Growing our roots:
Discipleship cross-pollination at MB Bible schools
What is the mission of God as it relates to the mandate of your school?
CBC: We long to see our staff, students, and alumni engaged in God’s mission of reconciling “to himself all things” (Colossians 1:20). Through Jesus’ power living in us, we aim “to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and “love our neighbours as we love ourselves” (Luke 10:27). God’s mission concerns every aspect of our lives. CBC integrates spiritual formation, biblical studies, mission engagement, and leadership development with general studies to help students develop a biblical understanding of life and mission.
CMU: Those who recall CMU’s MB founding school, MBBC, will remember 1 Corinthians 3:11 on the outside wall. CMU’s Bible college roots continue to shape the university’s commitment to faith formation and nurturing in the life of the church within all educational programs because “No one can lay any other foundation besides the one that is already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (CEB).
ETEQ: We are helping students find their mission. In the words of student Gabriel Bouchard: “ETEQ is helping me discover my passion. While my original goal for studying theology was personal, I have come to realized that it is in service to others that theology comes alive.”
MB Seminary: Jesus’ call to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) has inspired and challenged his followers for almost 2,000 years, and they form the foundation for the mission, vision, and activities of MB Seminary. Our goal, our heartbeat, is to do everything we can to help our churches and ministry leaders grow in their faith and become the best leaders and disciple-makers that they can be in their contexts.
SBC: An SBC education focuses on empowering servant leaders with a flourishing relationship with Jesus, skills and a passion to serve the local church, and a compassionate heart for a world that desperately needs Jesus. Thrive: In Genesis 12, God sent and blessed Abraham, so that he and his descendants would be a blessing to the earth. In Matthew 28, Jesus sent his disciples to make more disciples. Both these mandates are at the heart of our mission: to use our heads, hands, and hearts in loving God and loving others. We desire our students to be a blessing and make disciples wherever they find themselves after Thrive.
Who are your students?
CBC: Students choose CBC for the chance to explore God’s will for their lives, study the Bible and grow spiritually, and live in friendly, Christ-centred community. Of our 426 students last year, 237 were women and 189 men, 390 of them were Canadian (B.C. 275, Alta. 45, Sask. 22, Man. 13, Ont. 33, Que. 2), most of them between 18–35. They included Mennonite, Baptist, Alliance, Pentecostal, and Evangelical Free members, with 30 percent coming from MB churches.
CMU: We had 932 full-time equivalent students in 2017–18; 52 of them in Outtatown. Some 42 percent are Anabaptist; 43 percent from other denominations (e.g., Pentecostal, Baptist, Anglican, Orthodox, Catholic); and 15 percent don’t disclose a church affiliation. Manitobans make up 75 percent of CMU students; 15 percent come from 32 countries outside Canada.
ETEQ: Our students are all ages (from their 20s to post-retirement) and from diverse backgrounds: French Canadian, Haitian, Congolese, Ivorian, Central American. They attend MB, Christian & Missionary Alliance, Pentecostal, Baptist, Catholic, and non-denominational churches.
MB Seminary: As the national seminary of MB churches, we have students from diverse backgrounds and ministry experiences. Most study part-time while working in ministry or marketplace; others commit to full-time studies. Students range from 23–64, with a median age of 39. Most are Canadian; some come from Brazil, Paraguay, Romania, South Korea, and U.S.A.
SBC: Our four supporting conferences (MB, CMC, EMC, EMMC) comprise 70 percent of our student body. Our students are looking for a theologically conservative perspective and the opportunity to discern God’s plan for their life.
THRIVE: Our students are emerging adults looking to grow as disciples and build a solid foundation of faith before going on to post-secondary school, work, or travel. They are moving from their parents’ faith to their own intentional pursuit of Jesus, our one true treasure (Matthew 13:44).
What are the strengths of your educational institution?
CBC: We have a Christ-centred community – each person matters to God and to Columbia. We take a holistic approach to passionate discipleship and academic excellence. How does faith connect with marketing, leadership, psychology, cross-cultural communication, or emergency medical care? While “our culture…creates a split between the private and the public,” writes Mark Sayers in The Vertical Self, “Holiness brings us back together again.”
CMU: CMU brings together calling and career, wide-ranging disciplines and discipleship. All students must take six courses in biblical and theological studies – the most of any Christian university in Canada. We nurture Christian imagination; the secular world is often interested in how CMU sees ways forward on issues like mass migration, economic disparity, hate speech. CMU is growing partnerships with First Nations and seeking to be a leader in responding to the 94 Calls to Truth and Reconciliation.
ETEQ: ETEQ seeks to advance the capacity of Kingdom workers in French. MB Seminary: Paul’s words to Timothy speak to the seminary’s purpose: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). With the MB Confession of Faith as our theological and relational core, MB Seminary partners with five schools across Canada and multiple MB churches to provide graduate theological education and church-based leadership development.
SBC: SBC students say they are growing in faith and discipleship and enjoying their experience, confident that their instructors are knowledgeable and consider the Bible foundational for learning.
THRIVE: Discipleship happens best as we do life together and “speak the truths of Jesus into the everyday stuff of life” (Jeff Vanderstelt, Gospel Fluency). We offer a small, intentional community for students to engage on a deeper level. Our program balances classroom learning and practical ministry application. Each student has three mentors: a spiritual mentor, a ministry mentor, and a home church mentor. We keep students connected with their home churches as much as possible, and we partner with local churches to provide community and ministry opportunities.
How is your school collaborating with other MB schools and with MB churches?
CBC: Our location allows us to work closely with many MB churches. We enjoy good relationships with and promote the programs of MB schools. We have an excellent course transfer agreement with CMU. Columbia grads who register for MB Seminary receive advanced standing. Recognizing its importance for the Quebec conference, we have encouraged Columbia’s partners to support ETEQ.
CMU: In addition to partnering with MB Seminary, CMU and other MB schools offer students block credit transfers and complementary extended education. We enjoy close relationships between our presidents, faculty, and staff. CMU partners with churches by inviting pastors-in-residence to campus, visiting worship services, and asking leaders how God is at work in their congregations. Our degree students serve congregations and MB Mission through their practica. We nurture a love of the church and strengthen students’ capacity to understand Canadian society and witness to Christ within this context.
ETEQ: ETEQ has been in conversation with CMU, CBC, and MB Seminary to explore how we may synergize. Our teachers preach in both French and English MB churches in Quebec and across Canada. This year, we offered a job fair that brought together 18 leaders from churches and chaplaincy ministries to connect with students. One Montreal pastor who visited the school for the first time said, “I’ve been dreaming for years of seeing church families gather together in a spirit of Kingdom partnerships. Today the dream became a reality.”
MB Seminary: Our primary means of ministry is collaboration. Through ACTS, we partner with three other denominational schools in B.C. In Winnipeg, we partner with CMU to offer graduate courses and degrees. In Ontario, we have a new partnership with Tyndale Seminary. We collaborate with MB Mission with both TREK and a new global training ministry in development. Finally, we collaborate with local churches to offer an MDiv (Immerse) and selected graduate courses in a modular format.
SBC: SBC has a transfer agreement with CMU that allows students a faster track to completing university degrees, including BAs in pre-education and majors in the humanities, math, social science, and music. Students may take graduate courses with MB Seminary while completing their BA at SBC. SBC gives transfers of up to four credit hours from MB Collegiate Institute, and up to 18 credit hours from Outtatown and Thrive – to help students get a jump on their program.
Thrive: We desire that MB churches remain present in their students’ lives during Thrive. Churches send their students to be discipled; we send them back as contributing members. Our hope is that growing knowledge of God leads our students to participate in what he is doing through churches and organizations.
How does your school complement the work of the church as it trains its students?
CBC: We mandate a reflective learning process in every ministry setting. In the busyness of ministry, we can become trapped in a cycle of (mostly good) activity, and forget to ask: Why? What’s best? and Are our activities honouring Christ and bearing fruit? When we ask the hard questions, we open new avenues for God’s Spirit to speak.
ETEQ: Until the 1960s, it was illegal to evangelize in Quebec. The lack of trained leaders contributed to the decline in the MB family following the growth of the 1960s–80s. It is ETEQ’s goal to see learning practised within the church. Most first-year students do a practicum in their church or a para-church organization. ETEQ offers continuing education courses a few times a year in our churches.
SBC: SBC requires students to include service learning units and encourages them to engage in a practicum or internship where they can serve while being mentored.
Thrive: Our focus is on emerging adults. Research shows that often students of this age drift away from the church. We desire to work with churches to keep their young adults connected and thriving in their faith in this pivotal season of their lives.
Columbia equips the next generation for discipleship, ministry, and leadership in service to their churches and communities. We care about the ways our theology connects with on-the-ground experience in the church and the world. Our newest programs – applied leadership, social entrepreneurship, general studies, and our emergency response technician certificate – illustrate this focus. Who has God shown himself to be in Scripture? How does this vision illuminate the key questions that arise as we engage with the world? How does it clarify our calling, as individuals and as members of Christ’s church? How can we develop the Spirit-given gifts and skills to pursue these callings? These are the questions at the heart of practical theology. We hope every student leaves our community having explored them faithfully.
Imagine our country and our world transformed by Jesus through healthy, vibrant churches and ministries, filled with biblically articulate, mission-focused, Spirit-led, and theologically-trained pastors and leaders! To pursue this dream, MB Seminary comes alongside men and women to educate, equip, and disciple them for life and ministry centred on Jesus and the Bible. We are a Canadian ministry with an international reach, an MB ministry with multi-denominational relationships. MB Seminary has three classroom locations in Canada (Langley, Winnipeg, Toronto) and we are developing a borderless world campus. In addition to providing easily accessible leadership development through MinistryLift, we have a new partnership with MB Mission to build a global training ministry.
ETEQ is rooted in the ongoing collaborative effort of evangelical church families to provide university-level theological education in service to Christian communities so that men and women may be equipped to serve Christ in the ever-changing context of Quebec and the world. We have grown to offer not only a bachelor in theology, but two micro-programs, three minors, and a master of theology with three streams. For 40 years, all our programs have been in French, first as IBL, then as ETEM, now under ETEQ – a partnership between Mennonite Brethren and Christian & Missionary Alliance since 2016. In fall 2018, we will offer a minor in pastoral studies in English.
“Make disciples of all nations” is Jesus’ command to all his followers (Matthew 28:19). This is not simply a task for pastors, but for all who follow Jesus. As disciples, we give glory to God and bring light to the dark places (2 Corinthians 4:5–6). Thrive is an eight-month discipleship school (September–April) that balances practical learning with experience. Students live in community on the Bethany College campus and immerse themselves in biblical topics through the program’s modular design that features frequent service opportunities. We teach students to be lights in the darkness, lead them into close contact with the Most High King, and equip them for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).
Born of a desire to study the Bible and to train Sunday School teachers, Steinbach Bible College began offering daytime classes at Steinbach MB Church in 1936. SBC’s mission continues to be “an evangelical Anabaptist college, empowering servant leaders to follow Jesus, serve the church, and engage the world.” This is achieved through classes, daily chapels, faculty mentoring, care groups, and opportunity for reflection. SBC students may focus on a ministry area including youth, worship, children, and pastoral ministries. Our Mission X program exposes student to a variety of needs using Acts 1:8 as a model. First-year students spend five days engaging marginalized people in inner-city Winnipeg. Second-years spend eight days serving in Northern Manitoba First Nations’ communities. Third-year students experience three weeks overseas. SBC has expanded to include a three-year BA online, a four-month discipleship training school called Pursuit, and a BA in
CMU offers undergraduate programs in arts and sciences: biblical and theological studies, Christian ministry, psychology, music, English, history, communications and media, business, peacebuilding and collaborative development, environmental studies, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and interdisciplinary studies. Graduate programs include a theology and Christian ministry MA and certificate, an MA in peacebuilding and collaborative development, and an MBA. All degree programs require students to complete a practicum. About 40 percent choose church-ministry practica; others pursue community development, business, education, government, healthcare, and other sectors. While travelling in Canada and either South Africa or Guatemala, Outtatown discipleship students serve, live in community, explore life’s big questions, witness to Christ, and are nurtured in faith.
How are you partnering with churches, conference, and other institutions on non-formal learning opportunities?
CBC: Our students engage in service and learning opportunities with many of our churches and MB organizations (camps, MB Mission, MCC). Student internships are a powerful way of collaborating with our churches for gift discernment and development. Many graduates go on to lead MB churches and organizations. We are excited about our relationships with provincial conferences as we train servant leaders for the church.
CMU: We meet regularly with staff of the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba, CCMBC, and MB Mission to partner on youth events (sixpointeight), pastors’ conferences (ReNew, Pastors’ Theological Seminar) and publications (Direction Journal, Believers Church Bible Commentary). We resource MB churches through CommonWord Bookstore, the reWorship website, choir deputations, and public dialogues such as the JJ Thiessen Lectures and Face2Face conversations.
ETEQ: We share resources with AEFMQ (Quebec MB conference), including inviting them to present at midi-vies (Lunch ’n Learns). MCC shipped 6,000 of our surplus books to Congo. We receive free rent from CCMBC and, in turn, have offered classroom/meeting space to AEFMQ and C2C Network.
MB Seminary: Our mandate to educate and equip is not limited to our graduate degree programs. MinistryLift equips pastors and ministry leaders with ongoing training and provides churches with resources to help them grow as disciples of Jesus. By collaborating with provincial conferences and local churches, we customize our training to fit the expressed needs of specific contexts and all phases of life.
SBC: Every SBC student volunteers weekly in a church, ministry, or other non-profits. Faculty speak at church retreats, events, and services. Students participate in MB Mission’s SOAR Heartland. Collectively, our students serve 250 weeks each summer as part of the summer ministry bursary program. Mission X partners with churches, missionaries, and parachurch organizations across Manitoba and the world.
Thrive: Students are connected with churches – as youth sponsors, Sunday school teachers, worship band members – and are paired with a ministry mentor so they receive valuable feedback as they contribute.
What is the significance of an in-person study experience in today’s world of virtual opportunities?
CBC: Young adults are coming of age in a fragmented, polarized culture consumed with questions of identity and purpose, yet without a stable centre to orientate them. An in-person study experience that focuses on transformational development enables them to explore the pressing questions in a caring and constructive community, one that includes older, mature Jesus followers and peers desiring to grow.
CMU: Quality education includes much that happens beyond the classroom – community, friendship, trust, athletics, faith formation through fellowship groups and chapel three times/week. In the classroom, students have the opportunity to make oral presentations and engage in conversation with peers and faculty. In an era of online platforms and polarization of views, learning with people from different starting places is vital. The yearning for quality relationships is growing as e-resources, loneliness, and anxiety increase.
ETEQ: The value of knowing your peers and having face-to-face conversations around challenging topics cannot be understated.
SBC: SBC students consistently talk about their strong sense of community. Lifelong friendships are developed through the dorm experience and face-to-face delivery of classes. Students are going through major life changes. An in-person study experience among godly guides encourages the personalization of faith as students mature intellectually, socially, and spiritually.
Thrive: Jesus is not a sit-and-learn kind of teacher. He is a go-and-do-likewise kind of guy. In-person studies allow students to put that into practice by living and being with people.
On the other hand, how do digital platforms allow your school to extend learning online?
CBC: Digital platforms can dramatically increase the accessibility of theological education. Although some students struggle with maintaining motivation in a more individualized context, mature students often thrive in an online setting, as the constraints of location and time can be reduced or eliminated.
CMU: We livestream classes, particularly graduate classes in biblical and theological studies, with students joining from across Canada.
ETEQ: We offer minimal online courses, usually through our partner schools.
MB Seminary: The Holy Spirit is not limited by geography or social context. Whether learners and teachers are in the same room, country, or planet, genuine learning and transformation can – and should – happen. For some, the flexibility of borderless education offers learning experiences that would be otherwise unattainable. Teaching, learning, spiritual formation, and pastoral care look different in each context – we can only imagine what the next era of education will look like!
SBC: Online learning allows students from across the world to gain a degree at their own pace without having to uproot their families.
Thrive: Knowledge is easier to obtain – if people are intentional in putting this into practice.
If MB theological schools disappeared, what would we not be able to do together as MB churches in Canada?
CBC: MB theological schools help people discern God’s call: to relationship with God, to live biblically, to discern their gifts, so that they can serve the church and world as they live and proclaim the gospel of Jesus. Without our schools, we would have to look elsewhere for discipleship opportunities and church leadership formation, and we would lose our sense of who we are and what holds us together as the MB church. To maintain our MB theological and missional identity as Anabaptist evangelicals, we need places for in-depth study of Scripture, the church, and the world.
CMU: The presence of schools is significant to the long-term presence of denominations, bodies of faith, and flourishing communities. Just as different people have a role in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), different agencies of church ministry each have a role. In an era when public education asserts itself as the transforming agent in society, it is vital that faith-based education be present in its more modest claims.
ETEQ: Quebec almost experienced a collapse of Anabaptist evangelicalism. We need quality formal education, partnered with mentorship and experience within the church, to deal with spiritual and structural challenges. We see a dilution of Anabaptist theology within MB churches, a trend that would be expedited in the absence of dedicated schools.
MB Seminary: One of the critical roles of MB theological schools is to call our churches and leaders to be centred in our confessional core. Not only does our Confession speak into our identity, it also calls us to a united mission to reach Canada and beyond with the Good News of Jesus. In our current configuration of MB churches across Canada, no single region has the capacity to form a national seminary to train church and ministry leaders at the graduate level. MB Seminary is a great example of a ministry that exists and is effective only if we work together.
SBC: We could see an increased movement away from our Anabaptist roots. We would have a harder time finding trained volunteers. There would be a weakening of community and connection from church to church across provinces. At provincial and national conventions, SBC often connects alumni around the country across age and geographical barriers.
Thrive: Emerging adults have an important place in the church today. We have much to learn from them as they grow and mature in their faith and we have a responsibility to walk alongside them in their journey into adulthood. The discipleship of this generation will be instrumental in the growth and development of the church.
What message would you like to give to Canadian MBs from your school?
Bryan Born (CBC): We need places where the so-called ordinary tasks of faith development can be discovered as transformational, where young adults can patiently study Scripture while identity questions are becoming more focused and urgent. We need places where they can take steps of obedience in reflective, supportive environments that are attentive to the Spirit of God as the agent of transformation. We need places to articulate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as good news – as a pattern for our lives today and a sure hope for tomorrow.
Cheryl Pauls (CMU): Students don’t just repeat back what they’ve learned, but offer insights that take church and society forward in ways far beyond what I could have imagined. I’m inspired by their love of God’s Word and its role in shaping their communal and individual lives. I have great hope for the future of God’s church.
Kristen Corrigan (ETEQ): We are your French school! We have come a long way since the early days of the Mennonite Brethren in Quebec. Now that we are offering theology courses in English, we welcome you to experience theology in action in a French culture and a post-Christian context.
Mark Wessner (MB Seminary): We are here to serve you, your churches, your leaders, and anyone among you who has a heart for Jesus and his mission. Tell us your dreams, your challenges, and your opportunities, and we will do everything we can to come alongside you in ministry. Just imagine: 250 MB churches, more than 550 pastors, 1,500 elders, and countless ministry leaders participating together in theological education and ministry training that enables us to pursue the mission that God has given!
Rob Reimer (SBC): Attending Bible college is an opportunity to firmly establish one’s faith foundation during the key personalization years after high school. Receiving college training in a Christ-centred environment could be the difference between a young adult launching a vibrant lifetime walk with Jesus or drifting away from faith. Bible college is about increasing career readiness, biblical literacy, and ministry mindedness, and discovering vocation and calling.
Darryl Balzer (Thrive): We cannot do this important task of discipleship on our own. We thrive on partnership; we together are the body of Christ. We want to work together well with the church. No investment is too small: we welcome prayer, mentorship, finances, intentional presence. Let’s equip our young people together.