Redeemer’s new Urban and Intercultural Ministry program, which weaves together missions, theology and practical ministry tools, launched on March 7.
The program is creating a generation of Christian leaders for the ministry settings of today and the changing contexts of tomorrow. Theology must meet practicality, explained the program’s lead Ken Herfst, assistant professor of ministry, as “we ask ourselves, ‘What does the kingdom of God look like on my street? What does it look like in my neighbourhood, in my community?’” Strategic and profound change is cultivated in urban centres by leaders rooted in the kingdom of God — the heart of the drama of Scripture.
The program prepares students for seminary and for work in ministry internationally and in secular cultures close to and far from home. Ultimately, the program’s students will learn to foster authentic transformation by embodying and embedding the good news in their communities. This is preparation for ministry contexts like that of Dr. Glenn Smith — the guest speaker at Redeemer’s launch celebration this March. In downtown Montreal, Smith’s organization, Christian Direction, partners with Resonate, the Christian Reformed Church’s mission agency, to support young adult and campus ministries and offer ministry to Muslims, a growing population in the city.
“In this culture, you will encounter people who have no clue what you are talking about when you say, ‘Christian, Bible, biblical worldview, Jesus, atonement.'”
Alumnus Paul Vanden Brink ’97 also works in what he describes as a post-Christian context. After more than ten years as the pastor of an established church, Paul left his role to plant Grace Valley Church in Dundas, Ont. Grace Valley’s services, held at the Hamilton Air Force Association, are open to neighbours, religious or otherwise — with the order of worship explained along the way. “The world is becoming an increasingly complicated place and an increasingly diverse place,” Vanden Brink shared with the gathered crowd at the launch. “We need people who are rooted in Scripture, deeply rooted in spiritual disciplines and also astute at understanding how to translate the Bible and biblical worldview into a post-Christian culture. In this culture, you will encounter people who have no clue what you are talking about when you say, ‘Christian, Bible, biblical worldview, Jesus, atonement.’”
From December 2016 to the launch this March, work on the Urban and Intercultural Ministry program has been shaped by many discussions with church teams and NGO staff from both Canadian and international organizations. “I spent a lot of time in conversation with practitioners,” Herfst reflected in his remarks, “so that we could provide something that would uniquely equip our students for a lifetime of ministry. We have created a program that is shaped by theology, that provides tools, but that also gives the students an opportunity to test their calling.”
Students will intern at ministries like that of Grace Valley Church, wrestling in the field with theological and practical questions and bringing their observations back to the classroom. “I see a pipeline of interns,” Vanden Brink joked, then added more seriously, “and the opportunity to partner with Redeemer as well. That’s very exciting to me.”
With the recent launch of the Ministry program, Redeemer has brought all of its 2020 Strategic Plan initiatives into the implementation phase. Having launched a new Core curriculum, a Centre for Christian Scholarship and a Media and Communication Studies program in 2016, followed by the Centre for Experiential Learning and Careers in 2017, the university is well on its way to achieving the strategic plan’s goals. These initiatives are renewing Redeemer’s academic program, raising the university’s profile and securing a stable financial foundation for the future.
“Redeemer has structured its life — its academic life, if you will — around the story of Scripture, the drama of Scripture and finding our place in that,” Herfst summed in the video that the university produced for the launch. “And so, ministry is taking these theological ideas and putting them on the ground. And showing that we follow Jesus Christ in whom the kingdom is present, we become his hands and feet; we serve; we are witnesses to him; we announce the good news.”