Program Distinctives

1. The Vision


This program is named for missionary theologian Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998).  Newbigin was a prophetic figure who more clearly than anyone saw the importance of the Western church re-discovering its missionary vocation.  Mission isn’t a single activity of the church, it is central to the very existence of the church.  The Newbigin House of Studies exists to form men and women to be effective leaders for the church in mission.


2. The Partnership Between the Academy and the Church



Western Theological Seminary has distinguished itself as a leader in distance learning education, and as a seminary has committed itself to forming missional leaders.






City Church San Francisco is a vibrant urban and Reformed church that has taken root in the most secular city in North America.  We are grateful that Western Theological Seminary recognizes the unique gifts that churches such as City Church can bring to the table, and are thrilled to be working in partnership with them.



3. The Urban Context


Skylinesmall When I (Scot Sherman) moved to New York City in 1989 I learned pretty quickly that there simply is no better place for ministry formation than cities, the centers of influence that shape the cultures we all live in.  Even though I moved to the city after I had completed my formal training, it wasn’t long before I began to realize – and frequently began to say- “the city is the seminary!”  By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in global cities.  We’re committed to seeing all of our WTS-Newbigin DL M.Div. students embedded in an urban internship in a major city.


4. The Missional Curriculum


One of the core questions that drives us is “what does theological education look like if you believe that mission is central to the church’s identity?”  The curriculum of the WTS-Newbigin DL M.Div. integrates missional committments throughout the courses and the internship.


5. The “Virtual House”


Distance learning technology is AMAZING.  Students in the WTS-Newbigin DL M.Div. program are connected together in a cohort of students in urban meta-regions all over the county. The bonding for life-long learning, friendship and support doesn’t just happen online, there are intensives where you are TOGETHER in a big way.  (Think of your best experience going away to camp, and multiply by 10)!  The combination of online learning, on campus intensives in Holland, MI, immersion experiences in San Francisco, CA, and mentored ministry is very effective in creating a true community of missional learning.


6. The Team


Look at the leaders:  WTS President Timothy Brown is a pastor with experience leading a church that experienced dramatic growth; Rev. Dr. Scot Sherman has experience as an urban church planter, and as senior pastor of a congregation that has been an effective parent church. (To read about the daughter congregation and its pastor, Shayne Wheeler, click here.)  Dr. Michael Goheen comes to us not only as a distinguished scholar and popular author, but also as an experienced church planter and pastor.  And we are in the process of expanding the team.