IRVING, Texas (May 21, 2020)—Just getting people into a Sunday School program won’t make disciples in the 21st century, Daryl Eldridge, president of Rockbridge Seminary, said during the Frank and Pauline Patterson Colloquy at B.H. Carroll Theological Institute May 18-19.
Eldridge, editor of The Teaching Church, a text still widely used by seminaries, said the West has come to view discipleship as the accumulation of knowledge.
“For many of us, Christianity has become a system of thought more than transformation, a changing of who we are,” Eldridge said. That is the problem. The solution, he believes, “will not be achieved without resistance.”
Instead of focusing on more church programs to gather knowledge, Eldridge said he believes the future of discipleship lies in a more holistic experience in Christianity, such as in the idea of seeking “oneness” with God. Eldridge illustrated how Eastern Christians practice prayer as they meditate on Scripture and seek to be in the presence of God.
“Union with God could be a way of life,” Eldridge said. “More information is not the solution. The goal of the entire spiritual journey is a union of love. That is the ‘ancient future’ way of strong discipleship.”
Eldridge said the shift in focus from head knowledge to internal spiritual formation through union with God should take place in seminaries, as well. He said he believes the idea of having a single course in spiritual formation is less effective.
“Spiritual formation—discipleship—should move from being a course to being a thread that runs through all of the courses,” he said.
Eldridge said the goal, for both church and seminary, is to get people to “surrender” to God because when people surrender to God “everything will fall into place.”
This year’s colloquy was unique for B.H. Carroll because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of meeting together at the Carroll Center, the meeting was held virtually via Zoom. The colloquy attracted 67 participants from five states (Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Virginia and California) and six foreign countries. Breakout sessions allowed faculty and staff members at B.H. Carroll to interact with participants.
“In our breakout sessions, participants discussed Dr. Eldridge’s viewpoints on discipleship with pastors from Mexico, Vietnam, Guyana, Angola, Canada, and Cuba,” B.H. Carroll President Dr. Gene Wilkes said. “The COVID-19 pandemic moved our colloquy to a virtual platform, but that opened it up to an international audience. We praise God we were able to employ the technology we’ve used in the classroom for years to broaden our footprint.”
The colloquy featured question and answer sessions hosted by Distinguished Carroll Fellow Dr. Karen Bullock, director of the Ph.D. program and chair of the Doctoral Program Council, which organized the semi-annual colloquy. It also included a session on the Christian response to the COVID-19 pandemic, led by Senior Fellow Dr. Scott Floyd, professor of Psychology and Counseling.