Does the M.Div. Have a Future?

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Greg Long's picture

Interesting:

The M.Div. shows no signs of passing from existence, but clearly there are movements afoot to broaden the range of seminary options available for students. Growing churches do not necessarily require the M.Div. of their pastors, and a now long track record brings into question the overall necessity of the degree. As Dr. Tony Campolo observed of one megachurch in his book Adventures in Missing the Point, “It was a marketing degree, not an M.Div., that Bill Hybels had when he launched the tiny fellowship that would one day be Willow Creek Community Church.”

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Yes, interesting. I thought the church marketing philosophy was supposed to be on the wane. Guess I heard wrong. Who needs pastors trained to exegete and proclaim truth; as long as they sell the idea of the church, everything is rosy.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

James K's picture

Jonathan, it can be.  In fact, if the seminaries weren't patterned after the world's system of education, then many things would be different.  Money is to be made.  Influence is traded like a currency as well.  Hard to imagine why churches could be so worldly minded when schools that train are as well.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Dave Doran's picture

James, I think those of us connected to seminaries need to bring you in for some consulting because none of us have been able to figure out how to make any money via seminaries. And all these years I was thinking that the money our church pours into assisting churches train men for the ministry was a worth it, but now I find out we could have been actually making money. What an idiot I have been!

DMD

Greg Linscott's picture

Question for DMD- James K's accusations aside, why don't seminaries offer or publicize the BTh as some used to in the past? I do understand how education is a value to many, and even the benefit of preparing young men even as they gain life experience through a Bachelors then Masters. Still, there are some men (say, some who enter the process later in life) who might benefit from the opportunities afforded by a BTh, not to mention some who are already serving in pastoral roles in rural churches without advanced training. 

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

James K's picture

Dave, my comment was in relation to the MDiv program.  I thought it was pretty obvious since I was addressing something said by another poster.  I hope that clears up your confusion.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

CAWatson's picture

Greg, 

In my understanding, the original BDiv, or BTh was the exact equivalent as the MDiv. I'm not certain if at the time it required an undergraduate degree (I'd have to search through old catalogs of seminaries to figure that one out - but I'll leave that work to the historians - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BDiv - not so good of an article). 

I have never met a pastor who has regretted getting an MDiv. I have never met a pastor who regretted learning the languages. I have also met competent men who have not received an MDiv, or studied the languages. However, there should at least be some sort of continuing education going on (whether it is reading, self-study, or formal study, conference attendance) for the pastors. You would expect your doctor to do much of the same. 

Greg Long's picture

I don't regret my M.Div. for a minute. If doctors and lawyers require a three-year graduate degree to prepare them for effective work, why shouldn't a pastor?

(I'm not arguing for requiring an M.Div. for pastoral ministry, I'm arguing against the idea that the M.Div. is unnecessary.)

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Greg Linscott's picture

I wouldn't argue against an M. Div. I would also observe, though, that just as the medical field has use for RNs and PAs, so there is a place for pastors and ministers with preparations other than a MDiv, DMin, or PhD.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Jim's picture

I’m not sure what the quote from Tony Campolo in the OP is referring to, but I’ve always heard & seen that Hybels has an undergraduate degree from Trinity International University near Chicago.  Online sources seem to confirm that:

“Bill received a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies and an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Trinity College in Deerfield, IL.” - http://www.billhybels.org/about.asp

“Hybels has a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies from Trinity International University, near Chicago, and an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from TIU's Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.” - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Hybels

--------------------

From TIU’s website, here is what the program requires:

http://undergrad.tiu.edu/academics/program/biblical-studies

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Comment from Jim: Sent to me via email

removed_jh's picture

that Dr. Kevin Bauder wrote an essay on this area some time ago. He argued (I believe) for a more classical college education followed by a M. Div. as a minimum for a man seeking pastoral work or position. It would help an individual be well-rounded and informed in many disciplines, seeking to relate bible and theology to all areas of life (Col. 1:9-10).

Greg, my dad has the old Th. B. It appeared to pass by the wayside as Bible colleges adjusted their offerings to meet the different accreditation standards. This brought in more general studies offerings while shrinking the language/bible/theology credits a students actually takes.

With regards to this, I have a question myself. Am I wrong to have been thinking that the level of work and integration that goes into training at the M. Div. level is deeper, more stringent and and more demanding than at the Bachelor's level? I hope not. Thankful for my M. Div and enjoy continuing opportunities to learn.

Kevin Subra's picture

I attended FBBC, receiving a BA in Biblical Studies. I also took some Masters/MDiv courses. Because of the "second degree" people (those that had received degrees in other fields other than Bible), many of the graduate classes I took were more elemental than the upper under-graduate classes I had already taken. The MDiv is 96 hours. My BA was 128. I honestly think that I received a better overall Bible education than those that took the MDiv. That may not be true for everyone everywhere, but I could not justify the cost and investment of time and money to pursue what overlapped so much with what I already had.

This said, I did not have the undergirding or benefit of a general degree or other degree. I just would suggest that it is hard to compare courses of study on some artificial graduated scale.

For the Shepherd and His sheep,
Kevin
Grateful husband of a Proverbs 31 wife, and the father of 15 blessings.
http://captive-thinker.blogspot.com

Wayne Wilson's picture

I like Bauder's idea of a broader or at least different education before the M.Div. I went that route and I believe it has enhanced my ministry a great deal.  To me that makes more sense than doing biblical studies twice. The seminary level work was certainly more taxing than my undergraduate work, though that will vary from school to school at either level. 

 

The Master's Seminary will, on occasion, take men without an undergraduate degree. They will have the education, but not the full diploma until they get an undergraduate degree.  We have a young man in our church right now on that course. He is gaining a lot for his future ministry, doing well, and at this point does not care about the letters after his name.

Steve Davis's picture

When I received my MDiv in 1982 most graduates took one of several tracks: Continued studies (ThM) heading toward teaching, taking an existent church, or church planting. The four years spent working on an MDiv were well spent. I worked full-time and was involved in a church plant. From there I went into church planting and then further training and degrees after several years in ministry.

Now over 30 years later I still see the need for the MDiv although I recognize the challenges involved relocating, employment, expense, etc. For those who can, I would advise to get as much as you can before you enter the pastorate. I have seen many regret launching into ministry unprepared and few who have regretted advanced training including biblical languages. Personally I would not have wanted to be in ministry without having studied Greek and Hebrew. It may be arduous but it is rewarding. Again, not everyone will follow the same track or have the same opportunities. Those few years of sacrifice might help to prolong ministry. It’s a good investment.

The one thing I might do differently is my undergrad. I am thankful for the rigorous BA training I received at BJ including Hebrew and Greek that held me in good stead in seminary. As a side note, I believe the study of those languages helped me in further language study when I studied French and Romanian. However I often recommend that men consider a major other than Bible IF they are contemplating seminary. My Bible training at BJ was good but apart from the languages, and since all students take some Bible courses, I don’t think my undergrad biblical studies were critical.

This is especially important if someone plans to be involved in church planting and needs to be bi-vocational. The four degrees I had in my pocket didn’t help much at the age of 55 when I moved back into Philadelphia to be part of a church planting team. Thankfully, God opened the door to become an addiction therapist in the prison system. My pastoral training got me in the door and allowed me to work toward certification. But it was not enough in itself. Training is lifelong. The more arrows in your quiver the more resilient you might be in ministry.

Steve Davis

 

josh p's picture

Western Reformed Seminary which is near me offers a B. Div. 

They are Bible Presbyterian. I actually considered taking some classes there even though I am Dispensational. 

James K's picture

For all of you talking about the benefits of language training (of which I agree), here is a copy of a certain MDiv program.

Year One
BI 571  2  Hermeneutics**
ME 501  2  Personal Evangelism
NT 511  2  New Testament Introduction**
NT 521/522  6  Greek Grammar
OT 511  2  Old Testament Introduction**
PT 501  2  Foundations of Biblical Counseling
PT 703  2  Pastoral Theology
ST 511  2  Research and Writing**
ST 551/552  4  Systematic Theology I & II

Year Two
HT 501/502  4  Church History I & II
ME 601  2  Foundations of Missions
NT 531/532  4  Greek Syntax & Reading
OT 501/502  6  Hebrew Grammar
PT 704  2  Church Administration
ST 651/652  4  Systematic Theology III & IV
____  4  Electives

Year Three
NT 571  2  New Testament Biblical Theology I
NT 601/602  4  Greek Exegesis
OT 601/602  6  Hebrew Syntax, Reading, & Exegesis
OT 672  2  Old Testament Biblical Theology I
PT 602  2  Homiletics
PT 701  2  Expository Preaching I
PT 726  0  Pastoral Internship Program
ST 751/752  4  Systematic Theology V & VI
____  2  Electives

Year Four
HT 601  2  Baptist History
HT 602  2  Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism
PT 702  2  Expository Preaching II
PT 727  2  Pastoral Internship Program
PT 750  0  Senior Seminar
ST 701  2  Dispensations
____  12  Electives
____  0  Senior Doctrinal Defense

Total 96 Hours

It is possible my math is off, but out of 96 hours, I only counted 26.  It is late and my eyes are tired.  So...

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

James K wrote:

For all of you talking about the benefits of language training (of which I agree), here is a copy of a certain MDiv program.

Year One
BI 571  2  Hermeneutics**
ME 501  2  Personal Evangelism
NT 511  2  New Testament Introduction**
NT 521/522  6  Greek Grammar
OT 511  2  Old Testament Introduction**
PT 501  2  Foundations of Biblical Counseling
PT 703  2  Pastoral Theology
ST 511  2  Research and Writing**
ST 551/552  4  Systematic Theology I & II

Year Two
HT 501/502  4  Church History I & II
ME 601  2  Foundations of Missions
NT 531/532  4  Greek Syntax & Reading
OT 501/502  6  Hebrew Grammar
PT 704  2  Church Administration
ST 651/652  4  Systematic Theology III & IV
____  4  Electives

Year Three
NT 571  2  New Testament Biblical Theology I
NT 601/602  4  Greek Exegesis
OT 601/602  6  Hebrew Syntax, Reading, & Exegesis
OT 672  2  Old Testament Biblical Theology I
PT 602  2  Homiletics
PT 701  2  Expository Preaching I
PT 726  0  Pastoral Internship Program
ST 751/752  4  Systematic Theology V & VI
____  2  Electives

Year Four
HT 601  2  Baptist History
HT 602  2  Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism
PT 702  2  Expository Preaching II
PT 727  2  Pastoral Internship Program
PT 750  0  Senior Seminar
ST 701  2  Dispensations
____  12  Electives
____  0  Senior Doctrinal Defense

Total 96 Hours

It is possible my math is off, but out of 96 hours, I only counted 26.  It is late and my eyes are tired.  So...

James,

I don't have an M Div (wish I did), so I can't speak to the whole program. But I have taken a number of M Div classes to augment my BA from Bible college which required everyone to maintain a Bible major along with whatever else they were studying. I can certainly say the homiletics and hermeneutics classes I took again went much further than the undergraduate classes had gone. They were far more than simply repeats of the previous classes. On the other hand, I think I got a lot more out of the graduate classes because I already had the foundation laid in the undergraduate classes. I would not have wanted to lose the value of either set of courses.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Greg Long's picture

James, I'm not really sure what your complaint is. An M.Div. is supposed to prepare a man for pastoral ministry, so it would necessarily include studies in Bible, theology, and pastoral ministry (homiletics, counseling, leadership and administration, etc.). 1/4 of the credit hours in languages seems about right to me.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

James K's picture

In past discussion on this site and even in this thread, the importance of languages is constantly referred to as the justification for the MDiv.  Aside from the obvious issue of churches failing to train their own men and outsources their God ordained responsibilities, we are told that pastors can't train in the languages.  I can accept that part.

Given the amount of training the men are given, you would think the grads could somewhat train their young men when they are in turn pastors of churches.  However, they also ship off their younger men to get less than 30% of their degree in languages.

So as it turns out, the MDiv is barely about languages.

The MDiv I posted was from Central.  Detroit offered 34 hours I believe.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

James K's picture

Greg Long wrote:

James, I'm not really sure what your complaint is. An M.Div. is supposed to prepare a man for pastoral ministry, so it would necessarily include studies in Bible, theology, and pastoral ministry (homiletics, counseling, leadership and administration, etc.). 1/4 of the credit hours in languages seems about right to me.

Greg, to your specific issue, a church is supposed to prepare a man for pastoral ministry, so it would necessarily include studies in Bible, theology, and pastoral ministry (homiletics, counseling, leadership and administration, etc.).

So that would be my complaint.

Before anyone comes back that certain profs are incredibly brilliant to sit under, consider also which institution the Lord of the church actually set up to accomplish this training.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm trying to get a feel for what your objection is.

Are you in favor of purely virtual or distance learning seminary models? A man could learn practical implementation in his local church while still attending school remotely.

Do you object to the construct of an MDiv itself (e.g. allegedly unnecessary classes, etc.), or the model of "shipping" young men off for their education?

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?

James K's picture

Tyler, should churches be the ones training up their young men or not?  If you answer that with a yes, then the only thing in an MDiv course that pastor's couldn't teach are the languages.  As I pointed out though, the actual language studies are 1/4-1/3 of the degree.

We have many students with a desire to serve in full time Christian work who either take loans out to fund ministry training (always a good idea), or they have their wife work (other problems there), or they work and go to school as they can (dragging out the education), etc, all to get the coveted MDiv to prove they can work in the pastorate.  The MDiv also gives you the right to speak according to Kevin Bauder, so there is that also.

I see you are a new pastor yourself.  What are you going to do with the next generation of young men in your church?  Will you ship them off to learn the Bible and ministry from someone else or will you have a plan in place to start training them now?

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Wayne Wilson's picture

James K wrote:

Tyler, should churches be the ones training up their young men or not?  If you answer that with a yes, then the only thing in an MDiv course that pastor's couldn't teach are the languages.  As I pointed out though, the actual language studies are 1/4-1/3 of the degree.

We have many students with a desire to serve in full time Christian work who either take loans out to fund ministry training (always a good idea), or they have their wife work (other problems there), or they work and go to school as they can (dragging out the education), etc, all to get the coveted MDiv to prove they can work in the pastorate.  The MDiv also gives you the right to speak according to Kevin Bauder, so there is that also.

I see you are a new pastor yourself.  What are you going to do with the next generation of young men in your church?  Will you ship them off to learn the Bible and ministry from someone else or will you have a plan in place to start training them now?

 Speaking for myself, I believe training young men in the church is valuable and essential. At the same time, I could not possibly train the young men in my church as thoroughly as deeply studied men in the languages, systematic theology, and church history.  I could get them started, and sharpen them a bit, but not at the level of top notch seminary professors.  A pastor would have to be quite a fellow who could match that level of expertise in so many areas!  And, of course, a pastor doing all of that is inherently narrowing them.  All opinions will ultimately be his...not much exposure and wrestling with other ideas.  I'm glad my young men have a quality seminary near enough to grow beyond me and prepare them for future ministry.

Greg Linscott's picture

Everything here has seemed to focus on the merits of the MDiv (or not). Not really much consideration of if there would be room for other focuses.

Most seminaries in the circles in which we operate at least offer some kind of MA. This at least shows to me that there is recognition that there is value in the training one receives even without languages. There has also been adaptation in most seminaries I know of to accommodate students' schedules with modules and similar kinds of adjustments.

Is there room in our seminaries for a wider offering, and more specialized training? What would it take to conclude that there are needs for further accommodation, whether types of degrees, methods of delivery, and so on? At what point does what is offered become sufficiently watered down where the education is deemed to have lost its value?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

pvawter's picture

I gotta be honest, Jim. That 5-year degree seems a bit weak to me. I mean, the only Biblical language requirement is one year of introductory Greek? Not saying that someone can't pastor with that degree (I don't have an MDiv, after all) but I am not sure this degree really compares that well with a traditional MDiv program.

CAWatson's picture

I'm not sure that the military would recognize that as a valid MDiv equivalency for chaplaincy, either. There is a required credit amount for the chaplaincy (last I checked it was 72 graduate level credits). 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Came across this discussion on the importance of the Biblical languages. Thought I'd pass it along. It particularly resonates with me, because I'm taking over a small church, still working on my MDiv and haven't taken language classes yet. 

http://youtu.be/-5jTtbXKvxA

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?

Charlie's picture

1. On the B. Div.  - it was originally a postgraduate degree. You had to have a university degree to get in. The confusion comes because terminology has switched around. For example, in the medieval university, a Bachelor's was the first degree in a particular field. That is, even if you already had a Bachelor and Masters of Arts, if you started studying theology, you would start with a Bachelor's of Theology

2. On local churches training pastors - I understand the argument for this, but I am not aware of any period of time in Christian history where pastors were trained in local church settings. Almost all influential Christian denominations gained there influence through numerical or qualitative superiority of education. For example, medieval Dominicans and Franciscans dominated their religious culture by having rigorous cloister schools and later the University of Paris. The Reformation was dominated almost entirely by university-trained theologians, who then established schools for training clergy. Much of the modern missions movement is traceable to universities. Like it or not, the history of Christianity is the history of schools. Now, there was a mentor-apprentice model in some Eastern hermetic communities, but that's pretty fringe. Also, some groups, such as some 18th century American Baptists and Methodists, eschewed formal education, but as far as I know they didn't have any serious personal mentor model in place either. I get the impression they were just winging it. 

3. On languages - even our best seminaries are not producing linguists equivalent to those of previous generations. This is mostly because of the elimination of Greek and Latin in middle and high schools. Here is a short essay I wrote on the subject:  http://sacredpage.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/the-role-of-greek-in-theological-education/

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Mod edit ... made above link "hot"

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