Higher Education

Vanderbilt University: Christian Leaders need not be Christian

A Christian student group at Vanderbilt University has been told by the school’s administration that it will lose its recognized status on campus unless the group removes its requirement that its leaders have a “personal commitment to Jesus Christ,” says a Christian legal association.

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What's Going On At Vanderbilt?

What we see at Vanderbilt University is secularism with its gloves off. In the name of tolerance, it will not tolerate orthodox Christian conviction. The university now comes full circle and forces off campus the only organizations that hold to the Christian beliefs of the school’s founders. Look carefully at Vanderbilt’s intolerance. Be assured that it is coming soon to a campus near you.

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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


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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The Church and Higher Education: Conflict or Complement, Part 2

The following is part one 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.

The second word that I would bring to your attention is the word “autonomy.”

In the first century church in Rome there was a tremendous conflict brewing. The Jewish converts had established, built and led the early church. But in AD 49, the Roman Emperor, Claudius, deported all the Jews. Gentiles effectively took the reins and led the church for the next 5 years. Then, when Claudius died, the Jews returned to the church in Rome which was now controlled by the Gentiles.

The question became painfully apparent: “Who owns this place?”

It is not a coincidence that Paul would spill a lot of ink discussing the issues of Gentile and Jewish distinctives, while at the same time teaching them the truths of Christian fellowship. The questions are still asked today. Who owns your local church? Who owns your school? Who calls the shots? What are the lines of authority?

I believe no single issue has eroded the relationship between churches and schools more than this issue of autonomy. Respecting one another’s distinctive roles, structures, institutional preferences, codes of conduct—yet pursuing Christian fellowship around a confession of biblical faith—will be a huge step in the right direction.

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The Church and Higher Education: Conflict or Complement, Part 1

The following is part one 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.

First, let me congratulate TRACS for 30 years of faithful service to Christ. Thank you for investing in higher educational institutions.

Dr. Beck has been a special encouragement to me in the process, along with all of us at Shepherds as we’ve pursued, and now achieved, full accreditation. We’re glad to be a part of the TRACS Family. When Dr. Beck, on behalf of TRACS, asked me to speak he suggested I address the subject of the relationship between the church and the educational institution.

More specifically, is the relationship between churches and schools a complement and a blessing to one another, or is it a relationship of conflict and struggle? And if so, what does it take to move from a relationship that competes, to a relationship that completes one another?

I want to structure my comments today around three key words that come to mind when I think of potential relationships between schools and churches—relationship that must be marked by the integrity of Christ’s gospel and the sweetness of genuine fellowship.

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What to Look for in a Seminary

In The Nick of TimeBible colleges exist to train Christian workers. Seminaries exist to equip Christian leaders. If you want to be a good deacon, Sunday school teacher, or youth leader, then Bible college is adequate. If you want to be an effective pastor, missionary, church planter, or preacher, then seminary is very important. True, some men can minister well without attending seminary, but even they would be more effective if they had. For most, seminary preparation is the difference between failure and success.

Baptist Fundamentalism has produced several decent seminaries. This abundance is a tremendous blessing, because it means that the churches do not have to rely upon only one or two institutions. If you are trying to decide which seminary to attend, however, it presents you with a difficult choice. On top of that, any number of non-fundamentalist seminaries would be happy to enroll you as a student. How can you choose?

The whole purpose of a seminary is to prepare Christian leaders, and this task can be performed only by people who are themselves committed to Christianity. No Christian should ever choose to prepare for ministry in an institution that tolerates apostasy. This criterion rules out most of the older and more prestigious seminaries and divinity schools.

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