When Tim began announcing his intention to step out of the preaching rotation in order to begin teaching and training leaders as a seminary professor, the most common reaction (after “WHAT??”) was “We have a seminary??”
It’s not meant to be a secret, but apparently it is not very well known, so here’s the cool stuff you need to know.
The idea for the seminary was birthed in the summer of 2009 in discussions between Tim and several leaders in the administration of Reformed Theological Seminary, which included the Chancellor/CEO of RTS at that time, Ric Cannada, and the present Exec. Director of RTS NYC, Steve Wallace. The brainstorming occurred fitfully. But then the strategy for New York arising out of the Rise campaign — and RTS gaining all the NY state and accreditation agency approvals — brought the accredited program into operation for the 2015-2016 academic year.
That strategy for reaching New York is “New Churches, New Leaders, New Buildings.” The need for new churches is obvious, but where will all the leaders come from for all those new congregations? We do not have enough. And we have learned over the years that importing church leaders from other parts of the country is time consuming and not always successful, as there is a steep learning curve in acclimating to the city. The solution is to build our own leadership pipeline, drawing men and women already living here into ministry. And the centerpiece of this pipeline is “from the ground up” theological and ministry training.
Redeemer City to City and Reformed Theological Seminary have done a somewhat audacious rethinking of theological education for urban pastors, church planters, and leaders. Most theological education grants an M.Div. degree (Master of Divinity) after three years of course work in Hebrew, Greek, theology, Bible, history, preaching, and some elective courses.
RTS NYC will grant a Master of Arts (Biblical Studies) after two, three or four years of intensive study (depending on how quickly one can complete the degree). Some coursework is online, but most is offered in the NYC classroom. All the academic coursework from the typical M.Div. is covered — Greek and Hebrew, all books of the Bible, systematic theology and church history.
Then, however, an additional year of practical study will be offered, titled the City Ministry Year (CMY). For those completing the M.A.B.S., it will serve as the immediate next step in their training sequence. It will concentrate on those disciplines that usually go by the term Practical Theology and will offer a much fuller treatment of preaching, pastoring, leadership, evangelism, and church planting than any M.Div. offers. Tim will teach a good proportion of the courses and he will be accompanied by experts drawn from around the world, as well as from NYC. It will be taught by urban practitioners always with a view to training people to minister in the urban context. What is important to realize is that the CMY is open to all kinds of church leaders or leaders-in-training, whether they have a full M.A. or M.Div. or not. It will also be less expensive than courses for credit in an academic program.
Mark Reynolds (on the Redeemer side) and Steve Wallace (on the RTS side) have colabored and provided the leadership that brought the seminary to fruition. Here is a summary of the partnership that Steve put together:
Redeemer City to City and Reformed Theological Seminary have partnered to offer theological and practical ministry training in NYC. A Master of Arts (Biblical Studies) degree (66 credits) through RTS NYC, and the City Ministry Year (CMY), a year of practical ministry training through CTC. This combination of RTS providing an accredited theological degree — a comprehensive biblical foundation — and CTC providing the practical ministry training, all in the context of the city, we believe, makes the Redeemer City Ministry (RCM) program unique among seminaries in the United States. The theme of the RCM program is “preparing ministry leaders in the city, for the city!”
Finally, it is important to note that the RTS NYC M.A. program is not just for those planning to become pastors or church planters. It is open to, and encourages students from all walks of life — those who hold lay leadership positions on their church staff, or work with para-church ministries, or simply want to be more theologically informed.
Ten students from the first cohort of RTS NYC students are now ready for their City Ministry Year, hence the timing of Tim’s new job description. They will first graduate with their MABS, and then go on to the CMY, along with new students, it is hoped, who are eager for this training.
Here are two upcoming events for the seminary and the CMY. To attend as a guest (seating is limited), please email Sarah Grover at [email protected].
The Third Convocation for RTS New York City will take place Thursday, September 7, 2017, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at 1166 Avenue of Americas (16th floor – Redeemer offices), with keynote speaker Dr. Tim Keller. This Convocation also inaugurates the City Ministry Year, the practical component of the Redeemer City Ministry program aimed a equipping NYC leaders for urban ministry effectiveness, taught by Tim Keller and other urban ministry practitioners.
RTS New York City will hold its first graduation ceremony on Friday, September 8, 2017, 7:00 p.m., at the Redeemer Westside location, 150 W83rd, NY, NY (5th floor Fellowship Hall). Dr. Ligon Duncan, RTS Chancellor and CEO, will be the commencement preacher and Dr. Tim Keller, Chairman of the Board and Co-founder of CTC, will bring the charge to students. Ten MABS students are expected to receive diplomas.
Steve Wallace, Executive Director, RTS NYC
Mark Reynolds, V.P., Operations & Leadership Programs, Redeemer City to City
Sarah Grover, Seminary & Salesforce Admin., Redeemer City to City