What about seminary?

Question
I'm wondering about seminary. Will I obtain all the tools I need there to be an effective minister?
Answer

Thanks for your question. From personal experience, I seriously doubt that you will receive "all" the tools you need at seminary to become an effective minister. In some instances, the seminary experience can even be disappointing. Why? There are many things other than just academics that go into becoming an effective minister honoring God. In many ways, becoming a pastor is more caught than taught. Unfortunately, many - including seminaries - won't share and emphasize this reality with you before you go!

First, a calling is very important (Jas. 3:1; cf. Abram called to leave home [Gen. 12:1-9]; Paul was called to be an Apostle [Rom. 1:2; 1 Cor. 1:1], etc.). Unless others confirm that they observe God's calling of you to go into ministry you shouldn't even consider it. There are many spiritual qualifications for such (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). This is something to pray about (Phil. 4:6) and for you seek counsel (Prov. 11:14; 15:22) from your church pastors and other church members, friends, and family, et. al.

Second, academics is very, very important (Psa. 119:105; 2 Tim. 4:2). Where one choses to go to school does matter. I can't state enough how important biblical studies, theology, the original languages, history, philosophy, etc. are in the learning process of a pastor. These are tools that will be used for a lifetime. However, there is a difference between becoming a pastor and a professor. In my opinion, many seminaries prepare, emphasize, and celebrate the later over the former.

Academics is just the icing on the cake, what about the rest of the multilayered cake itself?

Third, though - and just as important, if not more so - are discipleship, ongoing ministerial training, learned skill-sets, godly examples, on the job experience(s), and spiritual preparedness (Heb. 13:20-21; Eph. 3:20-21; 2 Tim. 4:5). While much of this can't be taught in a normal classroom, how much of the student's class-load are in these essential areas? From personal experience, this is where many seminaries and seminarians often miss it. In my opinion, seminaries don't emphasize these essential divine tools enough with students prior to them even taking their first class. This of course is a denominational problem for many, as much as it is a seminary one.

What I'm attempting to say is that a seminary education should be a more balanced approach including all the above. Though it would need to vary from person to person, perhaps seminary, including the complete ordination process, should closer to nine (9) years long instead of just three (3) or so? Perhaps even a in-church Seminary BootCamp - basic, intermediate, and advanced versions - may be more the thought teaching the Word, holy living, and the rigors of the pastorate.

Many say, 'hindsight is 20/20.' While I enjoyed seminary and learned a lot, if I had it to do all over again, I personally would have never left my home church to attend seminary in a different state for a number of years. Rather, I would have remained in my home church and learned more fully from those whom were already there. My home church is full of godly men and women whom set godly examples using particular skill-sets for all to witness every day. What a covenant community education!!! For the most part, I would have attended seminary online. Again, academics is very important, however, we must recognize that it's not the only tool that goes into making an effective minister and answering God's call.

It can't be emphasized enough that pastors need to be well-rounded.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).