Over the past four years I have prayed long and hard about going back to school to pursue a Master’s degree. I’ve sought the counsel of perhaps a dozen pastors, Christian leaders, faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. Throughout that time I was wrestling with whether I should go to medical school, business, law or seminary.
My reasoning was never apart from the desire to serve the Church. I do not consider myself a Charles Spurgeon but I do see myself as a servant of the Lord and His bride. I applied to medical school and didn’t get accepted so I thought maybe the Lord is leading me towards seminary. I researched seminaries, financial options, and everything related to seminary. After talking with my wife, current and previous pastors, family, friends, employer, and after being tested and tried at my local church for two years – I come away persuaded that I should pursue a Masters of Divinity degree.
The school that I ended up choosing, based on a variety of factors, is Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. I sought counsel, prayer, and made a decision to apply – and got accepted. After visiting the campus and seeing the hospitality and warmth of the students, staff, faculty, and local pastors in the area I received peace about the idea to go. Plus, I really loved the impression Philly left me with.
I’m excited and a bit nervous. I haven’t been in school for about four years. There is a significant financial obligation, a move from Sacramento to Philadelphia, and other worthy worries.
Why am I going to Seminary? Well, in true blog fashion, here are four reasons:
1) To get a good theological education. Seminary will force me to read and study books I wouldn’t naturally discipline myself to read. It’s romantic to think I’d pursue the deep books on theology you find in seminary. But I won’t do that. Knowing my personality and how I learn an “on-campus” Seminary (as opposed to on-line) is best to create an environment that will force me to wrestle with the depth and breadth of theological studies in a way I just can’t do on my own. Generally there is the misconception that those who should attend seminary are those who are called and confirmed for pastoral ministry. Just to be clear I am not going to seminary to purse the pastorate but I am open to it should the Lord provide that opportunity.
2) Earn an accredited Master’s Degree. A Masters in Divinity (MDiv) is the best way to go if you are not sure what you will be doing after seminary because the MDiv will allow you to have a wider range of options after graduation. It is true that most people who get a Masters in Divinity go on to pastoral ministry, but there are many ways in which an MDiv can be used, such as: research, legal studies, teaching, administration, copywriting, education, music, galleries, art museums, antiques, social work, management, consultancy, campaigning, media, communications, television production, journalism, producer, artist, or publisher…just to name a few.
3) For gift enhancement. As Christians we are universally called to serve the Church with our gifts, time and money. We are to imitate Christ by walking in His love and giving ourselves for others (Eph 5:1). Each Christian has a unique skill-set or God-given gift that they are to employ in the church and world (1 Cor 12:7). Having been a Christian within the church for over 12 years I have been humbled to have the church’s corroboration and my occupation’s confirmation of my abilities in leadership. Seminary (as a supplement to a local church) is one of few places where I can set aside a concentrated amount of time to continue to evaluate and be evaluated of what gifts will be enhanced throughout my studies. As I discern my calling through the input of my assigned advisor, mentors, and local church, I hope to have a clearer understanding of what my gift’s strengths and weaknesses are as I work on my weaknesses and enrich my strengths. I do believe the Lord has His hand on me for ministry I just don’t know what kind of ministry and at what capacity. There is no cookie-cutter way to go about this since no two persons experience is identical but we must all be eager to invest what God has entrusted to us (Matt 25).
4) God’s providence is leading in this direction. I am not saying; “God made me do it”. No, I want to go, and I see the Lord has providentially paved the way to Westminster in more ways than I can list here. He has provided an overwhelming amount of peace, guidance, and prayerful support in this decision. The Lord has been faithful to answer prayer, and faithful to gently lead us in this direction. I wish to be faithful to follow where he leads. I believe to do otherwise would be sin. Does the thought of going worry me? Absolutely! But I think that’s a good place to be as we try to respond to the light we have.
Please don’t mis-understand me, this is not an endorsement of every theological school. I simply seek to give encouragement to those Christians, who wonder about going to seminary and if it’s worth it. For some people, at the right theological school, it is. For others, it may not be the wisest decision. You must work that out for yourself.
But if you go, seek first an education. It is important to remember that the call to pastoral ministry is primarily found in the context of the local church – not seminary. Seminary is not the Church; No one should assume that a seminary degree is equivalent to God’s call to any ministry.
The Church today needs a wide range of leaders with a wide range of preparation to have a wide range of influence. The Church has been richly blessed by well-informed Christians who love, support and care for her. Let each of us, then, seek the best education available to us: counting the cost, yes, and also the benefit of it–to ourselves and to those whose lives we will affect.