Should I Go To Seminary?

This is a burning question for many in ministry and many wanting to go into ministry full time. I know I wrestled with this question for a good ten years before I actually went to seminary. I always debated the benefits of going to seminary. Is it worth the time? Do I want to move away from the ministry I am in? What can they actually teach me that I can’t learn on my own? Is it really that valuable to my development as a minister of the Gospel?

Now I get it, everyone has to find their calling and sometimes God’s call to ministry doesn’t involve seminary, but for me it did. The tipping point came for me when I asked a trusted friend what he thought about me going to seminary and he responded in a curious way. He said, “Well yes, isn’t that what pastors do?” And his answer sounded trite, but he followed up his comment with this explanation. “Seminary is the normal path for men going into ministry, if this training was set up to train ministers of the Gospel then, yes, you should do it.” For my friend it was no different than a doctor going to medical school or and engineer studying math and physics at the university. If I was to be a minister of the Gospel, then I should seek the usually means of preparation, and I did. For my friend it was one part calling to ministry and a second part following the regular path towards that calling unless God moved in a different direction.

Norton Hall, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky (85750)After making my decision to go to seminary, my wife and I packed up and moved to Louisville, KY to attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and pursue a Master of Divinity Degree. This is what I found. Was seminary worth the time? Absolutely! In three years I engaged in focused and intense Bible study and increased my biblical knowledge ten fold. SBTS gave me a foundational understanding of the Bible and the Gospel that has been invaluable in ministry. Was it worth moving away from my current ministry position to pursue my degree? Yes! Stepping away from ministry for a season to focus on learning the Bible more in depth changed the way I think about ministry and the Gospel forever. What did I actually learn that I couldn’t have learned on my own? First of all I found this question was rooted in the pride of my own soul. What can men who have dedicated their lives to researching the Bible and methods of ministry teach me? Everything! I learned more than I ever knew was out there.

But in my mind one aspect of my seminary time sticks out as invaluable. The connections I made with other men and women pursuing their calling in ministry has changed my life. This was a complete surprise to me. I made friends with professors, theologians, seasoned pastors, writers, and men just like me called to and training for ministry. At any seminary there are the guys that are just there wasting time, but there are also guys that are soaking up every minute and stewarding the opportunity to study well. I jumped in with a solid group of guys and we studied hard. These days of study and debate have been some of the best and brightest of my life. We lived life together and studied the Word together. We lived and breathed the Word and dreamed of how God would use us. Now I look around the country and the world as my group of friends are putting their training into practice. My friends are pastoring churches, leading ministries, teaching in Christian schools, and giving up their lives as missionaries all over the world. We keep up with each other and have a friendship that was made and refined in the Gospel of Christ as we studied together.  It is so exciting to see the ways God is using us. As a side note let me encourage you if you are thinking about going to seminary to move to an institution and study intensely with the goal of leaving. Moving to seminary should be short-term and temporary. I know not everyone can leave their place of ministry, but if at all possible, do it. The community of believers studying the Word together has an infectious and special quality about it that has borne fruit in amazing ways I could have never seen coming.

I have now engaged in further study. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Old Testament from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (GGBTS) soon to be Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. This time around I was not able to move to the seminary campus. Instead I commute to GGTBS each month and study with a new set of professors and men deepening their understanding of the Word. I expect God will use our relationships in many new and exciting ways and already has.

Is seminary really that valuable? It is invaluable. Count it a privilege to even be able to consider the question and jump in with both feet. Come out walking arms linked with many other brothers and sisters in Christ standing on a solid foundation of Biblical knowledge.

SBTS has a hymn that they like to sing at every graduation that looks forward to the day that all of us as ministers of the Gospel will be gathered together before Christ and think about what He has done in the world, how He used our weakness to display his strength. It was written by Basil Manly, Jr. circa 1860 for the first graduating class of Southern Seminary and it goes like this:

Soldiers of Christ, in truth arrayed,
A world in ruins needs your aid:
A world by sin destroyed and dead;
A world for which the Savior bled.

His Gospel to the lost proclaim,
Good news for all in Jesus’ Name;
Let light upon the darkness break
That sinners from their death may wake.

Morning and evening sow the seed,
God’s grace the effort shall succeed.
Seedtimes of tears have oft been found
With sheaves of joy and plenty crowned.

We meet to part, but part to meet
When earthly labors are complete,
To join in yet more blest employ,
In an eternal world of joy.

Should I go to Seminary? Yes.

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