Ministry Training

‘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.  

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The Value of Training in Biblical Counseling

By Brad Brandt

Thirty-three years ago, the Lord privileged me to become the pastor of Wheelersburg Baptist Church, in Appalachian southern Ohio, where I presently serve. At the time, the church was 109 years old. I was 26 and had just finished four years of Bible college and another four years of seminary. I believed the Bible was the inerrant, infallible, trustworthy Word of God. I was committed to preaching it, making disciples by it, and equipping this precious congregation to live by it.

Then it started. People began opening up to me, saying things like, “Pastor, we’re having marriage problems.” And “Pastor, I’ve been told I’m bipolar.” And “Pastor, they say our child has ADHD, and we’re overwhelmed.” Then came the question, “Pastor, can you help us?”

I responded by listening, praying with them, expressing my concern and support, reading a Scripture or two, but that was about it. I sensed they needed more, but I didn’t know how to provide it.

Consequently, I saw a couple of things happen. First, some of the strugglers went outside the church for help. Unfortunately, though well-meaning I’m sure, this “professional” help typically didn’t increase the hurting person’s confidence in Christ, His Word, and His church. In fact, at times it undermined this confidence. A second outcome I observed was that some hurting people continued to limp along in isolation, receiving little or no help, convinced that no help was available.

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On Following Models in Ministry

I have learned from many different models in ministry.

These would include my own pastors, as well as all types of other Christian leaders.

Surely someone studying for the ministry should find, hopefully, more than one thing to emulate about each of his college and seminary professors. And, thankfully, that is my overwhelming testimony. In fact, my teachers have been some of the most influential people in my entire life (see Luke 6:40).

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Why Go to Seminary When the Fields Are Already White for Harvest?

By Jacob Elwart. Republished with permission from Baptist Bulletin © Regular Baptist Press.

In preparation for representing the seminary at a conference in Iowa, I have been reflecting on the ‘why’ of going to seminary. Why should a future pastor pursue a seminary education? On occasion, I’ll come across a college graduate who suggests that seminary is not for him. When I inquire as to why, he tells me that he has to get into ministry now because people are lost and dying. The implication is that the urgency of seeking after lost souls is more important than slowing down to get a seminary education. It is true that people are lost and dying, and that we should be urgent about pursuing the lost, but skipping seminary in order to rush into ministry would be like performing a surgery without any schooling.

If going into pastoral ministry were like working at a fast food restaurant, we should encourage as many young people as possible to skip seminary to go into ministry. But pastoral ministry is a high calling of God — less like flipping burgers and more like performing surgery. Working at a fast food restaurant requires minimal training and has few serious implications if the training is shortcut. Performing surgery is the opposite.

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How Important is a Seminary Education? Part 2

libraryRead Part 1.

A seminary’s practical theology department addresses how the academic categories affect church ministry. Students need instruction in preaching, counseling, personal evangelism, and pastoral practice. Philosophical and practical ministry questions regarding missions, youth, senior citizens, music, and a whole host of other areas in church life receive attention.

Because the seminary classrooms do not come equipped with baptisteries, communion equipment, potential counselees, or unsaved people who need to hear the gospel, most seminaries expect and require their students to pursue internships with their local church where real life ministry takes place. While students in seminary receive helpful instruction about practical issues, no amount of teaching can replace the actual doing. Seminaries know this, and they pursue partnerships with local churches to help their students fill in the gap between the theoretical and the actual in ministry.

Besides the benefit of learning significant aspects of biblical, theological, and practical ministry knowledge from trained experts in these fields and in addition to developing skill for the doing of ministry in a local church, students who attend graduate school receive the intangible benefit of maturity. The typical student enters seminary at the age of 23; most would consider someone in this age category as a novice (and therefore unqualified for pastoral ministry, 1 Tim 3:6). The seminary experience provides many opportunities for the development of character and maturity. Issues related to the wise use of time and money, the practice of leadership, the art of learning how to think critically while encountering ideas contrary to one’s own, and the ability to accept critique from professors and fellow students all help to develop growth.

Knowledge, practical experience, and maturity constitute the skills aspect of seminary training, but aspiring pastors also need to advance and grow in their personal relationship with God. The popular catch phrase for this educational component is “spiritual formation.” I refer to it as heart training.

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How Important is a Seminary Education? Part 1

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Bill and Mary have put off their estate planning for too long. If they were to die unexpectedly, they have some definite ideas about who should serve as guardians for their three children, how their assets should be disbursed, and how their estate could avoid probate hassles. Since neither Bill nor Mary is a legal expert, they have contacted Preston, a recent college graduate, to formulate an estate plan for them. Preston took a class in business law, and he is planning on entering law school after he pays off his school loans. Though Preston has never drafted a will before, Bill and Mary appreciate that he will do this service for a quarter of the cost that a trained lawyer would charge. They have known Preston for many years, and they know he will do his best. Would you agree with Bill and Mary’s decision to hire Preston?

Or consider another scenario. Your child has severely inflamed tonsils, a high fever, and a violent cough. Upon entering the local clinic, you and your child meet with an elderly woman who examines your child and declares that she needs to perform a tonsillectomy on him. You ask for her credentials, expecting to meet with your regular family doctor for the procedure, but she claims that your doctor has given her permission to operate. Even though she has no medical degree, she thinks that tonsillectomies are quite simple to do. She ought to know, she says, because she took anatomy in college and has watched a lot of training videos. Will you place your son under her knife?

Situations like these appear nonsensical to us because rarely would one seek legal or medical services knowing that the practitioners have not received proper training in graduate institutions. We expect lawyers to attend law school and to prove they know the material by passing the bar exam. We expect doctors to attend medical school and to pass the medical board exam.

So what should we expect of those who serve in pastoral ministry? Do pastors need training in graduate school (seminaries)? Should they pass a doctrinal exam of some sort? Assuming spiritual care of souls is at least as important as physical care of bodies or legal care of estates, is it not reasonable that spiritual shepherds gain the training necessary to perform their tasks with skill and wisdom?

Indeed it is. I hope to show that seminary education has great value not only because it is culturally and practically wise (as the comparison with medicine and law implies) but even more because it helps develop and hone the skills and the heart necessary for doing the work of the ministry.

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The Church and Higher Education: Conflict or Complement, Part 3

The following is part three of a transcribed speech Dr. Davey delivered at the annual Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) Conference in November of 2009. It will appear at SI in three parts. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

How do leaders pursue synergy while at the same time respecting autonomy?

One word comes to mind—it is the word “humility.”

Paul would write to these believers in Romans 14:19, “So then, let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” That’s humility.

Paul would write to the Ephesians a description of a leader worth following. He writes, “I entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” How’s that Paul? “With all humility and gentleness with patience showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

How do you know if a leader is worthy of his position and calling to spiritual leadership? Here’s the profile—see if it matches your institution or church board: he’s humble, gentle, patient, and diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit.

“Are you serious?” You gather a group of perceived successful pastors and educational leaders together and you will have more pride per square inch than their constituencies combined. The problem is most often us!

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