In his second letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul admonishes:
So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we
passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (II Thessalonians
But, what if there was no teaching to pass on?
If that question seems extreme, please note that in a recent study by the Pew Research Center,
agnostics and atheists scored, on average, 25% higher than evangelical Christians on a survey of
basic religious knowledge. How will Christians pass on the faith when the lost know more than
we do? The religiously pluralistic nature of our larger culture makes it increasingly more likely
that theologically untrained ministers and Christian laypersons will not be able to do ministry
from a comprehensive and coherent theological framework.
The Network for Theological Education works to promote the development of Christian
servants theologically prepared for Kingdom engagement. NTE partners with Christian
churches, denominations, seminaries, parachurch organizations, and local Christian leaders to:
Provide access to resources for theological engagement.
Nurture Christian formation among those seeking to be committed
followers of Christ.
Advocate for the necessity of theological education for healthy faith
The Network accomplishes its mission through a variety of programs. These programs are
designed to ensure those seeking to follow Christ are able to thoughtfully and reflectively engage
the personal, Biblical, and theological issues that form the context of their public lives. We are
deeply committed to examining and understanding the relationship between spirituality and
modern life, encouraging the conversation between faith and the public square.
We think engaging the conversation between faith and “real life” is essential for promoting
spiritual maturity. We use the word “conversation” for a reason. None of us have all the answers,
so we need to take the time to listen, reflect, engage and share with one another. “Conversation”
is a way to do that, so we work with others to coordinate the four essentials needed for good
Time – We schedule a variety of programs and events at different times and communicate
their availability. We sponsor programs that are both long- and short-term.
Space – Our programs and activities are located in a variety of settings, both physical and
virtual. What matters to us is that we make it accessible to people at the grassroots level.
People – Our conversations are open to anyone who wants to engage honestly and
reflectively on matters of faith. That includes strong believers, those who are beginning
to ask questions, or even people who have no belief system. All we ask is that your
participation be respectful, courteous, and appreciative of all those who contribute to the
Language – The language(s?) used discuss spiritual matters is sometimes strange,
sometimes sounds “exclusive”, sometimes too “churchy”, sometimes foreign, and
sometimes downright confusing. Since things must change and grow or die, The Network
is always looking for ways to discuss spiritual matters that make since to modern ears
without tossing away the good words and expressions from the past. We think language
is important and the most essential way that we share ideas and communicate.
Statement of Faith:
The Network was formed by Christ followers deeply concerned about how we engage with the
world around us, learn from one another, and pass on what we have learned. Below you will find
our faith statement and you will notice (We hope!) that it is not very long and is limited in scope.
This is because:
1) You can’t very well ask people to engage in conversation with you if you start out by
doing all the talking. In other words, a bazillion-page document specifically outlining a
“theology” of anything we think might be remotely connected to faith and life is more
likely to discourage conversation rather than encourage it.
2) The Christian faith is not a mindless, monolithic cult. It is informed and nurtured by a
rich variety of spiritual traditions, customs, understanding, concepts and language that are
drawn from a common root in the life and work of Jesus Christ. We cannot explore,
understand, and learn from our different experiences if we begin by walling off others
over issues that, while they may be important, are not essential.
3) While we don’t think we have all the answers, but we do want to be honest about where
we are coming from. All journeys (and conversations!) have a starting point and our faith
statement is intended to serve as a point of reference; kind of like the “You are here” spot
on the map of a shopping mall. It is designed to orient you, but you should always feel
free to explore.
So, what do we believe? Here are our five essentials:
We believe in one living, eternal, and true God, who is creator of heaven and earth,
and who manifests Himself in three persons: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Each person
has own distinct personal attributes, but the three are without division in nature,
essence, or being.
We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate and was crucified, died,
and was buried. On the third day He arose again from the dead, ascended into heaven,
and now sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there He shall come
to judge the quick and the dead. We believe that salvation is made possible through
His death and resurrection.
We believe in the Holy Spirit who provides illumination men and women to
understand the truth and enlightens and empowers the believer in worship, study, and
We believe the Bible is the record of God’s revelation of Himself to humankind. Its
authority comes from God who is its author and provided the divine inspiration to
human beings which resulted in its being written. The Bible to be understood and
interpreted through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
God alone is the Lord of the conscience. As god has given men & women free will to
choose, it is not for this Network to attempt to undermine or curb that right.
Please bear in mind that these five statements are by no means an exhaustive expression of the
full spectrum of Christian belief. However, they do form a solid framework from which to carry out
our mission. We have chosen these five because we believe them to be essential to Christian
faith and because together they provide an uncluttered foundation from which to explore matters
of faith and public life.
Founded in July of 2011 by a group of Christian leaders, The Network for Theological Education
was created out of a deep concern over the lack of sound theological grounding among Christian
disciples. The concern grew out of three converging trends in modern life in general and
religious life in particular.
1) A general culture that is increasingly marginalizing religious faith, particularly
Christian belief. Although we live in a media saturated culture, the essential tenets of the
Christian faith are not being accurately communicated. And yet, studies also show a very
strong interest in spirituality. (In a survey in 2009, Lifeway Research found that 73% of
unchurched twenty-somethings consider themselves “spiritual” and would like to know
more about “God or a higher supreme being.”)
2) Today, ministry must be done in an increasingly diverse and spiritually eclectic culture.
Those preparing for Christian ministry must not only be thoroughly grounded in their
own faith, but be conversant about the belief systems of others as well as the
philosophical underpinnings of those belief systems. (In a recent study by the Pew
Research Center, agnostics and atheists scored, on average, 25% higher than evangelical
Christians on a survey of basic religious knowledge.) It would appear that those outside
of the faith know more than we do!
3) It is increasingly more likely that these untrained ministerial staff members are not
able to do ministry from a comprehensive and coherent theological framework. More
and more, churches (including larger churches) are hiring staff members, including
ministerial staff, from within.
Fewer churches have the resources to pay a seminary
graduate with a master’s degree (especially a graduate with a high level of educational
debt). These hire often have strong experience and skills in working with specific
demographic groups (such as Children or Youth) or disciplines (Music, Business) but no
theological training, whatsoever.
Those coming together to form the Network felt that with fewer and fewer church leaders
receiving any kind of theological training, a crisis is developing for the church. Theological
training is critical because:
1. You can’t pass on a faith you do not have. One of the great strengths of the Christian
faith has been its ability to identify and embrace a core set of beliefs essential to orthodox
faith. These beliefs were shared across denominational lines. The “…faith once delivered
by the saints…” is at risk of being lost.
2. Our media-saturated culture has made it possible for theologically uneducated, but
charismatic, religious performers (not necessarily with bad intentions) to promote
concepts and ideas that, while having a veneer of Christian teaching, are largely
superficial and self-serving. Even those raised up on the faith can’t seem to tell the
3. With fewer and fewer church staff members having any sort of sound theological
training, the ability of churches to disciple their membership is being seriously
compromised. If we can’t educate our own people, how will we ever reach those outside
of the church?
4. Without sound theological grounding, Christian religious activities are less about a
vibrant relationship with the living God than about superstitious ritual. The original
meaning of the term “theology” meant “love of God.” Theology is the very heart of
discipleship. Like prayer, fasting, worship, and giving, theological reflection is both a
discipline and a skill. The ability to think theologically allows Christians to understand
and interpret the events of their lives, who they are before God, and their responsibilities
as Christ followers.
5. The lack of spiritual maturity among those claiming the name of Christ is a direct
reflection of a lack of theological understanding among His disciples and is seriously
undermining the fellowship of our churches as well as our ability to witness for Christ.
Our larger culture increasingly sees us as irrelevant, exclusivist, and out of touch with
Changing church organizational and staffing structures, as well as an increasingly diverse
cultural environment are creating an ever more critical need for making quality theological
education accessible. The Network has committed itself to that task.
Our Board of Directors
The Network is incorporated in the Commonwealth of Virginia as a 501(c)3 nonprofit engaged
in religious and educational activities. Its founders and current Board of Directors are:
- Dr. Jeffrey G. Willetts, President(Professor of Theology of Religion, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University,
- Rev. Tom Lynch
(Pastor for Students and Family Life, First Baptist Church, Ashland, Ashland, VA,
Justice Advocate for the International Justice Mission)
- Rev. Susan R. Moore
Chief Operating Officer, The Network for Theological Education, Board Member ex
officio, Woodland Heights Baptist Church, Richmond, VA)
- Rev. Traci Powers
(Owner, Left and Right Enterprises, former pastor, member of Urbana Baptist Church,
- Ms. Freda J. Rosso
Facilities Manager, Jamestowne-Yorktown Foundation, Yorktown, VA, member of First
Baptist Church, Newport News, VA.