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After 49 years of distinguished service as a seminary professor at three seminaries, Dr. John Frame retired last month. He has been a mentor, faculty colleague, and dear friend–as our seminary offices have been next to each other for the last 17 years. He has distinguished himself as a prolific author and one of America’s foremost theologians and philosophers—significantly shaping the thought of Evangelicalism today.

Many of today’s most influential Christian leaders and authors, like Tim Keller and John Piper, readily acknowledge the significant impact John Frame has had on them. Although widely known and deeply respected in church leadership and academic circles for decades, his works are now, finally, becoming well known to the general public.

This is the fourth of a four-part series taken from Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 9.04.39 PMthe foreword I wrote for his book, John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, Volume 1, by P&R Publishing. I wrote this with the goal of helping to introduce Frame and his writings more widely to the general public, with the hope that more people would begin mining the rich theological, philosophical, and practical gems that have for too long been mostly in the hands of academics and church leaders.

“You are a gentleman and a scholar.” 

It’s a phrase used in the Catcher in the Rye. But it’s been used for centuries throughout the British Isles to describe a rare person worthy of being considered not only a scholar but also a gentleman. Not all scholars are gentlemen. Not all gentlemen are scholars. John Frame is both.

john_frame sketch

One would understandably think that a scholar with Frame’s intellectual rigor and theological acumen would likely carry with him an aura of haughtiness. Instead, as one who has had an office next to him since 2000, I can tell you firsthand that John is a man marked by a rare blend of remarkable intellect and authentic humility.[1]

He is a model of living out what he writes about in his popular booklet Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus[2] (his grandfatherly advice written originally for incoming students at RTS-Orlando).[3]

Those who engage John in theological or philosophical debate (and there are many) experience his charitable and fair spirit—his genuine willingness to take a serious look at both sides of an issue. He’s well known for treating an opposing view graciously and respectfully, even while deconstructing it.

Many don’t know that John is also a classically trained musician (piano and organ) and a critic of film, music, and other media. His passion for and writings on worship and music have provoked controversy, especially in Reformed circles, because he regards contemporary worship music, and even liturgical dance, as biblically permissible and even enjoyable in worship.

John often confuses people because on a Sunday he can enjoy leading a new church plant in informal worship by playing an electric keyboard as part of a contemporary music ensemble. Then on Wednesday of the same week, he can greatly enjoy leading the seminary community in formal worship by playing a sixteenth-century hymn on the majestic, custom-built organ in the RTS-O chapel. Chapter 38 of this book is titled

“Twenty-five Random Things That Nobody Knows about Me.”

This list came from a Facebook game that his students “dragged [him] into.” What I love about this final chapter is that it gives you a glimpse into the personal life of this renowned theologian and philosopher. Here are a few of my favorites:

#3: I was always the last guy chosen for sports teams, and with good reason.

#4: We listened faithfully to Pittsburgh Pirate games from 1950–56, when the team had the worst record in baseball.

#18: My priorities for ministry were (a) missions, (b) pastorate, (c) academic theology. A visit to mission fields in 1960 ruled out (a). A year and two summers of pastoral experience ruled out (b). So I embraced (c) by default, as God’s calling.

#23: I did not marry until I was forty-five. God was preparing someone special.

#24: In 1999, I led a worship team of myself, a saxophonist, and a trombonist. The other two musicians were in their late seventies, but we really rocked.

John has shared with me how he is sometimes concerned about spending so much time in the privacy of his office writing, rather than being more actively involved in public ministry. So my role over the years we’ve worked together has been to periodically reminded him of what he already knows and teaches – that

There’s nothing more practical than sound theology.

I’ve seen firsthand how his theological writings are having a significant practical impact on the lives and ministries of Christian leaders around the world.

John is much more than a theologian, philosopher, and apologist. He is also a loving husband to Mary, father to his grown children, and grandfather to his rapidly growing gaggle of grandchildren. He is a humble and quiet man who prefers writing in the solitude of his office to coming into the public limelight.

All this is to say that it’s worth your time to read through these rare theological and philosophical gems in Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings. Here you will find his “Primer on Perspectivalism”—a clear, concise summary of triperspectivalism that will enhance your knowledge of God, yourself, others, and the world. Other chapters include foundational topics such as these: “What the Bible Is About: One Thing and Three Things,” “The Gospel and the Scriptures,” “Introduction to the Reformed Faith,” and “The Main Thing.”

Then enter more deeply into Frame’s ongoing humble but bold dialogues by reading essays such as “Reformed and Evangelicals Together,” “Is Justification by Faith Alone the Article on Which the Church Stands or Falls?,” “N. T. Wright and the Authority of Scripture,” “Cultural Transformation and the Local Church,” “The Bible and Joe the Plumber,” and, of course, the rest of the “Twenty-five Random Things That Nobody Knows about Me.”

If you’re new to reading the works of Frame (or theological works in general), let me strongly encourage you to take the time to explore his other writings. Here are just a few introductory readings I recommend that you consider to begin priming your theological pump:

  • Salvation Belongs to the Lord[4]—a brief mini-systematic theology that is easily accessible to the average reader.
  • Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus—practical advice for incoming seminary students and all new students of theology.
  • Browse his website, http://www.frame-poythress.org, where you’ll find many of his writings. He shares this website with Vern Poythress, Calvinistic theologian, philosopher, New Testament scholar, and one of his former students.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 9.04.01 PMWhether or not you’re new to reading Frame’s theological works, sooner or later you must own and begin making regular use of his magnum opus—Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief [5] with a Foreword by J.I. Packer. This remarkably accessible and practical work is the culmination of his nearly fifty years of studying, writing, teaching, and applying the Word of God to all aspects of life. World Magazine recently recognized it as “Book of the Year.

I am extremely grateful to God for this man and his ministry. This is why I so strongly promote the reading of his books and articles in all my seminary classes at RTS-Orlando and at the church leadership training events where I speak and teach in North America and abroad.

It is a great privilege for me to commend this book to you. Here you’ll find a wide array of important topics written in Frame’s inimitable style of robust charity. Enjoy mining the rich truths in these winsome and provocative essays.

Click here to read Framing John Frame Pt 1: Introducing The Man and His Message

Click here to read Framing John Frame Pt 2: Influencers on His Thought

Click here to read Framing John Frame Pt 3: Why It’s Hard to Frame Frame

Coming Next: The 100 Books That Have Most Influenced John Frame’s Thought by Frame and Childers

COMING SOON: “Applied Theology: A Systematic Theologian and a Practical Theologian Apply Theology to Life and Ministry.” By Childers & Frame

Don’t miss out on the latest updates on the Applied Theology Project!

Click here to sign up with your email.


[1] With his nearly five decades of participation in seminary convocation and commencement ceremonies, I know of no one who has worn academic regalia more often, and holds wearing it in more disdain, than Frame.
[2] John M. Frame, Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus (Orlando: Reformed Theological Seminary, 2002).
[3] As one of the “Fathers” (older professors) at RTS-O, Frame has also had a significant personal influence on all the “Brothers” (younger professors—including me). For instance, almost every time I see him, he asks me the same question: “Tell me again, how’s your book coming along?”
[4] John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006).
[5] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013).

Help Under-Resourced Church Planters in Muslim West Africa

Since 2006, Steve Childers has trained hundreds of indigenous church leaders in West Africa from 15 West African nations, representing more than 20 indigenous church denominations. In June, Steve is returning to West Africa to launch an innovative online and onsite educational platform by Pathway Learning to help bring affordable, accessible seminary-level training to West African church leaders where they live, in their language (French), and adapted to their culture. And Steve is looking for financial partners to help him bring this solution to West Africa beginning next month.

We’re Looking for Partners: The West Africa Project

Kara region, Togo, West Africa

The West Africa project goal is to equip 63 indigenous church “leaders of leaders,” serving in in the Kara region of North Togo, to start and develop churches that transform lives and communities throughout Kara, Togo, and West Africa.

Will you help?

This region was chosen because it represents the most critically needy areas in West Africa, marked by severe poverty and under the influence of Islamic advancements from the North. The West Africa Project is a collaboration between Pathway Learning, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Togo (the largest indigenous, African church denomination in Togo), and New Harvest Missions International, an indigenous, African mission agency based in Togo and founded by Agbeti Adawonu, one of Steve’s West African students many years ago.

History has proven that the health of the church in every generation is directly linked to the health of its leaders. When church leaders flourish, churches flourish. When churches flourish, people and societies flourish.

This is why our progress as a global church can be no faster than our progress in educating church leaders, especially among developing and unreached nations.

To put the education of church leaders first is to put society first.

Few, if any, investments are likely to pay higher returns over time.

Beginning June 2017, we’re launching a church planting course for under-resourced church leaders in Muslim West Africa.

Will you help?

FOR THE SAKE OF THE NATIONS,

P.S. – The generosity of friends like you is key to our mission. We need your help to raise $5,500 by May 31 for the West Africa Project. Thank you.

 

_____________________

Ways to Give

ONLINE

Give using your credit card through our secure online form.

MAIL

Global Church Advancement (or “GCA”), P.O. Box 2062, Winter Park, Florida 32790

PHONE

Call us 407-682-6942

Thank you for your support and prayers. Contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Visit Our Website:

www.pathwaylearning.org

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During the last fifty years, the global church has focused on the goal of personal conversion to the neglect of discipleship and societal transformation. As a result, the church is losing its transforming impact on the world.

At the same time, the global center of Christianity has shifted away from the West to the developing world. With this shift, the next generation of aspiring church leaders now find themselves with no realistic option for obtaining a high-quality seminary education.

They have a critical need for the essential training and tools to develop strong churches that transform lives and communities. But they can’t afford to leave their families, churches and communities to learn in a new language and culture. That’s the problem Pathway Learning wants to solve.

Thomas Friedman wrote, “Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary.”[1] We’ve seen what is desperately necessary. What is suddenly possible is a global revolution in learning.

The emergence of open-source educational platforms, through organizations such as Coursera and edX, has enabled near universal access to some of the world’s best teachers and courses in the sciences, arts, and business.

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-6-35-20-pmPathway Learning is applying this same breakthrough in learning to under-served church leaders around the world. With a platform that enables an innovative blend of online and onsite learning methods, our goal is to provide universal access to a practical, seminary-level education taught by world-class subject matter experts.

In partnership with leading churches, seminaries and organizations, Pathway Learning opens a door never before available to under-served church leaders—the opportunity to receive the strong biblical and practical education they desperately need, while continuing to serve the congregations and communities where they live.

What makes Pathway Learning courses different from most online courses that have been available for church leaders for a long time? Here are some unique benefits:

  • Practical Focus: Our courses focus not only on biblical and theological education but also practical education that equips students for effective ministry and lifelong learning.
  • Proven Methods: Our courses are based on proven teaching methods so students learn better and faster with less passive listening to long lectures and more active learning.
  • Cultural Customization: Our courses are customizable to adapt the curriculum not only to the student’s language, but also to the unique culture where they live and serve.
  • Blended Learning: Our courses blend online and onsite learning in cohort groups, led by certified facilitators, using both formal and non-formal learning methods.
  • Measurable Competencies: Our courses measure not only a student’s knowledge, but also the character and skills needed for success in ministry – verified by certificates.

The church is the only institution on earth that Jesus promised to build and to bless for the sake of the nations. Nations rise and fall. Governments and educational institutions rise and fall. Relief and development organizations rise and fall. But the church of Jesus Christ continues in every generation.

So why are so many churches today having such little impact on lives and society? It’s primarily because of their leaders. History has proven that the health of the church in every generation is directly linked to the health of its leaders. When church leaders flourish, churches flourish. When churches flourish, people and societies flourish.

This is why our progress as a global church can be no faster than our progress in educating church leaders, especially among developing and unreached nations. To put the education of church leaders first is to put society first.

For the first time in history we can successfully provide quality education for church leaders wherever they live and serve.

Using an innovative online platform, Pathway Learning can now bring affordable, practical, seminary-level courses to students where they live, in their language, and adapted to their culture. Working together, we can make the quality education of church leaders worldwide a reality.

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During the last few years, almost 200 students have successfully completed our first 6 pilot courses in English – Evangelism, Discipleship, Church Planting, Church Renewal, Missions, and Church Leadership. This year more than 50 indigenous church leaders in Asia completed our first pilot course in Chinese.

We are now launching pilot courses for under-served church leaders in Asia, North America, and West Africa.

We’re looking for partners to help us bring this solution to more than a million church leaders in the next ten years.

Few, if any, investments are likely to pay higher returns over time.

Beginning June 2017, we’re launching a church planting course

for under-resourced church leaders in Muslim West Africa.

Will you help?

FOR THE SAKE OF THE NATIONS,

P.S. – The generosity of friends like you is key to our mission. We need your help to raise $15,000 by May 15 for the West Africa Project.

 


[1] Friedman, Thomas L. “Come the Revolution.” New York Times, May 15:2012, Op-Ed