Cemetery or Seminary?
In my spiritual journey God has used a number of things to shape me. I think I accepted Christ at a Tuesday night Bible study that was at a Vineyard church. From there I started attending Horizon, then to The Rock when Miles McPherson launched it, then to a little Mexican church in National City, then to help with an Evangelical Free Church, then I planted a church with my father-in-law that became Southern Baptist, to my current church which is Southern Baptist…this flyover covers about 17 years of my church life. During the early years, 1996-2001, I traveled extensively as a Navy SEAL and would often find myself in different places on Sundays…I would always land at a Calvary Chapel because they were fairly consistent with their franchised product. I know you guys are not a denomination, but nobody on the outside buys your claims. 🙂
As I was growing in the Lord and starting to sense God’s call, I wasn’t sure what the next step was or how I was to pursue this vague feeling inside. I remember many of the pastors in Calvary Chapel bashing, or subtly making jabs against seminaries by referring to them as cemeteries. I sort of found this funny because from the outside looking in it appeared as though many of the pastors didn’t have college degrees let alone any time at seminary. Where was this attack coming from? Why would they be critical of something they never actually participated in or completed? Maybe it was a chip on their shoulder? Maybe. Maybe there was some truth in what they said? Possibly. I know that I may be treading on dangerous ground as the majority of the writers of this blog are Calvary Chapel guys. I am the outsider, the black sheep of the group proudly waving my Southern Baptist colors…which feels weird as I don’t really feel connected deeply to this group, but I digress.
As God led me away from Calvary Chapel circles, I was exposed to a variety of very godly pastors who all had graduated from seminary. Different seminaries all conservative, but with different flavors. It was during this time that God’s call became very strong and my desire to study the Bible at a deeper level continued to grow, but I didn’t know how I could satisfy this as I was preparing to deploy to the Middle East. Thankfully, I was informed of Moody Bible Institute’s distance learning program. I immediately enrolled in a number of courses like “Old Testament Survey”, “New Testament Survey”, “Elements of Bible Study”, and “Advanced Bible Study Methods.” Oh, my soul was getting nourished in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. I ended up completing a year’s worth of coursework through Moody’s program. This whole experience opened up the door for me to complete my Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies and Master’s of Divinity degree through Southern California Seminary. From there, I would go on and work on my Doctor of Ministry degree through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, but I withdrew from the program when I was “All but dissertation” because I felt like it was interfering with the present ministry I was called to.
I had a wonderful experience through Bible College and Seminary. I would not be able to handle the Word of God as accurately as I do now without my training there. I understand that not every seminary is created the same, but that doesn’t mean that all are bad and ineffective in training people. Here are a few reasons why I support and encourage men called to the ministry to go to seminary:
You will grow and mature through the process. Seminary is challenging. Juggling life with coursework is challenging in of itself, but a good seminary is going to forged you to be handle the ministry–whether you are preparing to enter or are already doing the work. To hunker down and to do the work will shape you in your walk with God. This difficult season in my life definitely prepared me for the rigors that pastoral ministry would bring.
You will be equipped in handling the Word of God. I often am asked, “Did seminary really help you?” I laugh and respond with something like, “If I wasn’t in seminary, I would not have been digging, researching, and writing about topics that forced me deep within the Word on a daily basis.” Seminary will sharpen and expand you knowledge and application of the Word of God. There is no way around this, you cannot experience this demand on your own. I have often heard, “Seminary is like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hydrant.” This is so true!
You will be exposed to others schools of thought. I can already hear some Calvary guys jumping on this point saying, “Ahh, you will be brainwashed and wander into bad doctrine! Beware!” An assumption of mine is that we are talking about a conservative, Bible believing and proclaiming seminary–which there are many. Within this context you will rub shoulders and discuss biblical things from different vantage points. This is iron sharpening iron in its truest sense. For example, when I wrote my thesis on “The Christian and Combat” we brought in a pacifist, who deeply loves the Lord, to challenge my position. I am better because of this experience of being exposed to other views within Bible believing Christianity.
You will develop deep friendships and broaden your network. Outside of the coursework, I developed deep friendships with others in the ministry from a variety of denominations or non-denominations respectfully. These friendships have been very meaningful and helpful to me in my service in the ministry at large. I am thankful for these men that I can go to for support and outside consultation by men who are outside of my circle.
Concluding thoughts. First, if you are debating going to seminary choose well. The price is the least important factor. Seek out graduates and examine the doctrinal position of the school. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, ask someone who can guide you and give you wisdom for not all seminaries are created equal. Second, if you haven’t been, or graduated from seminary, I would ask you to refrain from the bashing of them through subtle comments like letting “cemetery” slip out of your mouth when “seminary” was the intended word. It makes one look like they have a chip on their shoulder for lacking something. Of course one doesn’t need seminary to go to the ministry…we simply need to meet the requirements of 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Finally, whatever your background, I encourage you to read, grow, and study intently as you lead the body of Christ.
I am a Calvary pastor who is currently in seminary. I had been in pastoral ministry over a decade before attending seminary. Part of me is glad I didn’t do seminary right away. So much of what I am learning isn’t ministerial theory. I am able, straight away, to both learn and evaluate both having been and currently being in ministry. The other half of me wishes I did this first when I could devote a few years to learning and I sometimes think some of the things I am learning would have saved me from some past naïveté.
I certainly see value in seminary but equally think that in house training has great value. On this point I would add that in house training wouldn’t be some intern teaching a class on Romans. Generally we need to train better. The body of Christ is enriched by quality seminaries. After all, all the commentaries we read are written by guys who went to or taught/teach seminary. We can’t condemn the institution whilst relying upon it.
I may write a post on how to keep your passion for Jesus while at seminary. Love for Christ can get swallowed by love for learning about him. We must always guard our hearts in every area (not just seminary).
Excellent comments. I really appreciate what you said as it compliments what I was trying to express. I like the idea of your future post!
For what it’s worth, I found this to be very helpful: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/a-guide-for-staying-christian-in-seminary
I’ve seen that blog before and thought there were some good points. I think keeping our passion for Jesus needs to be flamed not only in seminary, but in the ministry! Thanks for sharing.
I’m tracking, I don’t appreciate the seminary bashing either, and most of the bros I have that studied at one seem to have really grown in the Lord and been stirred up in their gifts while there. Yet, – correct me if I’m wrong – I still can’t help feeling like seminaries exist because local churches aren’t doing their job. I’m a teacher at a CC Bible school, and have taught at a Baptist seminary as well – and at both a high percentage of incoming students have hardly any understanding of the gospel (nevermind actually being able to articulate it!).
I don’t know if I can agree with your question about seminaries existing because local churches aren’t doing there job. Certainly there are churches not doing there job, and certainly there are seminaries who are not integrated with the local church, but I was blessed to go to a seminary that was on the campus of Shadow Mountain Community Church with David Jeremiah. It was set up so I was able to server full time in another local church (not SMCC) and do my studies. If we look at the history of seminaries (I haven’t, but my seminary fits this), I think we would find that most seminaries were born out of the local church in order to provide in depth training that would equip men for service.
Great post. I would agree with a lot of what you said. I’m not in seminary yet, but have recently transferred from CCBC into Horizon College, which in my opinion, is much more intense. I loved and am grateful for my time at CCBC, but honestly, I’m being challenged and learning things I would have never learned at CCBC (including different doctrinal positions). This has left me far from brainwashed, but rather as you put it, better sharpened by iron and with a greater appreciate for my brothers and sisters of a different position.
I think Matt made some great points too. Even in my last semester, again although not in seminary, I struggled with the love of learning rather than loving Christ. I too would find that article interesting! I also was extremely disappointed with my experience of having my Romans class taught by 3 interns 😉 (obviously not at Horizon).
I am looking forward to finishing my schooling at Horizon and moving on to Seminary. My wife is actually applying for Moody right now.
Good word brother. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I think the lessons of learning to stay close to Jesus while in Bible College/Seminary will benefit you all the days of your life…especially in the pastoral ministry. Not many admit it, but this danger is just as real in the pastoral ministry than people like to admit. It is very easy to wander from your first love as you study for preaching and ministering to others.
I have been around CCls long enough to remember when seminary was looked down on… then all of the sudden it was the “in thing” to do.. the problem is I felt as an outsider noboday getting a degree for making a video or haveing a special pass tainted the true seminary grad student… I have no ax to grind at seminary and if I had the time to go I would.. I would just have to find one that still teaches the ineraency of Gods word…YOur right it take a lot of digging to get to the nuggets.. I once had a library that rivaled any pastors on commentarys and word studies and I loved researching history,contempary times for the time and tryig to see what the writer was going thru at the time of their writings..CC’s have wavered over and over thru the years and I am waiting to see how far south some go in the near future… and I still continue to attend CC’s but I know one thing God is still in control and I am not gonna be caught up on what s gonna happen to CC’s.I have leardn one thing thru Chucks teaching and that is to search the scripturres for youself and if I differ with the “biggies” so be it..Rioght now I see CC’s treadoing on thin ice
I’m certain that I don’t follow all that you are saying as it relates to CC’s as I am one the outside looking in. I do think every church runs the risk of departing from the Word. I assure you that there are many Bible Colleges and Seminaries that cling to and defend the inerrant Word of God. I encourage you brother to keep digging into the Word and searching for yourself. The fruit of one’s on study in what this all about.
Praying for you as you seek after Him!
I agree whole heartedly with your assessment and position Gunnar. I also agree with Matt’s comments regarding learning how to minister “on the job” as it were (Elijah/Elisha). However, they are not mutually exclusive. They can be together and simultaneous if need be. Even though I do not serve in full-time, vocational ministry, I am very grateful for the seminary education I received. Not simply to seek additional knowledge of biblical concepts and theological systems and terminology, but more than anything to be challenged to go deeply into the Word of God and meditate on it in a way most do not (more by requirement than choice). When you choose wisely the right seminary, by that I mean both biblically sound and one that meets your needs, you also gain an invaluable tool in spotting bad doctrine; which seems to be rather pervasive in Christian company. I don’t say this to judge, but rather as an observation. We as Christians need to understand context of Scripture, not only content of Scripture. And we learn this through sound Bible exposition. I also attended a seminary that has a different perspective regarding certain theological perspectives and I was challenged and encouraged to articulate more fully my own position as well as getting to experience loving teachers who may not agree with me at times, but supported me when I could defend them from God’s Word. This has proven useful when interacting with fellow Christians because we as God’s people come from many backgrounds but need to unite as one body in Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord for His awesome goodness and God bless you.
Good word. Thank you for the input.
Great stuff Gunnar. As one who literally learned the “cemetery” mantra while attending CCBC 20 years ago I have an extra measure of ire towards hearing it repeated.
I’ve been alive near 40 years and somehow involved in ministry for the last 22 of them. While I would likely be one to struggle with the “love of learning” vs. “love of the Lord” issues, I would consider it a complete blessing if the Lord made a way for me to go to seminary at some point. Attending in my younger days just didn’t happen, and God did use CCBC, local churches and pastors, and His Spirit and Word to teach me and prepare me for the pastoral, church planting, Bible College, and evangelistic ministries I’ve been involved with for the past couple of decades. But to knock it without cause, especially when so many well known CC pastors have gone back to school and earned Masters and Doctorates from a seminary (like I hope to some day) is just childish.
I’m currently Directing the start up of a School of Ministry in Ireland, with the specific purpose of meeting the needs of those who want to know God’s word better and be better prepared for ministry. If what they learn through the program is what they need for God’s purposes in their life then great. If any one of them showed a desire to learn more, dig deeper, write papers and develop an even stronger foundation for full time ministry then I would happily recommend further programs of study to them. In fact, the seminary you attended is a great one!
Thanks Jon, I really appreciate your input here. Yes, SCS is a GREAT seminary…actually, the more exposed I become to other Bible Colleges and Seminaries the more I appreciate my experience there.
Gunnar — in your experience as SCS did you happen to get any kind of feel for the quality of education at SDCC (formerly Christian Heritage)? I ask because it’s a consideration for Kevan when he graduates high school. If you have any thoughts on SDCC or have heard anything while at SCS I’d appreciate your input.
I did not attend there, but I did know a number of people who did. My brother in law went there and I thought it was good for him spiritually and academically. I believe during his time there (he did the first two years a Grossmont College and then transferred for his Jr and Sr years) he really grew close to the Lord. He excelled academically and is now in law school on a full ride scholarship. Many of the missionaries we partner with attended there…so from what I know, I believe it is a very good Christian College. I’m pretty sure there is a financial break for MK’s also…
Hi, Gunnar – good thoughts. We shouldn’t bash seminary nor should we disdain those who choose not to go down that road. As I see it, seminary is inevitable. Personal testimony – I am a Bible College graduate and seminary never really appealed to me – not the knowledge to be gained, but the time and expense it took to gain it along with some courses that held zero interest for me. Yet I think that anyone with a modicum of intelligence and who has been in pulpit ministry for ten years and is serious about exegetical work and wants to arrive at the historical, linguistic, cultural, theological, relevant meaning of the text and is working through all the other dimensions of ministry – counseling, administration, homiletics, etc., probably has a masters under his belt by that time. Meaning, those who bash seminary, if they’ve been serious about ministry, have been in seminary! Seminary is inevitable. And with the internet, good grief, the fruit of the seminary is right there for the picking. And if you have any brain juice, you don’t need formal seminary to contextualize the info you pick up from books, commentaries, the internet, etc.
The Calvary Chapel experience proves that formal seminary is not necessary to be effective in ministry. And no, this obviously isn’t true of all, but it is true of a large enough cross section of CC to be more than an anomaly. The word seminary itself comes from ‘semen’ – seed. Anybody in ministry has to have fresh seed flowing into them. Whether this comes from the formal class setting or from the initiative of the pastor in his study, it has to be there. Anyway, that’s my thesis – seminary is inevitable – and it comes in different forms.
Let me hasten to add that my Bible College experience was designed to be a seminary experience. The usual route to ministry was that a man would take a four year degree at a secular university and then move on to a seminary for his graduate work. This is where he would get his languages and theology and ministry related courses. Bible College was originally designed to collapse the four years of university and the three years of seminary into the four years of Bible College. In Bible College you would take some of the general university courses – history, psychology, English, etc. And then we had our language and theology and pastoral classes – administration, hermeneutics, homiletics, etc. So, in a sense, anyone who has been to Bible College has also been, in a minor way, to seminary, too.
I appreciate your input, although I disagree with you in broad strokes. I would say before I begin, is that when I wrote this blog post, I categorized “Bible College and Seminary” in the same camp as they are both formal training. I started with Bible college as I had no degree beginning my quest to study the Bible. Like you, I felt like that experience had equipped me well enough for the ministry, but I had money available through the VA so I continued my education. I am so thankful that I did because I realized how much more I had to learn–especially as it came to the use of the original languages which was not a part of undergraduate work.
By no means, do I think Bible College and seminary are required for eligibility in the ministry. I hardly disdain those who didn’t go that route, but the reality is those who don’t go this route are hamstrung in most circles. I think it is unfortunate to see many guys after 20 years of ministry who wish they would have gone the seminary route, but were advised against it, only to have doors shut on them because they lack the degree (or Union Card of an M.Div. as I often joke). You say one shouldn’t “bash seminary” and then in almost the same breath proceed to say, “And if you have any brain juice, you don’t need formal seminary to contextualize the info you pick up from books, commentaries, the internet, etc.” This clearly minimizes and insults what seminary is. Your description of self-study is a far stretch from my experience in seminary. I don’t want to come off the wrong way at all, but when comments like this about seminary surface, it seems like they are done more to justify one’s not have gone seminary. I believe teaching the Scriptures comes with eternal weight and gravity and this should be taken seriously and men should be encouraged to take their preparation seriously.
That being said, I do think that those who are in the ministry should constantly be growing, learning, gaining and sharpening the tools in their bag. But to equate the rigorous disciplined study of seminary to personal digging is simply inaccurate. To promote this thinking is a disservice to the young men who want to be equipped for the long haul of ministry.
Hi, Gunnar – to say I feel misunderstood is an understatement. Nothing I wrote was intended as an attack, but it seems as if it were taken that way – and for that I am sorry.
You write of men feeling hamstrung by not achieving advanced degrees. This is true of those seeking a career in the academy, but not of the pastorate. And many who either didn’t take advantage of seminary by choice or from being counseled away from it still have opportunity to attend – distance learning has been a reality for so many. But not going to seminary doesn’t mean a man doesn’t take his preparation seriously. Personal digging can be just as demanding and rewarding as seminary. Many men will testify to this. Obviously, it takes a certain personality and vision, but one doesn’t have to attend seminary to be a scholar.
Again, if someone wants to attend seminary believing it to be the will of God – go for it. If someone doesn’t want to attend seminary believing it to be the will of God – go for it. To suggest that foregoing seminary indicates a lack of seriousness about ministry preparation promotes a disservice to those entering ministry without it. Formal seminary is not necessary for long haul ministry. Formal Seminary training does not guarantee ministry over the long haul – nor does the lack of it. Seminary training has been an untold blessing for the multiplied thousands who have par taken of it – not only on formal studies, but in relationship with profs and other students. Again, my thesis is: seminary is inevitable – if you’re serious, you’ll get it one way or another. Peace.
I am sorry if I came of too harshly toward you, it wasn’t my intent. I confess, that I probably went after “the others” I have ran into in the past rather than what you actually said. Sorry for misinterpreting between the lines.
I agree with you concerning the idea continuing to pursue your education throughout your life.
As to the hamstrung part, I cannot speak for within Calvary Chapel circles because I am not in them. While not having a seminary degree will not hurt you within Calvary Chapel circles, it will limit one of opportunities outside of that circle. I think my original blog, and the heart of my comments, is in reaction to the overall negative disposition to formal training (i.e. Bible College and Seminary) at large within Calvary Chapel circles.
This being said, I agree with you, that I would take an untrained man who is passionate for the Lord and the Word over a guy with all sorts of degrees and no passion and zeal for the things of the Lord. I appreciate your last paragraph.
I think the whole cemetery/seminary phrase grew out of an evangelical man attending a liberal leaning seminary and emerging spiritually castrated. I don’t think this is the case in evangelical/conservative seminaries – right?
I have no idea, this sounds reasonable to me…is this a homework assignment for me? 😉
No, your seminary days are over. Wait! No they’re not. Get on that right away.
I think, too, another basis for the cemetery/seminary phrase is that an evangelical man goes to an evangelical seminary and emerges as a staunch evangelical, but then goes into the pulpit and spends much time introducing, explaining, and then refuting the JEPD theory of the authorship of the Pentateuch. Or delights in bringing out the nuances of the 3rd person plural middle pluperfect of whatever. The sermon becomes a lecture and the pastor becomes a professor. This is sometimes necessary and edifying. Ecc. 3 captures it well – there is a time for everything.
LOL, you are about to hit another pet peeve of mine…maybe I should blog another post that comes from the other side of my mouth! If this were aimed at seminaries, I have a big ax to grind. Remember, I did quit a doctoral program while in the midst of my dissertation. Everything must be taken in balance and I feel like this blog is made up mostly by CC guys who sort of shun the the premise of seminary (even though I do find it funny that many of the “old guys” are getting themselves pretty credentialed with Demons, oh excuse me, D.Min. degrees!). If I were to recommend a seminary for a young man seeking to enter into the ministry, I would advise them to go to one that offers night classes where you just go once or twice a week (like my seminary) because it is expected that you are actively serving and involved with the local church. This keeps one grounded…they are many in academia who are so backwards and disconnected from the real world that they actually do damage to the person going into the ministry…I have even seen seminary break a person of qualification from the ministry. That is why I try to emphasize that seminaries are not created equally and one must select wisely!
Okay, I started the research on this saying…but we’re in trouble. One of the top hits was this blog…so I’m going with your belief on the matter! 🙂
Why didn’t you finish your dissertation? Please correct me if I’m wrong, but implied is that you saw a disconnect between the subject of your dissertation and the practical demands of ministry. Is that right?
I don’t think CC guys shun the premise of seminary – like I said – seminary is inevitable. I think I might rephrase it as they shun the process of formal seminary. Maybe. But then some of the guys enroll in one fashion or another in the formal process.
Let me return to an earlier point you made about the intensity and academic ‘push’ of the seminary vs. self-study. I wouldn’t disagree with that at all. Which is why I said earlier that a serious man doing exegetical and church work (with all that entails) for ten years would have a masters level degree of work under his belt. What seminary would provide in 2-3 years in terms of academic exposure is matched in 10 years by a serious man. Who knows – maybe in even less time. Or more. Or not at all.
Hey Tim, not sure if this is going to post in the right spot…let’s hope so…
I don’t know if I’m going to let you pidgin hole me that easily! 🙂 I think that at the doctoral level, at that particular seminary, I was finding a disconnect between the ministry and what was expected of me for graduation. But, that wasn’t the reason I dropped and I did make many good friends and partook in excellent seminars that were very beneficial for the ministry. I dropped from the program because I was feeling more and more convicted that I was to focus on law enforcement chaplaincy and writing a book from my masters thesis on “The Christian and Combat.” I still need to get going on that…but I feel like God led me away…but this was after completed a BA in Biblical Studies, a Master of Divinity degree, and after 2/3 of the Doctor of Ministry all within the span of about 9 years. Did I mention that I am an extreme Type A?
Interesting, too, are the contrasting contexts – So. Baptist and CC. Being a historically young movement, those vehicles some might see as building long term stability into the movement have not been prominent, viz., higher education. But anyone within CC can see this as an emerging theme. From intentional training for church planters to many long time pastors pursuing formal seminary training to gain tools and the skills to use them – this is a trend that will only grow. I welcome it. Obviously, the danger with anything of this nature is that head will eclipse heart and the result is more light than heat. Which is just as worrying as its contrast – heart eclipsing head resulting on more heat than light. An incandescent bulb doesn’t give off much heat and a wall heater doesn’t give off much light. Ah, but a fire…
I like your description of fire. I think we both agree that every person walking with the Lord should desire to burn brighter and hotter with every day. I can’t speak for others, but I want to be known as David was in Psalm 78:72, “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands.” Two things leap out at me: 1) integrity and 2) skill of hand. I have seen many a pastor fall because of lack of integrity and so I guard my heart. I want to increase the skill of my hand as it relates to the pastoral ministry. I believe my foundation of skill came through practice in the local church and also a great foundation through Bible College and Seminary. Whatever route you go, I think we both agree that we should work and improving our skill as pastors as best we can with what we have been given!
It has been a major dislike of mine hearing this cemetery reference for the last forty years. My experience has been, it usually comes from people that had the opportunity to go, and me always feeling less than valued as a “real” pastor for not going. I made a choice to stay in the workforce working full time so we could let my wife be a full time Mom. We made choices to go without so she could stay at home, for us it worked.
I have been a serious aggressive student of the Word since 1975, I tried going to school at night and weekends but with three kids and 50 hours a week working, it was not to be.
Before I posted this, I felt yet again inadequate and went to look at school websites to see if I could try again at 55….. but there it is again, that 300-500$ a unit to go back to school, again, I have the conversation in my head, you would think by now I would be over it, nope…. I am not. So for me, I will never have the chance to go, I am ok with it but MAN !! it kills me to hear people knocking it and calling it cemetery, We as pastors need to do a better job at bringing up the guys behind us,find young men that are called to the ministry and help pave the way.
I know this is a lot of rambling but, it is a sore spot that just hurts.
Grace and Peace………
Hardly rambling. I am deeply appreciative of your comments and am thankful that you did indeed make them. Two pressing thoughts surfaced within me as I read your words:
1) A deep sense of gratitude for what I received in my education. I actually made money through the VA as I went through all of my coursework. It’s easy to lose sight of how the Lord provided for me.
2) I believe that we should encourage young guys that feel called to head down the Bible College and Seminary road, but to maybe come up behind them as a church and help finance their equipping. I do know that there are many trusts set up to help in this way at some Bible Colleges and Seminaries, but I am convicted to at least pray about setting up some sort of scholarship fund at my church to help offset the financial strain.
Again, thank you for your comments. I was deeply blessed through your heart that came through your words.
My heart and thoughts echo those of my wise elder friend Tim Brown ;): “But not going to seminary doesn’t mean a man doesn’t take his preparation seriously. Personal digging can be just as demanding and rewarding as seminary. Many men will testify to this. Obviously, it takes a certain personality and vision, but one doesn’t have to attend seminary to be a scholar.”
There are non-seminarian pastors who, frankly, are terrible at exegesis but good at delivery. Some are great at exegesis and terrible at delivery. Some are terrible at both! Some have absolutely no discipline in their study habits and would rather parrot the latest things going around.
BUT… there are MANY who — for whatever reason, be it circumstance or choice — did not attend seminary and yet take their education very seriously and self-study just like a seminary student. They download free seminary classes online. They read the same books seminary students study. They search the commentaries and critical analyses that seminary professors have written. They find programs online or near home to study original languages. There are MANY of these self-taught types of pastors (some, like me, who would still love to study formally and some who don’t have that desire) who are equally skilled and similarly trained without the formal seminary education.
But these are rare men, to be honest. And as Tim said, it takes a different kind of man. I have many friends and colleagues in the CC movement who fit this bill. Admittedly, I am aware of some of the opposite types as well, but there seems to be a sort inbuilt qualification for the first few generations of CC that required this special kind of man to both fit in and succeed.
Good insight. In this discussion, I have to keep coming back around to the reality that I went to a very good seminary. I was trained by men that were older and had run the race. I very much feel like the older generation was passing off the baton to the next generation. I will also agree that there are some seminaries that are cemeteries. Maybe even a great number of them, but there are many good institutions and my assumption in this discussion is we are talking about good seminaries.
I am an extreme Type A personality and believe I am a pretty disciplined person, but acknowledge that there is now way that I would have pressed, tried, prepared, etc at the level that I was apart of Bible College and seminary. I know there are guys who are disciplined in there study, but I agree with you I think they are rare and I cannot concede that self-study is the same as studying under someone that is challenging, pushing, examining, and correcting your efforts.
We all agree that studying and growing intentionally is a part of the pastoral life regardless of background. The pastor who stops perusing his personal growth is a dead pastor. We need to encourage this.
Let us know when you finish that book. And I get it, SEALS in pigeon holes doesn’t send the right signal!
Every time I mention that book I become extremely convicted to be more disciplined to get it done. I do so much better with deadlines than just the pressure to get it done…whenever. Maybe this is why I am a proponent of formal study because I need that pressure. I am currently in discussion with a publisher in hopes that it drives me to focus on completing the task. This is why I love preaching…I have a deadline that comes every week which forces me into the Word. I think I would be a horrible student of the Word if I wasn’t teaching… 🙂
“I think I would be a horrible student of the Word if I wasn’t teaching” – I resemble that remark! 🙂
Glad to know I’m not alone!!
Want to first thank you for your service to our country and for being a SEAL at that! Secondly, I sincerely appreciate this article you’ve written as well as the comments from others. I received this article today from a trusted friend. It is insightful and encouraging to me to say the least. In 30 days I will be heading to seminary after a three year long struggle on whether or not I should. In a sense I’m gald that I did not attend three years ago because looking back part of my struggle was with spiritual maturity. I am fortunate however, to have served in the meantime in our church’s veterans ministry. I have learned much about the workings of ministry, the value of fellowship with other believers while sharing in our struggles, as well as growing in the knowledge of our Lord through the encouragement and guidance of my fellow veterans. Once again, great article and thanks for all that you do in service to our Lord Jesus Christ!
Semper Fi & God Bless,
GySgt, USMC (Ret)
Thank you for your service to God and country. Thanks for the encouraging words. I trust you will be blessed and stretched through seminary. It can be challenging, but that is all part of God’s refining process. You’re in my prayers.
Gunnar (and all) — I thought you might enjoy reading a similar perspective from another brother who serves at CC Costa Mesa. http://blog.joshturansky.com/post/37319109095/not-a-cemetery
Nice article Gunnar. I grew SBC, and attend both a SBC church and Costa Mesa back in the tent days. I think seminary has so many benefits, one being that it has taught me to think outside my circle…. even more important is how it has helped become a better teacher of God’s word. I’ve looking to start a 2nd Masters next year. A Doctorate later? ummm who knows….
BTW, Mike O’Mahony……
I’m 55 as well. I might some information for you regarding a MA program that is completely on line. E-mail me if you are interested…. firstname.lastname@example.org
Good word and blessings to you on your educational pursuits. I do think there are many new options between online learning and distance learning. I’ve done both and think they do ad a convenience factor, but as I compare and contrast my two experiences, I think I enjoyed the classroom setting more because there is something by having to interact with flesh and blood that doesn’t translated to “Blackboard” online…
I agree Gunnar. However, I’m 170 miles and a major mountain range from the closest seminary. I may take some one week intensives classes; like you I see the value of being in the classroom.
Right on. Don’t get me wrong I see the value in both…maybe I was tacking that on to answer a question I receive often. I am thankful for distance learning…it’s how I started down this road. 🙂 Praying that the Lord uses this time in a mighty way in your life.
Thanks for the great post on a great subject. I also have enjoyed the reply’s and follow-ups. I feel like I’m late to the table on this thread, but after 20 plus years serving at a local CC, and now moved on to a solid denomination fellowship, I can all too relate to the not having the union card, therefore not able to serve above greeter. Since I was discouraged about attending any kind of formal schooling back in the day, I’m starting, in my mid 40’s, to acquire my associates and then my bachelor’s degree thru an online program of a good conservative university. I do work a full time and family, and with the help of my wife, my church, the Holy Spirit, Pell grants and a few scholarships, I’m on my way…
Thanks for the comments. Keep up the hard work. I do believe the work done at a solid seminary is beneficial. Your experience in the ministry will certainly be a blessing to your cohorts.
Blessings to you,