Wesley Seminary hosted the Wesleyan Doctrinal Symposium, May 29 – 30, 2019, at its Marion, Indiana, campus. The symposium is an annual event for Wesleyan religion faculty and other ministry leaders. It focuses on doctrinal issues related to the ongoing education and formation of Wesleyan pastors. From time to time, other important topics that have bearing on the Church are addressed.
This year’s topic for the event focused on discipleship: Kingdom Force: Disciples Making Disciples in the New Testament and Early Church. Religion faculty and ministry leaders attended the event, which was also livestreamed.
Dr. Russ Gunsalus, executive director of Education and Clergy Development (ECD), explained the strategic focus vision statement of The Wesleyan Church and the impact of an entire Kingdom Force on disciple-making.
He also shared the discipleship model of The Wesleyan Church, which involves living out the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment, by addressing five questions about discipleship: Is it intentional; is it relational; is it holistic; is it multiplying; is it lifelong?
The two-day event offered presentations and facilitated discussions. Dave Higle, director of Clergy Care for ECD, described the topic of each paper and the format for the symposium. The following people gave presentations:
- Ken Schenck, dean of the School of Theology and Ministry at Indiana Wesleyan University, gave the first presentation: “An Examination of Matthew 28:20: What is it that Jesus Commanded Us to Obey?” Schenck examined The Great Commission within the context of Matthew’s entire Gospel, demonstrating that Great Commission verses are to be understood within the broader commands to love God and to love others, including our enemies. Schenck also enumerated many other commands of Jesus in Matthew that are included in an ethic of discipleship.
- Sarah Derck, chair of Biblical Studies, Theology, Philosophy Department at Houghton College, gave the second presentation, “Discipling the Least of These: The Reconciling Work of Christ the Teacher.” Derck shared how Jesus unified his followers in only three years by teaching them to love one another. She also emphasized that reconciliation between people within community must be a top priority in discipleship.
- Steve Elliott, program director and professor of Pastoral Ministry and Church Planting at Kingswood University, gave the third presentation, “Signs and Wonders: The Role of the Holy Spirit in Making Disciples.” Elliott emphasized that evangelism in the Gospels and early church (Acts) was directly linked to the demonstration of miracles.
- David Riggs, dean of the John Wesley Honors College at Indiana Wesleyan University, presented, “Share your Baptismal Identity with All Nations: Disciple Making in the Early Church.” Riggs highlighted that during the first 300 years of the church, discipleship was characterized by a focus on leading disciples into the deeper work of sanctification to be ready for the second coming of Christ.
- Mark Wilson, assistant professor of Discipleship, Multiplication and Renewal at Southern Wesleyan University, ended the symposium by moderating a lively discussion on “Faithful Strategies for Making Disciples Today.”
“These academic presentations helped us to remember that our methods for making disciples should emerge out of a prior understanding (and authority) of Scripture that is consistent with the wisdom of the history of the Church,” said Higle.
Dr. Ed Love, director of Church Multiplication for The Wesleyan Church, was encouraged by the two-day event.
“During the Doctoral Symposium, I was elated to witness the synergy between the vision of The Wesleyan Church and our higher education thought-leaders,” said Love. “I left with a renewed sense of confidence that our discipleship and church multiplication emphasis is being championed and supported at every level.”
The next Doctrinal Symposium is tentatively scheduled for May of 2021.