Skip Seminary?

Posted: August 12, 2010 in Uncategorized

I have a number of friends who are thinking about attending seminary.  They want to wrestle with the Scriptures, learn Greek & Hebrew and debate theology under the guidance of wise professors. 

I don’t blame them because I was there myself once.  I entered Abilene Christian University’s master of divinity program more than 11 years ago and remember how excited I was just picking up my textbooks in the bookstore and wondering what I was about to learn over the next few months and years. Yet, 3 years later my faith was hanging by a thread and I was heading to law school.

Don’t get me wrong, Abilene Christian is a good school and the profs are all nice guys but, theologically, like many seminaries, it has been trending left.  Unabashed devotion to higher criticism pushed me into the more progressive wing of the now nearly defunct emergent church movement and then to near total despair.  It took a strong dose of modern evangelicals like Mark Driscoll, Francis Chan, Ravi Zacharias and many others to save me.

But liberalism is not the only potential landmine for those thinking about seminary–there is the financial issue–Abilene Christian’s Graduate School of Theology is pretty inexpensive and I left seminary with no debt (thanks to 2 jobs, a hard-working wife and generous parents) but if you attend schwank seminaries like Gordon-Conwell in Massachusetts, Trinity in Illinois or even Southern Seminary in Louisville then you could potentially rack-up crippling amounts of loans.

As you probably know, ministry is not a high paying gig and even $30k in loans can present a serious problem to a young guy or family.

What to do?

First of all, it is interesting to note that many of the finest ministry leaders in recent church history did not attend seminary (Martyn Lloyd-Jones comes to mind) and many others like Joshua Harris and C.J. Mahaney took alternative paths akin to apprenticeships. By his own admission, Matt Chandler nearly flunked out of college and couldn’t take more than a year of seminary.   If you already possess discipline and a voracious appetite to read then you may not need seminary. It will be tougher to score a traditional ministry job but it is still a possibility that you should consider and pray about.

Second, consider taking your time, paying for classes in full as you go or scoring a gig at a church with distance ed as part of your salary package (but first make sure it is a solid seminary!).

Third, if you do attend seminary then please get into small group of like-minded guys quickly so that you can prayerfully approach the issues that challenge your faith. Ministerial training should be challenging but not faith shattering.

  1. I believe that seminary will benefit as if helps strengthen your faith and not create it. Sure the Christian employment doesn’t always pay the greatest, but the Lord will provide. If seminary is too much or expensive to do all at once or is debateable, just taking a few classes either at a university or online would benefit.

    • Revolution says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I agree seminary can be great but I have met too many who actually lost their faith because of seminary. I agree that there are good seminaries that can serve as an instrument to grow the person into a strong minister. Thanks again for stopping by. Grace and peace,

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