ChurchETHOS

Why Seminary?

Posted in uncategorized by Nathan Creitz on June 17, 2008
This is my second time to be a seminarian. The first time I had a hard time staying dedicated to my studies. I eventually left due to God’s call on my life to move to Boston. However, while I was there the first time I didn’t make the most of it. There were several reasons for this:
Why Not Seminary?
1. I thought it was cool that people recognized the disciples as being “untrained and uneducated men” but realized they had “been with Jesus”.
2. Seminary seemed out of touch. The professors were about 10 years behind the times (they are usually very old and don’t even know how to use the one working overhead projector in the classroom much less a PowerPoint presentation). By the time you separate yourself from culture for 3 or 4 years, you’ve slipped behind the times about 10 to 15 years.
3. Three quarters of what I was learning I felt was irrelevant to my desire to minister to the Church and engage the culture with the Gospel.
4. The other quarter of relevant material seemed to be presented in such a boring manner that I couldn’t imagine anyone ever wanting to hear the Good News from one of these professors.
5. Most seminaries have to charge a lot of money and the students options are very limited in how they obtain their degree. Most graduates end up getting a job in ministry right out of seminary with a huge debt that very few churches will ever be able to provide enough for them to pay off. Most mission boards won’t allow someone to go onto the field if they have debt so the graduate is forced to work in the marketplace for a number of years just to pay off their debt.
6. I felt like I lived in a Christian bubble. I was volunteering at my church, working at a Christian school and going to seminary. Not much opportunity to interact with the world around me.
7. I always held up my heroes who had not attended seminary as examples of why you don’t need seminary. People like Billy Graham, and Charles Spurgeon topped my list.
Well, things have changed in my life. I now attend a seminary that I respect greatly. Many of the above issues have been resolved (at least for me) but most importantly, my attitude has changed. I recognize the value of this education and have a desire to finish with excellence. Some of the above issues still remain as challenges for seminaries. I hope one day to be a part of the solution. Following are some reasons for anyone wanting to go into full-time ministry to go to seminary (I like that I have some ministry experience under my belt…it makes the discussions that much richer, but I wouldn’t put seminary off for very long).
Why Seminary?
1. You wouldn’t ask a surgeon to operate on someone who hasn’t been to medical school. You wouldn’t want a lawyer on your case who never went to law school. As a side note, if I found out my surgeon graduated at the bottom of his class, I would look elsewhere. I don’t think John Piper’s “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals” was a call to forsake formal training. We need to be equipped by others and not just by our own best intentions (which are usually undisciplined and sporadic).
2. What about all those spiritual giants who did go to seminary. Not to mention those who changed the world from the platform of higher education. People like Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien did a lot from the setting of the University or Seminary to bring revolution and change to the Church.
3. What about all that ministry training the apostles received directly from Jesus for a period of about 3 years? Sure, it was the Holy Spirit who eventually mobilized them and qualified them to do the work, but Jesus’ hands on training laid the foundation for His apostles.
4. Seminary teaches more than knowledge, they also teach humility. One of my professors said, “As the Island of Knowledge grows so do the Shores of Ignorance.” Meaning that the more you know, the more you know how little you know. It’s humbling to comprehend the breadth and width, height and depth of God’s love (Eph 3:18) and multi-faceted wisdom (Eph 3:10) and to have it thrown in your face again and again in such a concentrated way.
5. Seminary has its weaknesses, but its strengths make up for the lack. You may not have the same hands on experience and 1:12 ratio that the disciples had but they encourage every student to get practical experience with local churches during their seminary years. Their strengths are teaching languages, Biblical Theology, and Church History. It’s unrealistic to think that a full-time pastor will read the number of assigned books that a seminarian is asked to read or spend the same amount of time listening to lectures as the seminarian in 30 years, much less in 3. In other words, the training is concentrated and intense for 3 short years, but you will have already learned what might take you a lifetime to learn “on-the-job”. Not that the education ends when you are done with seminary, rather it gives you a foundation to build on that an uneducated pastor will not have.
6. This next reason might be a bit controversial but since “perception is reality” I want to offer it here for your consideration: In a place like Boston, reaching the educated elite with no degree is a sure way to get people to go elsewhere. You may have all the tools necessary to “equip the saints” but they won’t believe that and their feet will lead them away before you get a chance to prove that God is working through you. (I realize this is an overgeneralization and many people aren’t concerned with “a piece of paper”, still, it’s worth considering)
Any other reasons to go to seminary? Other reasons why not to go to seminary? Questions, comments, and push-back all welcome here.

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