‘You Could Go to Seminary!’

“You could go to seminary!”

I will never forget those words from my wife Lynnette—and she won’t either.

They were uttered as we were eating lunch one day in the spring of 1994, watching The Coral Ridge Hour from Dr. D. James Kennedy and Coral Ridge Ministries. The segment at the end of that particular episode highlighted the new Knox Theological Seminary, which Dr. Kennedy had begun and was promoting to his national television audience.

I was ending the second year of my first pastorate, in a small church in a small town in northwest Illinois, and had completed two graduate classes during that school year.

Lynnette’s words shocked me—and, I think, her as well. They also changed our lives forever.

At that moment, I knew I wanted to, and needed to, go to seminary, and began to look at the possibilities. These were the days before the Internet—the “information superhighway” which, we were told, would change our lives, as well. We did not even own a computer. Nor did we have the money or means to take cross-country trips to visit the schools of our dreams.

However, I did know that I did not want to move to a big city. I also knew that I did not want to simply follow my college classmates and friends to the same seminaries they were attending. I was willing to break new ground—and I wanted at least a slightly different perspective than I had received in college.  

I was probably more open to differing viewpoints than even I realized at the time, but deep down I was intrigued by—even if not yet committed to—the traditional dispensational viewpoint that I had already learned from many beloved teachers, both those near to me, and also far, by means of books and media.

I had heard of Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa, from just a few different sources—so I decided to call them.

“Do you have a seminary?” I asked innocently.

“Yes, we do,” the voice on the other end reassured me.

Faith Baptist Theological Seminary was eight years old at the time, and within a few days a packet of information from the school was in my mailbox.

The minute I read it, I was pretty much hooked. I could not believe how many degrees these professors had—and the impressive list of schools where they had obtained them!

But one item jumped off the page at me: Dr. John C. Whitcomb was going to be teaching a week-long module in the seminary in September! I could not envision myself being anywhere else but there by that time.

I believe that God led me providentially to attend the seminary at Faith. I cannot think of a way that another seminary anywhere could have met my needs at a deeper level than Faith did. The opportunities that I had to study there—with such amazing professors, in such an intimate academic setting—could never be duplicated. These men were my teachers and my mentors, and they became my friends.

This is not to say that the whole experience was one great, happy, rosy time. Going to seminary—and going through seminary—were easily some of the hardest things I have done in my life. I can testify, however, that I could not now imagine my life without that experience. I must say that I would likely never have gone, and could never have made it through, without Lynnette’s help—and I am eternally indebted to her for that.

Perhaps you can relate my story to other difficult but worthwhile endeavors that you have undertaken, or are considering. Maybe there is even someone reading this article who has been on the fence with regard to their confidence in their own ability to attend seminary. There are certainly many more options now than there were in 1994, especially with the plethora of online programs. I would say to you what Lynnette said to me back then: “You could go to seminary!”

I returned to Faith this month for the first time in 10 years—since we were there in 2011 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Genesis Flood with Dr. Whitcomb and his family. I exhibited at this year’s Refresh Conference, and was able to engage in some additional ministries in the college. It was a time of reminiscing and reflecting for me, as well as a very productive opportunity for ministry outreach.

Faith celebrates its 100th anniversary during this year of 2021, and I am humbled to have been a part of the last 27 years of that history.

May God, in His grace and mercy, continue to bless this school for many more years to come, until Christ returns—for the good of many more students.

Paul Scharf 2019 Bio


Paul J. Scharf (M.A., M.Div., Faith Baptist Theological Seminary) is a church ministries representative for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, serving in the midwest. He also assists Whitcomb Ministries and writes for “Answers” Magazine and Regular Baptist Press. For more information on his ministry, visit foi.org/scharf or email pscharf@foi.org.

561 reads
2236 reads

There are 43 Comments

pvawter's picture

Thanks, Paul. I had a college professor who made an offhand comment to me one day about going to seminary. I had never considered it before, and I didn't consider it immediately, but his words stuck with me and eventually led me to return to school. What a blessing. "You could go to seminary," indeed!

Jonathan Charles's picture

It concerns me how few young men want to put in the time and work to get an M.Div.  Some denominations insist on it, but there is no way for that to happen for independent churches.  It is alot of work, and I think some seminaries could help things if they'd 1) lower the total number of hours needed to earn an M.Div.  I've seen accredited seminaries have a program with anywhere from 72 to 96 credit hours, and 2) if they'd more effectively make it a five year program: B.A. and M.Div.  One seminary dean told me they don't push it because most young men can't do it all in 5 years. 

Two observations: most church pulpit committees would not know the difference between a master's degree that was earned with 36 hours, 66 hours and 90 hours.  It's all alphabet soup to them.  And some don't even know the difference between credible schools and degree mills. 

Bert Perry's picture

....perhaps it would be good to either lower the hours for an Mdiv, or create something intermediate, but....looking at the listings from Faith, it strikes me that there are already a bunch of steps between the "pastoral studies" BA and the Mdiv there already.  So those churches that are satisfied with a few fewer hours are free to choose graduates with those qualifications.

That noted, the thing that strikes me as I look at the course offerings at Faith (I'd presume other colleges as well) is that it does not seem that the bachelor's degree coursework will transfer over well to MDiv studies.  You take two years of Greek as an undergrad--how does that transfer over to an MDiv program, if at all?  

I am reminded of the programs I took in engineering, as well as those my daughters have taken in nursing, and in many schools, there are courses that will transfer well to the majors themselves, and courses that are watered down for those who will likely never go on to be, say, a EE or nurse. (or doctor, or whatever)  There was an electrical circuits course for electrical engineers, and a different one for mechanical and civil engineers.  In the same way, colleges offer chemistry courses "for nursing majors", and then chemistry courses for those studying chemistry or going for pre-med.

Read that last bit--I know a few MDs who have started out as CNAs, and if they took the "watered down" courses for nurses, they basically wasted a semester or so of college.  If a lot of the "pastoral studies" degrees amount to the same, we ought to have a bit of soul-searching about whether a pastor really needs just the bachelor's, or whether he really ought to have a good, REAL liberal arts undergrad followed by the MDiv.

(real liberal arts meaning grammar, dialectic/logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, fleshed out in history, literature, and languages)

And as a pastoral committee member who's seen a HUGE difference between Bible college BA holders and those with an MDIv--the latter almost always think far better on their feet and are far better theologically, while the former tend to know pat answers and rely on favorite commentaries--I think a good review of our approach to pastoral training is in order.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

Wow Paul sounds like you had a great experience even though I'm sure it was a long slug to get through Seminary.  I would never have made it.  I'm sure the courses were very challenging.  God Bless you.  
 

Never met Dr Whitcomb but knew the man who lead him to the Lord    Donald Fullerton the founder and head of  Princeton Evangelical Fellowship  Donald Fullerton inspired many young Princeton Grads to go to Seminary and into the ministry or the mission field   In fact I later had some of those Princeton Grads on furlow attend my church I'm NJ   Woody and Sue Lewis who Jim may know because Sue Lewis ' family was from Haddon Heights Baptist   
 

Question is has Seminary become to expensive for young men today   I guess there is many ways to skin a cat   It seems hard to incur huge bills for Seminary and then get paid such a  low salary to be a Pastor   
 

Berts point is well taken concerning someone with an M Div who can truly do expository preaching vs topical preaching and repeating things others have taught   Of course the more I see of the church today and how it's becoming a big business I think our churches need to go back to the basics with well educated Pastors leading them.  .  
 

In a lot of ways the IFB has good points and could lead a revival if they gave up on the legalism and KJVO Nonsense. In these days of the Glitz they really are a good way to go.  In a lot of ways the Evangelical Church in the US has become corrupt and to intertwined with the Republican Party and focusing on making heaven on earth   They are more excited about Donald Trump then the Lord Jesus Christ   I just saw Ravi Zacharias' son tweet s video in the Philadelphia Airport   Apparently he was at some rally at Grace Chapel in Delaware County and he said that he was was so excited to see you g Christian Men and Women fighting CANCEL CULTURE   I kid you not it put a knife right through my heart   Especially after all the stuff his father did    To say he was all excited about young Christian Men and Women Fighting Cancel culture is very sad.    
 

The church is doing need of well educated Pastors from Seminaries to teach the gospel and inspire people to change hearts and minds through Christ not just fight CANCEL CULTURE What happened to the Godly Men like Dr Whitcomb and Donald Fullerton that inspired young men to go to Seminary to further the kingdom of God    Oh well enough from me   When I heard that recording by Ravi Zacharias son I was ready hear something inspiring  instead he makes a political statement to raise money most likely   

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm persuaded that training men for pastoral leadership and other ministry leadership needs to start sooner. Though many high school aged guys have no idea yet, schools and local churches can still create training programs that will prepare a pool from which God may call men into leadership in the future.

Why start early? Because there really is such a great need for pastors with broad and deep understanding of our culture and history included the arts and sciences, as well as comprehensive Bible knowledge--and people skills. You can't do all this in college and seminary, especially if there's interest in reducing the hours required for seminary degrees.

By the way, Central Seminary where I earned my M.Div., had a thinner degree called MABS at the time. I don't know if they still offer that. When the sledding was really getting wearisome, about 3 years in, I almost switched from M.Div. to MABS, which would have resulted in almost immediate graduation.

I had actually decided to do it, and went to the registrar, who was Mrs. Hauser at the time. She talked me out of it. I'm forever grateful.

More isn't necessarily better, but the probability is high.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

T Howard's picture

Jonathan Charles wrote:

It concerns me how few young men want to put in the time and work to get an M.Div.  Some denominations insist on it, but there is no way for that to happen for independent churches.  It is alot of work, and I think some seminaries could help things if they'd 1) lower the total number of hours needed to earn an M.Div.  I've seen accredited seminaries have a program with anywhere from 72 to 96 credit hours, and 2) if they'd more effectively make it a five year program: B.A. and M.Div.  One seminary dean told me they don't push it because most young men can't do it all in 5 years. 

Two observations: most church pulpit committees would not know the difference between a master's degree that was earned with 36 hours, 66 hours and 90 hours.  It's all alphabet soup to them.  And some don't even know the difference between credible schools and degree mills. 

Three points on lowering the hours:

  • Several MDiv programs have already lowered the credit hours required for the degree. To do so, they basically cut out the language requirements (both Hebrew and Greek). Consequently, guys who are graduating from these programs are unable to work with the original languages or interact with exegetical commentaries. Instead of ad fontes, they are reliant on ad Logos. Logos is a power tool, but it still doesn't provide the intimacy with the original languages that a pastor should have and want. I've seen pastors with no original language training wax eloquent on Greek verbs and Greek word studies based on what they discovered with their portfolio edition of Logos. The problem was they didn't understand the language well enough to avoid committing numerous exegetical fallacies.
  • It took me six years to complete my MDiv. I did so mostly online while working fulltime, leading my family of six, and teaching regularly at my church. To those guys who want a quick and easy advanced theological education, I say go sell used cars instead of entering pastoral ministry. Pastoral ministry is hard and requires faithfulness and perseverance. Earning an advanced degree that requires hard work, perseverance, and determination is a great preparatory step for pastoral ministry.
  • In the churches I've attended, the pastoral search committees did not know the differences between a MA, MDiv, or ThM. Additionally, they didn't understand the differences between a DMin and a PhD. That being said, if that is a reason a man uses to not pursue the harder degree then he really should be a used car salesman instead of pursuing pastoral ministry.
Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me, regarding the deletion of the ancient languages from some MDIv programs, that this strikes at the heart of what a pastor is supposed to be able to do--to clearly answer the question of what a particular word means in a given verse.  There is at many levels a great deal of ambiguity in translation, so if there was any place where I'd cut the MDiv short, it would not be in original languages.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JDen's picture

I'm currently completing my final semester of an MA in Biblical Studies from Maranatha Baptist University, as well as concurrently finishing a BA in Biblical Studies with minors in history and pastoral studies. Between the two degrees, I will have taken a total of 145 credits, 46 of which are graduate level. Another 21 undergraduate credits are counted as Advanced Placement, positioning me to be a little over two-thirds done with my MDiv when I graduate in May. My program has been a custom-made six-year plan, but MBU offers a standardized dual degree pathway which allows students to complete a master's degree while an undergraduate.

To Aaron's point, I think that some of this could even be completed during high school years, whether through dual enrollment classes or simply through a more focused curriculum. I know of one person who completed her associate's degree while still in high school through both CLEP tests and dual enrollment classes.

What I would say is that if we're making cuts to education, those cuts should be in high school and college, not seminary. I personally wouldn't cut a single one of the MDiv's 96 credits. That said, I do not discount my undergraduate degree, particularly the liberal arts classes that I've taken. Some have been more valuable than some of my practical and theology classes.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Lots of great thoughts and points here in the comments. Thanks so much to all of you!

Joeb, your post brought tears to my eyes.... We miss Dr. Whitcomb. While I never met Dr. Fullerton, I did write a short bio piece on him, with Dr. Whitcomb's help. You can read it here. (“Dr. Donald B. Fullerton: A Vital Witness at Princeton.” Gospel Herald and The Sunday School Times Vol. 31, No. 2. [Spring 2013]: 28.)

It is interesting how the comments from this piece go in several different directions. I would love to hear more thoughts on all of this.

For whatever it is worth, I have always been opposed to finding ways to shorten/streamline the M.Div. I was a Bible major in college, and none of my undergraduate credits counted toward seminary—yet I never found really any part of seminary to be a mere repetition of Bible college. Like JDen, perhaps, I would say that the most important classes I had in college were actually in the areas of social studies, including history and economics.

Are medical or law schools shortening their programs to make it easier to complete med or law school? Not to my knowledge. What is the rationale for making it easier to get an "M.Div."? I am not aware of a need for that, either.

I do, however, promote the idea that more pastors should get their good old-fashioned M.Div. It seems that T Howard and I are on the same page with this one.

I also learned something important from my pastor during my college years. He shared the value of getting education a little later in life (when you are more mature) and over more time than less (savoring every moment and gaining all that you can from the experience). This certainly proved true in my case.

Blessings!

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Joeb wrote:

In fact I later had some of those Princeton Grads on furlow attend my church I'm NJ   Woody and Sue Lewis who Jim may know because Sue Lewis ' family was from Haddon Heights Baptist   

David Jeremiah was the youth pastor there!

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Jeff Howell's picture

I have my M. Div, and I am forever thankful for the paraphrased verse from Ecclesiastes that my academic advisor asked me as a junior about future schooling (I was not too hip on it). He said, "you know, Jeff, the sharper your ax, the more wood you can cut." I use that with anyone I can now, after almost 30 years post seminary experience. In this era of ministry, there are some forces that are clashing that impact the pursuit of higher education. One force worth talking about is that our society values what it perceives as "value," getting the most bang for the buck. When my dad was in school, he took a 5 year degree called a Th. B. Now, you can get an accelerated M. Div in five years. Why? Because some of the redundancy noticed above (see Bert's comment) is not seen as being a good value. Another force is finances. We have accelerated the academics in order to minimize the financial burden. This appeals to the young man/family who may already have debt from college and doesn't want to add more with an extended pursuit of an advanced degree. It is still true that it can take a lot of time to pay it off, with most ministers are not driven by making the big bucks. A third force that is a  factor and ties into the two previous is the convenience of online education. Dr. Kevin Bauder has routinely addressed the issue of modes of learning, and delivery systems. All systems have conveniences, strengths, and consequences and the hot button force right now is online education. Learn from home, from your current ministry, and avoid the uprooting of family, roots, loss of job, etc., until you are sure of God's call to pastoral ministry. Well, online education is not a panacea and it isn't a diploma mill either if the school has accreditation to maintain. It is hard work, with the seminarian facing a 6-8 year long haul at earning a M.Div of the 96 credit hour traditional variety. This is where the hybrid of dual enroll and double credit comes into play. Like it or not (I am not sure I do), it is here for a while. There are some concerns that can arise for churches that are looking for a pastor need to be aware. A 23 year old, M.Div credentialed, pastoral candidate will usually have some significant maturity issues, necessitating some type of internship or assistant position for a long time. Where does he find this in a smaller church? I find myself increasingly supportive of a classic liberal arts education first, followed by traditional seminary. There can be no substitute for the original language training, and there is a huge need for logic, rhetoric, philosophy, and church history. Finally, you can avoid the ivory tower reputation by staying deeply involved in local church ministry on the way through. My thoughts ~ 

Jeff Howell's picture

A couple more thoughts. Never forget that colleges are dealing with the products sent to them by local churches, by and large. So, better product on the back end means having better raw material at the starting end. This is where I agree with Aaron, and would be a strong proponent of targeting younger men with strategic and specific mentoring during the teen years. We regularly use our teens in children's ministries, sound booth, missions trips, etc., and strongly encourage our adults to come alongside of families and be cheer leaders for our youth. Prayer, cards, words of encouragement, involvement in services are all part of cross-generational impact. ~ Jeff

Jeremy Horn's picture

This a program option that is found at the SBC seminaries. Offhand, I know of only SBTS offering this option(the others may offer it, I am unsure at present). The reason they have this option is because the SBC seminaries also have an undergraduate college as part of their school. Thus the content(lectures, textbooks, etc..) are the same for the Religion courses. The only difference is in the assignment load for undergrad vs grad.

I graduated from BJU, so I am going to use them as a contrast(I am not aware of how Faith in Ankeny or Maranatha have structured their undergrad and grad religion classes). When I was at BJU, a Bible class numbered in the 500s could be taken for either undergrad or grad credit(assignment loads differed of course). But the content and emphases between the undergrad core Bible courses and the grad core Bible courses were significantly different. The grad classes were more in depth or(as I mentioned in a post from a number of years ago) had a different emphasis than the undergrad.

Things being what they are, the issue of content reduplication is going to continue to be an issue though.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm not sure duplication of content is a bad thing. Well, I'm understating. I think it's a good thing, if the right stuff is duplicated and not the cost of something more important being skipped.

I had a decent amount of Greek in undergrad, and did test out of some seminary Greek, but not much. Getting all that the second time really made it stick, made it more an organic part of my thinking so to speak.

Same with much of the theology, which I did get a good bit of as a kid, then in high school, then in college, then again in seminary.... each time, with a different angle and emphasis.

There are no short cuts to deep, comprehensive, well-integrated learning.

Are there some things that can be done more efficiently, though? Sure. Are there adjustments to emphasis that can better balance subject matter? Absolutely!

... and continuing education should be a real thing churches expect (and fund).

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

One thing I will add here—because I add it in whenever I can....

Every student in every Bible college and seminary needs to be exposed to at least a couple hours of TRULY PRACTICAL theology.... I am not talking about how to run a deacons meeting, or how to baptize or serve communion (or even many much more IMPRACTICAL things that sometimes get grouped into our practical theology lectures). Those things are more caught than taught, and can probably be best learned outside of class, in a mentoring relationship.

Far more important—and too often completely lacking—are the things that can make or break not only your ministry but your entire future, and are difficult to find answers for ... sometimes until it is too late. Things like:

  • Here is what you need to know before taking your very first paycheck in ministry (Social Security exemption, taxes, etc.)
  • Here is what you need to know before you take the pastorate of a small church (taxes, insurance, music copyright license, etc.)
  • Here are some things to consider if you think you might ever be in a position that requires you to raise your own support
  • Here is what you need to do when you take a pastorate in a new state
  • Here is how to become licensed or ordained, and how they are different and why it matters
  • Here is how a small church can find affordable help from an attorney, accountant, etc.

I find that very PRACTICAL items like these are often badly and sadly lacking in "our schools."

Blessings!

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I've never had to spend significant time wondering about any of the things in the list Paul mentioned. I have, however, been forced to navigate church business meetings, along with disagreements about baptism and the Lord's Supper that would make Han Solo's foray into the asteroid field look like a cakewalk.

But, these are matters for mentorship in a church. A seminary can't possibly teach the practical outworkings of these things. If one is concerned with practical ministry, the church must handle that. The seminary can provide the academics.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jeff Howell's picture

and it is worth noting that some of the current trends in education regarding expediting the process end up short circuiting the full development spiritually and professionally of the man. You learn theology differently, even more incompletely at the undergrad level. You tend to study to get by, or study to the test content, rather than fully integrate or do the work of biblical understanding or synthesis. Not saying that it doesn't happen, nor am I throwing younger students under the "you have to wait until you are older" bus either. Much of this is due to the fact that a young man does not really hit his intellectual stride and integrative capacity until around the age of 25. It is good to hear it multiple times, from different angles, because what is covered in local church Sunday school and youth group is the "what" you are to believe, while seminary especially should be covering the "why" as well as the comparatives to other schools of thought. I too tested out of basic seminary intro Greek, but still had a steep learning curve to catch up because the seminary prof had different emphases than my college profs. Cedarville and CSU both offer accelerated M.Div., but not sure about FaithBBC. ~ Jeff

Paul J. Scharf's picture

TylerR wrote:

A seminary can't possibly teach the practical outworkings of these things. If one is concerned with practical ministry, the church must handle that. The seminary can provide the academics.

Tyler, I think they can.... If nothing else, make it an optional evening for couples in the seminary.

You would be amazed—and probably more than slightly amused—if I shared a list of some of the things I have seen covered in either chapel or practical theology sessions. Mercifully, some of them are forgotten.

Surely we have time to cover a few of the basics I have listed above!

The first time I remember sharing this line of thinking was in seminary. I replied to a survey and said that everything that was presented to us was wonderful, but I wished they would invite Larry Burkett to come and do a special seminar for seminary students on finances. I still to this day think that was a great idea.

Blessings!

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Speaking for myself, it's almost impossible now to look back and say "I wished I'd learned that at seminary."

  • First, I don't remember everything I learned, so maybe we did cover it. I often look back at my course notes and am struck by something amazing I apparently didn't remember or appreciate at the time.
  • Second, I might not have been able to use or appreciate it if I did learn it. Experience comes with age ... and scars.
  • Third, some lessons just can't be learned in the abstract, so covering it in seminary might have been a waste of time.
  • Fourth, the seminary isn't the local church, so it should major on academics. The church is the place to handle practical implementation.
  • Fifth, a seminary education is a solid base from whence to sally forth into ministry. It can't possibly be a encyclopedia for all things you must know. Not possible, and we'd be talking a lot more than 96 credits!

That's my two cents. My seminary education was excellent. I've moved away from some emphases in the intervening years, but that's not the seminary's fault. People are supposed to grow and spread their wings a bit. But, the education and base I received from Maranatha Seminary was first-rate. It did what it was supposed to do. It couldn't possibly cover it all. But, it gave me the fundamentals. That's more than good enough.

I'm also enjoying the DMin at Central Seminary right now. I sometimes wonder if I should have opted for a ThM instead, but the dye is now cast. I'll grab the ThM next ...

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that the items Paul mentions are very good seminar topics.  I remember a series I attended in grad school in engineering, one of which was about copyrights.  I still use what I learned from that seminar, as many of my fellow engineers are not terribly good about adhering to intellectual property laws.  (my favorite response is to point out that engineers get paid really for what they know, so to refuse to follow copyright laws is to say "I really shouldn't be paid")

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I shall now relate a common story of woe; one that will be instantly familiar to any pastor with experience. This happened just this morning. Here's the catalyst for this - we had a wedding between two Christians as the worship service this past Sunday. A private reception followed,to which some (not all) church members were invited, along with bride and groom's guests. Here's the complaint I received from a church member this morning:

  • The music during the private reception desecrated the building.
  • Dancing desecrated the building.
  • The sound company was a bad testimony because the name of the company was "Sound Dragon," this name appeared on the side of the truck, and it was parked in our parking lot for the wedding.
  • We blasphemed God by not having a worship service.

Of course, a whole host of questions immediately come to mind. Is the building a sacred temple? Is dancing during a private reception a sin? Is playing secular, easy-listening music during the reception an unholy activity? I will add that the groom twirled his 91-year old mother's wheelchair around as he "danced" with her during the reception. Is a wedding "as the service" a sin? We presented the gospel twice during the service.

I explained my reasoning, and she said she disagreed. I asked where that leaves us. She said she be praying about it, which is Christian code for "I'm outta here soon."

This would be a good "what if" scenario for a young seminarian, in a practical course. But, his answers would entirely depend on his particular ecclesiastical tradition and the context of his own congregation. But, it would be a great scenario to force young guys to ponder as they sit in seminary. Particularly the interplay between pragmatics, the "book answer," the weight to give unbiblical tradition, and how to determine how much deference one ought to give to personal opinions and tradition.

For my part:

  • The church is not a temple, so I don't care if a private reception has dancing. It's just a building. Nothing sacred about it.
  • Dancing is fine. But, I can't dance and won't. I'm too stiff.
  • "Sound Dragon" as a bad testimony? Not sure why that would be!
  • If a wedding forces you to leave the church, then it's probably for the best.

This individual is a nice lady, but she'd be happier at a more "traditional" church (though ours is pretty darn traditional!). She's been unhappy and complaining for a long while, and nothing has calmed her down. She has been implicitly waiting for a reason to go. It was going to happen sooner or later.

But, one could argue I should have not done it, in deferrence to her. But, it is worth it to run scared? In this case, she would have left anyway about something. I knew she would go, and I decided to do it anyway because I didn't want to run scared. And, to be blunt, I can't think of anything more God-honoring than to have a bride and groom celebrate their Christian marriage in front of their church family, with many unsaved guests present. Why should I push it to a Saturday? Thus, I did not.

A great practical exercise to walk young guys through, to be sure! Several years ago I would have taken an entirely different, safer course of action.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

JDen's picture

I don't have a problem with duplication of content per se--particularly if the duplication if from a slightly different perspective. I took Bible Doctrine 1 and 2 covering the basics of the major doctrines and then took Systematic Theology 1-4 covering those same doctrines at the graduate level. I also had an instance of inverse duplication: I took a hermeneutics course on the graduate level before taking Biblical Interpretation on the undergraduate level. My Greek classes, however, have not been duplicates. The advantage of a language is that every semester builds on the previous semester. My advisor told me early on that if I planned to take three years of Greek, I should take them continuously. I'm so thankful for that advice.

At Maranatha, quite a few Bible classes are offered at both the undergrad and graduate levels. Each of these classes is the same for either level, except that the graduate level has increased requirements. But the lectures, etc., are the same.

Mark_Smith's picture

I am not diverting this thread, but 5 minutes before Tyler posted his wedding example post complaining about dancing, I read Jer 30-31 while studying the New Covenant.

Jer 31:4 "Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers."

Some people are going to be SHOCKED in heaven!!

G. N. Barkman's picture

I was involved in a serious auto accident while in training, and was unable to attend classes for about two weeks.  I had no difficulty with any courses except Greek.  I couldn't seem to get caught up.  I managed to make a passing grade (C, as I recall), but knew that I really wasn't ready for the next semester.  I requested permission to re-take the same class before moving on.  That proved to be the right decision, and I did well in my remaining Greek courses.

G. N. Barkman

Larry's picture

Moderator

I shall now relate a common story of woe; one that will be instantly familiar to any pastor with experience.

This would be yet another good reason to separate churches and pastors from weddings. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

I am opposed to shortening or combining degrees. I don't know what you would leave out as unimportant.

I had a BA in Bible with a minor in public speaking. I got an MA right out of college, followed by three years of staff ministry, followed by a return to seminary for two years to complete the MDiv (taking 62 hours in two years). The benefit of this is that when I went back to seminary, I had ministry experience that gave a new context to learning. I have said that I got the MA for the degree. I got the MDiv, ThM, and DMin for the education. The downside is I did three years of ministry from an untrained mind. 

If I were to do it again, I would do my undergrad in something else. 

Having now almost thirty years of experience, I am more than ever inclined to say that the rush to skip seminary to get out and do actual ministry is extremely misguided. First, you should be doing actual ministry in seminary. Second, after about 2 or 3 years in "actual ministry" after seminary, that extra year or two or three of training will be nothing. After 30 years, you will likely wish it had been more time. I remember Dr. McCune quoting the proverb about plow your fields first and then build your house. In other words, do the work on the front end. Pay the price first before you pay the price later. Any man who wants to skip seminary in order to get into vocational ministry faster raises a red flag for me.

Expense is a big thing. So choose a cheaper but well-respected seminary. Work two jobs, sleep less, eat Mac and Cheese and hot dogs, don't go on vacation, etc. Live cheap. But get it done, not for the degree but for the education.

Don Johnson's picture

I don't think a seminary education is absolutely necessary for a successful ministry, but for a young man in preparation, I think he should try to get all he can and if possible complete a seminary program. Not everyone is cut out for the academics, and the academics aren't essential, but one way or another, everyone should get all the education he can. As we used to say:

get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the lid

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

I agree with you. Well said.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry's picture

Moderator

I don't think a seminary education is absolutely necessary for a successful ministry,

I would want to clarify that the degree is not absolutely necessary, but the skills and the knowledge are. It is possible to get that apart from seminary, but more difficult, IMO. 

Don Johnson's picture

I am not sure I agree with that. I've known many a man who served successfully without the seminary "skills and knowledge." They are useful tools, and I am glad I have them. Just think how bad I would be without them!! But God gives gifts to men who never had and could never have or acquire the seminary skill and knowledge. He seems to use them in his church regardless what the experts think.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Pages

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.