amsterdam until his death in 1670. Comenius maintained correspondence communicating his ideas with several learned men, church leaders, publishers, and historians. His extensive travels granted an ever-widening influence through which to share his dream.
Comenius possessed a passionately optimistic view of the future. His optimism appears to have come from his understanding of the character and purposes of God. He writes: “Focus on Jesus Christ as the Coming One, the Lord of the Future, Christus Renovator.” He apparently lived in expectation of God’s promises and at least their partial fulfillment in human history. As Comenius saw it, education was the best way out of the Thirty Years War. Comenius lived in a time when war was tearing apart the political, religious, and social fabric of Europe. His view of the world and apparently his work as an educational reformer was informed by his faith in God’s plan. He writes,
Jesus Christ is Lord. He is not only the Savior of souls and the teacher of wisdom, but the king of the Church and of the world. He will reign! What really matters, then, is to live in conformity with his coming kingdom and in this light to shape the alienated world, first within the Church, and then also in society.
Comenius’ dream was that “all men would participate in a universal civilization.” Out of his biblical view of the world, he pioneered an educational system that promised that all people could acquire the knowledge that led to understanding and peace. He called it “Pansophism”, an integrative and holistic system embracing all knowledge. If he indeed intended this system to make a positive contribution to world missions, further examination of his major published works will reflect that intent.
His major work, Labyrinth of the World and the Palace of the Heart, was written in 1623, his first year in hiding. The Labyrinth describes the “wanderings, bewilderments, errors, vanities, and miseries of all of every age and sex, in all circumstances and conditions.” It is a devotional classic written in the Czech language in which he describes “the journey of a pilgrim through the marketplace of seventeenth-century Europe.” Comenius identified with the “pilgrim” who he portrays as “an outsider, a voluntary exile, searching for a spiritual home,” and “a wandering scholar who worked in seven countries and was doggedly pursued by war and personal misfortune.”
By examining this personal disclosure, we can learn something of the difficult personal journey and profound calling of Comenius:
I came to the decision that I should first look into all human affairs under the sun and then only, having wisely compared one with another, choose a vocation and arrange for myself the things necessary for leading a peaceful life in the world. A pilgrim who wishes to visit the world in order to choose his vocation views all the ranks and occupations of mankind, and finds shams and confusion reigning everywhere, he withdraws from the world into his inner self and, as a true Christian finds solace in converse with Jesus Christ. Jesus reveals to him a society constituted by his true disciples whose lives are governed by the precept of disinterested love for one’s fellow man.
The Labyrinth reveals how Comenius saw the turbulent social system of his day and the way that God called him to love his fellow men, bringing reformation to more than the Church. Comenius took on huge projects such as his Didactica Magna or The Art of Teaching All Things to Everybody. Apparently this is a change from his earlier work. His concern was no longer only with teaching children; his vision was broadened with concern for all human beings.
Comenius was a theologian of hope, hope for a new generation. He believed a new order of society could be established, but with special devotion to Jesus Christ. He writes of the need to prepare “for generations of those and future times, a simple system of training . . . to qualify youth for the discharge of the important duties of life and fit them for their highest, their eternal calling.” He set out “to accomplish the means of disenthralling the world from the meshes of false principles in the affairs of religion and state,” and to compile “suitable educational works.”
Through the “means” of education, Comenius devoted his life to bringing peace to the church, the state, and ultimately in the world. He stood out among the Reformers as a true peacemaker. “In his day, we hardly find any theological thinker who was as energetically involved for the unity and harmony of Christians as he.” His hope was for the unity of all Christians. However, it was not limited to the Church alone; he hoped for “the integration of all civilization under the leadership of religion.” He wished to unite the warring Christian factions, “whose strife was wreaking an unprecedented havoc upon Europe of the Thirty Years War period.”
His passionate concerns were for the souls of all humankind, his own devastated country, and his fellow expatriates from the Unity of the Brethren. All of these things “completely engrossed his soul.” However, disappointment and failure seemed to stalk him. His greatest discouragement came in 1648 when he felt deeply betrayed by the Swedish Chancellor who failed to support the Unity of Brethren’s case in the Peace of Westphalia, a treaty that completely altered the socio-political framework of nations. No provision was made for the Protestants in Bohemia or Moravia. If they returned, they would live under the rule of the Hapsburgs with no permission to practice their Protestant faith. Rather than accept failure, the indomitable Comenius decided to work for the unity of the universal Church.
Comenius was an “apostle of reconciliation who dreamed a better future that could be built only by better men.” While war and destruction were brought through the unbridled powers of the State or the institutional Church, he argued “the only constructive task capable of really changing the world [is] molding better men by educating and inspiring them to strive after more humane ideals.” “Comenius’ inspiring motive was that of all leading educationalists, social regeneration,” writes the historian Laurie. But society, as the secularists see it, was not all he intended to reform. In his final work published in 1668, Comenius writes of his hope for “a utopian church to unite all religions in Christian love through education.” His view of the goal of schooling was “to mold students into the image of Christ.” For Comenius, Christian character, not just absorption of facts, was the goal. Comenius was an early pioneer for ecumenism, but not at any cost. He disagreed with Michael Servetus’ idea that unity could be achieved even with the Turks, if we sacrificed the Trinitarian dogma. He believed unity must be sought, but not at the cost of the truth.
Vision for Education
Comenius wrote a tract, entitled The Way of Light, with the purpose of bringing about a “national disquisition as to the manner in which wisdom, the intellectual laws of minds, may now at length towards the evening of the world be felicitously diffused through all minds in all nations.” The university is important as a teaching institution, but what is essential, Comenius writes, is “learned men in all parts of the world devoted to the advancement of God’s glory.” It is in his unique vision for the university that Comenius stands out as a true pioneer and apostolic leader in Church history. Not only did he call for universal education, Comenius had vision for his pansophic encyclopaedic college to “be found in every kingdom or large province.” His plan was for an international university that would have the same curriculum for training young men and women to embrace all knowledge, scientific and biblical, and teach all peoples of all nations the truth. His hope was that this universal education scheme would bring an end to all war and discord. His pansophic vision was to begin in Christian nations “and go from there to the Muslims, Pagan, and finally the Jews.”
Comenius understood that “neither one man nor one generation is sufficient for this great task.” To accomplish this vision, he needed a place to start. Despite the failure to raise the needed funds, his Reformation of Schools tract outlining his pansophic college vision was distributed and read throughout Europe. “It was the pansophic proposal which aroused such an enthusiastic interest in England that in 1641 he was called to that country by an influential group of churchmen and the nobility.” The English friends who invited him to England had in mind to present him “a plan for the propagation of the gospel among the heathen.” Parliament actually considered assigning the “Chelsea College, near London, as a suitable place for the Pansophic College with which the Comenian scheme was to be inaugurated.” Once again, Comenius faced disappointment and failure when the Irish Rebellion of 1641 put the plans for his pansophic college in England to an end. Parliament was permanently distracted from the Chelsea College project.
The fame of Comenius reached distant America. According to Cotton Mather, in his Magnalia Christi Americana, Comenius received an invitation to emigrate to puritan New England, possibly with a view to becoming president of the newly founded Harvard College. Mather writes:
“That brave old man, Johannes Amos Commenius [sic], the fame of whose worth has been trumpeted [sic] as far as more than three languages could carry it, was indeed agreed withal, by one Mr. Winthrop in his travels through the LOW COUNTRIES, to come over to New England, and illuminate their Colledge [sic] and country, in the quality of a President, which was now become vacant. But the solicitations of the Swedish Ambassador diverting him another way, that incomparable Moravian became not an American.”
SO THEN, WHO WAS COMENIUS?
Comenius has been remembered for the reforms that began the modern secular field of education. During his life span, his books earned him a reputation through much of Europe. He was invited first to England, and then to Sweden and Hungary to reform school systems. Comenius completed the reformation of the Swedish schools in 1648. His book, Orbis Sensualium Pictus, 1658, the first illustrated textbook, was used for 200 years. Czechoslovakia, which passed into history in 1992, celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of Comenius throughout that year. Recognition of Comenius was given in seventy other lands as well. The influence and fame of Comenius is reflected in a 2002 poll that shows over 27 percent of the Czech people consider him the most famous Czech in history. University projects, societies, and centers of language study have developed in honor of Comenius as his work has been interpreted in recent generations.
It is evident that John Amos Comenius was a pioneer in the task of world missions. With apostolic zeal, he worked toward international peace through universal education. Comenius may be remembered as an educational innovator, but he lived his life intentionally working to advance the cause of Christ and world mission. His vision was more than proud human optimism. Comenius dreamed of the equality of human races and an all-embracing community. However, he was far too experienced and too familiar with the forces that destroy and divide humanity to conclude that he was just a pious dreamer hoping for a pure utopia. His own words and his work exemplify a life responsive to Christ’s Great Commission, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations” (Mt. 28:19 KJV). His apostolic passion is revealed in this paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer in The Way of Light:
“Through the whole of Europe, of Asia, of Africa, of America, through the Magellanes [the southern parts of the present-day Chile and Argentina], and through all the islands of the sea, may thy kingdom come, may Thy will be done!… raise up men to write Thy purpose in books, but books such as Thou Thyself mayest write in the hearts of men. Make schools to be opened in all parts of the world to nurse Thy children! And do Thou raise up Thine own school in the hearts of all men in the whole world that they may ally themselves together for Thy praise.”
[From a paper I wrote in June 2004 as part of my studies at Fuller Seminary.]
© Copyright 2008 John Henry. All rights reserved.
Have you asked this question? What kind of leaders does the church need today?
There is no simple answer, unless you say that it needs more and better leaders. But it takes more than wishing for better leaders. What is needed is better training. Churches and those training church leaders need to clarify their purpose.
Recently, I completed significant training with Fuller Theological Seminary. I now have a Masters in Global Leadership. Yippee!
But seriously, what was emphasized in my training was the basic questions. I was taught to name the “why”, to clarify the purpose for training.
Certainly the purpose for training Christian leaders must be founded on the Great Commission. When training emerging leaders the emphasis needs to be on “obeying,” not just “knowing.” More importantly, our training must be centered on obedience as an overflow of our relationship with God. We obey God because we love Him; we look to Him and follow His lead, His way, and His extraordinary love for everyone.
So let me ask you this: Have you received teaching that has led you to greater obedience or has that teaching just filled up your head?
Every Christian leader is charged with the task of making disciples. We’re directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit to lead people, modeling a life of learning and loving. We’re called to equip them who follow the One who loves them unconditionally. As we personally follow God’s extravagant ways in response to His amazing love, we will equip emerging leaders to do the same.
Those disciples, those learners, will also obey all that Jesus commanded because they will see us doing it as a response to God’s love. Whether you are involved in formal training of emerging leaders or whether you do it informally, every Jesus follower, every lover of God, will be involved in teaching the next generation to obey the Great Commission.
What do you think is the best way to train people to obey?
I think we’ll miss the real importance of this question if we jump right to the questions of technique. We should not be so concerned about how to lecture, what materials to use, or how to create a syllabus. Our primary purpose should be life on life, or live-learn experiences, teaching with the goal of obedience.
The paradigm from which we operate our training is what will determine our results. Have you considered the results of the past century or so of seminary training for church leaders?
From my studies of leadership emergence, the history of the church, and my personal observations in 30 countries and almost 25 years of faith missions, it is obvious that in many cases the paradigm of training has been ineffective.
To be effective in training emerging leaders to obey, we must begin with full on love for God and a passion to know him. We must be whole-hearted followers fully engaged in the Great Commission. As we respond to God’s love through our own obedience, he will give us the understanding of the most appropriate way to teach every individual emerging leader he brings to us.
Too many have been concerned about knowing Jesus as a means to an end. That kind of teaching will never produce life in our churches. Jesus spoke these words in prayer for you and me, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)