In the age of Google, with seemingly endless information available at our fingertips, you might be wondering, “Why would I go to seminary?”
Maybe you already know you have been called to be a pastor, worship leader, or teach the Bible. Perhaps you are still on your discernment journey, and maybe, like many who are called, you are eager to rank this possibility far down the list, but it just won’t go away.
However, we invite you to consider how continuing your education at seminary can help you prepare for leadership.
Seminary will provide you with foundational knowledge.
We like to say that you wouldn’t want a doctor who hadn’t been to medical school or a lawyer who hadn’t been to law school. In the same way, you need a foundational education to prepare you for ministry. As a ministry leader, writer, or pastor, your job is to provide theological guidance to your congregation, readers, and community.
Speaking, thinking, and offering faithful care for others on behalf of God bears weight and responsibility.
How does all of this relate to today? A rigorous academic education will give you the words to express the story of God and God’s overarching love for the world.
Seminary faculty will lead you through biblical history, church history, systematic theology, and even biblical languages.
This background knowledge will inform your future Google searches and help you discern between accurate and inaccurate biblical interpretations.
We know that not all information on the internet is reliable. While your search engine may be able to supplement your knowledge, having a deep and rich understanding of the broad reach of Christian doctrine and biblical understanding will help you avoid critical errors as you seek to lead others spiritually.
Seminary will help you broaden your perspective.
As your knowledge base grows, so does your perspective. It will not just grow through the lens of cultural context, but it will be built upon a historical and sacramental understanding of our Christian faith. You will better understand how Christians engaged with scripture and their cultural context, which will give you an understanding that allows empathy and compassion for other perspectives as you seek God’s heart.
Additionally, by engaging with these questions in a class or cohort, you will gain insight into new perspectives of our current day. While you can read about the experiences of Christians in history, there is no replacement for learning from classmates and faculty, especially when you can do so in person. These connections will give you an understanding that allows empathy and compassion for other perspectives as you seek God’s heart.
Seminary will allow you to practice sitting with hard questions.
Knowledge alone will not be enough for navigating the hard questions our culture is asking. Rember Job and Job’s friends? Having the “answers” did not serve them when faced with suffering. No Google search or Youtube video could prepare them for that conversation.
The formational nature of seminary will allow you to sit with difficult questions and be exposed to challenging conversations through the lens of scripture, doctrines, and history upon which our faith is formed.
Seminary will help you respond to these questions in an emotionally healthy way and to care well for the emotional and spiritual well-being of others- both those for which the Bible will provide direction and those that may require faithful care and waiting on the Spirit.
At seminary, you will learn how to listen and hear the question beneath the question, helping others find the answers from within the longings that God has for the world and answer, “What does redemption and restoration look like?”
Seminary prepares you for the weight of leadership.
Beginning with the Hebrew people and throughout Scripture, God shows that he delights in choosing a people for a “so that” purpose.
- “so that” through lives of love and justice, we can be a light that points to the one true God;
- “so that” others will hear our words and see our works and praise the God who redeems us and desires to redeem them;
- “so that” God’s people will reverse the injustices and inequities in our world, and the Kingdom of God will be restored.
This call goes beyond the pulpit to leaders in faith communities, in faith-based non-profits, in faith-based counsel, and in faith-based writing and publishing. These leaders hold responsibility for providing witness to the redemptive love and work of God in the world through knowledge and historical context.
Leaders in ministry vocations also hold a responsibility to provide witness to God’s revelation in scripture by the power of the Holy Spirit. They do this by learning and embodying spiritual practices and disciplines that have served Christian and Jewish faith leaders throughout history.
A Master of Divinity is still needed in many contexts.
Seminary is not the right place for someone who “just needs to check the box.” However, it is worth noting that most mainline churches and church denominations still require or prefer pastors with a Master of Divinity.
Congregations and church elders want pastors that are well-prepared through academic learning and spiritual formation that is developed through a seminary education.
So, if you have been prayerfully discerning if God is calling you into ministry leadership as a vocation, or if you are currently working in a field that would benefit from a deeper understanding of Christian doctrine, seminary may be the next right step in your journey.
Still not sure if seminary is right for you? Contact one of our admissions counselors who are equipped to help you discern if this is the right path for you.