Archives For MAGL

This past weekend I turned in my final paper for my Master’s Degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. It’s been a long and treacherous road to get there, over eight years, three seminaries and two major moves.

I didn’t know if I’d ever get here and I’m not precisely sure what comes next. What I know for sure is, I could not have done it without the support of the following people:

Marvin Crowson believed in me enough to pull the strings needed to get me in to my first attempt at grad school at Harding University.

Mark Powell‘s ethics class at Harding Graduate School had us read Richard Mouw and Stanley Hauerwas hand in hand. This proved to be slightly prophetic: I completed my degree at Mouw’s school, and focused heavily on writers like Hauerwas.

Chris Flander‘s Worldview at Abilene Christian University class dismantled the short sighted popular concept of worldview and helped me to begin thinking of following Christ as a way of life.

My high school and college friend Jeff Cole came back into my life, helped with my admission to the Fuller MAGL, and provided housing during my course work.

Donna Downes led my MAGL cohort. She has been a mother to us all. Not only has she been an excellent professor, but she has been available night and day to answer questions and provide moral support.

Coming to know, Kairos, our 24th MAGL cohort, has been the best part of this experience. They are men and women spread throughout the world who are dedicated to God’s mission at any cost. You have taught me more about following Christ than any of our books.

My parents have always encouraged me in this quest. They have helped me remember its value when I sometimes forget.

My church community Vox Veniae has been the subject of many papers. More importantly, it has provided me a home and a vision of what a missional church should be.

What’s next? Well, that’s complicated. There are some cool opportunities which I hope to announce soon. I am currently looking for what will pay the bills while this new thing gets off the ground. Please keep me in your prayers.


  • Still flying high from my time in DC with Missio Alliance.  It ended up being a bit of a family reunion, with old friends from growing up in Denver, my alma mater, Ecclesia network, and my Fuller MAGL cohort and my church in Austin.
  • One person said to me “now I understand Chris!  These are his people.”  That felt good.
  • There’s been lots of great feedback from my post Eight Game-Changers Observed at Missio Alliance. One person even wrote a response.  Check it out, and share your thoughts.
  • Here’s some other people who have been blogging about Missio:
  • After leaving Missio Alliance, I headed up to New York to spend a few days with my sister and brother-in-law (and future niece!) in the Bronx. Here we are at The Cloisters.
  • She is responsible for my awesome new profile pic.  Thanks!


  • Highlight of this trip to NYC? Highline Park.  A former freight train track that runs across through the city that has been repurposed into a hanging garden.  The best views I’ve seen in New York.  Pretty much the closest I’ll ever get to being Spider-Man.
  • I try to befriend anyone I see reading N.T. Wright in public.  Yesterday at the best-looking coffee shop in Austin, I met Shane Blackshear, a blogger, podcaster, and part of an inspiring church community named Mosaic.  Check out this interview he did with Derek Webb.

In the Fall of 2004, I finished undergrad and enrolled in a nearby seminary. I had my sights set on the granddaddy of ministry degrees: the Masters of Divinity. My goals for were to learn:

  1. How to be a leader
  2. How to reach the people I knew who were far from Christ
  3. How to help churches engage in the Mission of God.

Unfortunately, I quickly learned that this was not always the purpose of the traditional seminary, nor of the M.Div. 

My passion is to see the church incarnated within the secular urban population of the U.S.  I was looking for the training I would need to reach these people. This seminary was embedded in denominational politics and the lifestyle of the rural Bible belt. The M.Div. is focused on teaching exegesis, languages, and how to manage traditional church structures. These are important tasks, but they weren’t what I was looking for.

Hungry for hands-on ministry experience, I moved to Austin and transferred to my second graduate school. My hope was to serve in a young church, work a secular job, and occasionally drive to class a few hours away. This never really worked out the way I planned, and it soon became clear that I would have to move on campus if I wanted to complete my degree.

It looked like I was going to have to choose between the M.Div. and my desire for hands-on missional experience, until I encountered Fuller Seminary’s Master’s of Arts in Global Leadership.

The MAGL “comes alongside in-service Christian leaders from around the globe with transformational graduate level education.”  In other words, it’s an opportunity to learn, not just from books and teachers, but from leaders and missionaries scattered across the world, without leaving my context.

The core curriculum took place over two years, in on-line courses and two on campus intensives. Courses covered topics like spiritual leadership, missional theology, organizational dynamics and adult learning. Simply put, it is an opportunity to study how to help people and organizations change.

Seminaries and specifically the M.Div. serve an important responsibility in forming leaders capable of taking the helm of established Christian institutions. But the world is changing. Reality is slowly sinking in: the West is becoming mission field.

To be honest, I’m jealous of how much my M.Div. friends know about languages and philosophy.  But I don’t know how it would help me with the task ahead.

The church’s leaders of the future will need the ability to navigate culture, and build new forms of church that present the gospel to their context. What better way to learn this than while embedded in a missionary context and reflecting with other leaders?

Using adult learning models and on-line tools is one way to accomplish this, as we did in the MAGL.  Becoming a missional movement, one capable of embodying the gospel in new and changing forms, will require this and other experimental forms of training.  I am excited to see what will develop.

How would you like to see leadership training change in the church?  What should a 21st century seminary look like?


Update 3.26

I got some good pushback on this from my friend Bryan on Facebook.  The said “I don’t think there is a sharp line though between MDIV = institutional, traditional & MAGL (or similar programs) = missional. We need people with solid language and philosophy training through an MDIV in the missional stream…” Here’s my response:

Hey Bryan, you are totally right (and I hope that my original post wasn’t offensive to those who have taken the other route). It’s simply a record of my own personal journey of trying to get the hands on experience as well as the education that seemed important. To me, context is the biggest part. A lot of schools can become so insular that the students leave not knowing how to communicate with the outside world.

I believe that in our increasingly post-Christendom context, we need theologically educated people who also know how to live with, work with and be friends with those outside the church. The real challenge in the years to come will be to create leadership systems that produce well-rounded, culturally-savvy, scholar-practitioners, no matter what letters you put after their name.



“Ramon Lull [1235-1315] must rank as one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the church.  Others were filled with an equally ardent desire to preach the gospel to unbelievers, and if necessary to suffer for it; it was left to Lull to be the first to develop a theory of missions–not merely to wish to preach the gospel, but to work out in careful detail how it was to be done.” …He conceived a missionary methodology that could be summarized in three points:

1.  A comprehensive and accurate knowledge of the language

2.  The composition of a book in which the truth of the Christian religion should be demonstrated logically.

3. A willingness to be a faithful and courageous witness…even at the cost of life itself.

The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone Samuel Escobar, quoting Stephen Neill
Read as part of the MAGL

The Most Important Missionary of All Time?

The more intelligent scoffers realized that this was a message, which, in the unlikely event of its being true, would lead to the subversion of all religion.  For it claimed that God was to be found, not in the lofty speculations of philosophers or the esoteric rituals taking place in the countless religious temples that dotted the empire, but rather among those forgotten victims of crucifixion.

Vinoth Ramachandra, Faiths in Conflict?

Scandalous Jesus