Thursday, August 27, 2015

7 Myths about Seminaries & Bible Schools

1. These schools are for pastors and missionaries. Sure, these schools prepare people for this sort of ministry, but many people end up in seminaries and Bible schools to serve their other vocational spheres with more theological acumen. It's not uncommon for a lawyer, homemaker, and local police officer to be studying the Puritans beside future missionaries. Thinking is something all Christians are called to, and many people in many fields of endeavor have benefited from a class or two, or a degree or two from a theological institution.

2. These schools will help you to mature in your faith. Don't think of seminary as some sort of God's Gym for the soul. The academic nature of these institutions have stolen the soul of many. Most professors are not trying to make someone doubt the authenticity of holy Scripture or question theological belief. But yes, they want you to know what various scholars have said and taught, what heresies exist then and now, and they want to make you question your questions and doubt your doubts. On the backside of the hard work of thinking, you will probably mature. On occasion, you'll feel stunted and pulled in many directions. 

3. These schools will protect you from secular influences. Sometimes these schools lose their gospel-centricity. Some schools come to question or deny orthodox belief and practice. Others get attached to legalistic ideas and behaviors. Others get caught in the crossfire of cultural debates. Don't send your kid to any certain school thinking they'll come out looking like a Billy Graham, Jonathan Edwards, and William Wilberforce all wrapped into one. Even the best schools will expose students to current ideas. They aren't trying to woo you to believe these ideas, but your soul might get wooed nonetheless. It's your job (not the school's job) to examine yourself so that you stay in the faith.

4. These schools are filled with only godly teachers and students. These schools are filled with humans. Some who deeply love Jesus. But others are in the throes of spiritual depression, doubt, and despair (necessary seasons for every believer). They have good days and bad days. Others have abandoned the faith but haven't had the courage to share it. Others seek to subvert godly belief and practice. (This is not the norm, but it has happened and will happen.) Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves even at a theological institution.

5. These schools are easier than other educational endeavors. These schools believe in academic rigor. They want Christians who can think and honor the LORD with their mind. An unthinking Christian is a disobedient Christian. Come ready to dig in.

6. These schools are like little churches. These schools are schools. Many of these schools have people who will love you, pray for you, instruct you, correct you, and fellowship with you. Still, however, none of these schools have been tasked to shepherd you. They do not have elders and shepherds. They do not (or at least should not) conduct the sacraments of holy baptism and communion. They cannot put you through church discipline (Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 5). So, stay plugged into (or find) a local church. Submit yourself to its leadership, doctrine, and ministries. Find mentors who know a thing or two about what it takes to walk with Jesus in the midst of theological education. 

7. These schools prepare people for "the ministry." Since the dawn of the church, ministry leaders are formed through disciple-making. Leaders are formed through the liturgy of the gathered church, the ordinary means of grace, and through intentional apprenticeships. St. Augustine never went to seminary (not to mention Peter, James, and John). Gaining the theological tools of using the ancient languages, reading and integrating theology, and the analysis of the Biblical text can all be learned and honed in a theological school. Still, these are tools, and I've met my fair share of weekend warrior carpenters who shouldn't use the tools they bought at Home Deport. There are weekend warrior ministers who are just as dangerous with the theological tools they've picked up in school. If you are desirous of serving the kingdom, you'll get your best training in the local church, among a college of laboring pastors, and through submitting yourself to apprenticeship. Bible college and Seminary can aid you (it was totally awesome for me), but it is not even close to sufficient.

Let me leave the myth-side of things and close with one final application:
  Pray for seminaries and Bible schools. Add the 3-4 schools closest to you geographically, or related to your local church's networks or denomination, and pray for them. Pray for godly instructors, holy students, and long-term kingdom impact. These institutions are gifts to the kingdom. 


Are there any other myths you could offer?

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