Struggling with the idea of whether or not to attend seminary.

Discussion in 'Seminaries, Colleges & Education' started by Jonathan95, Jan 12, 2019.

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  1. Jonathan95

    Jonathan95 Puritan Board Freshman

    I feel a definite call to ministry, I don't really have a second thought about that. Here's the thing, if i could just go to seminary now, I would. I want to stay away from attending seminary online because being on campus is really important to me. The idea of making some terrific friends along with meeting a number of people to whom I'll turn to all through my life for counsel is a great thing. Since i first became a believer 4 years ago, I've had a incredible thirst for the doctrine found in the Word of God. I study on my own all the time. I'd love to actually learn from professors with other students around.

    Thing is, I don't have a bachelors. And I understand that one is needed to pursue an MDiv. I love to dig deep in the Word of God but knowing that I have to get a bachelors in some other thing I'm way less interested in before I can study what i really want to study is discouraging to say the least.

    Another issue is that I am located in Boston, MA. Gordon Conwell is in the area but after searching the forum here it seems that opinion is divided on whether or not it is a good seminary to attend. I want to experience learning with other reformed believers and there doesn't seem to be a good reformed theological seminary nearby that I am aware of. I don't really know what to consider doing at this point. Any thoughts or advice whatsoever is appreciated.
  2. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    I am assuming that u have an associate’s degree. Is that correct? Are u a young adult? Single?

    If so, what’s the rush?
  3. Jonathan95

    Jonathan95 Puritan Board Freshman

    Unfortuately no associates. I am a young man yes. I turn 24 next month. Single. Work full time as a Barista in my church's coffee shop. There isn't a "rush" per say haha. I don't know. I spend all my days just reading and working and going to church. I don't have a lot going on.
  4. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    18 years ago, I found myself in a similar situation (minus the location-specific parts). Then a few years ago I was accepted into an M.Div program without a B.A. in consideration of my relatively advanced age.

    The Lord's ways are perfect, and the time of "delay" was profitable to me in many ways, though the intervening years had many challenging twists. But if you can pursue a B.A. without contracting debt, it might actually be a shorter road to seminary than the path I ultimately wound up taking. Very few areas of knowledge are truly useless for ministerial work.
  5. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Get in school. Invest in yourself. In 6 years, full time, u will have a bachelors. If God wants u in ministry, He will make a way.

    Does your church identify the gift in you?
  6. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I first became convinced that I was called to the ministry at 19, about a year after my conversion. From that point onward, I did everything I could to try and move forward toward seminary and eventually ministry. My father died suddenly not too long after that when I was 20, and then I had to quit college, first to grieve, then to help out with affairs on my family's property (my dad left a huge void), then to pay rent to my mother, and then because I was getting married and had a family to take care of.

    After being married a couple of years, I knew I needed to figure out how to finish my bachelor's degree so that I could get into seminary. I started taking classes part time (extremely difficult with full time work, mandatory overtime, a wife, and small children). I graduated last year, and now, at 28, I am midway through my first year in seminary.

    Those nine years between my sense of a call to the ministry and seminary were not wasted--I underwent huge changes in convictions, grew spiritually, and matured as a person. I am deeply grateful that the Lord held me back from seminary until now. I needed it.

    My advice--go after the bachelor's degree. In the meantime, join a strong, confessionally Reformed church, and ask the minister and elders there to pastor you toward the ministry. Read good books--Warfield, Dabney, Turretin, Shedd, etc. My years of private study in all of the disciplines of divinity are making seminary much better for me now. You don't want to go into seminary green, and you certainly don't want to go into the ministry green (without seminary). Move forward, but take your time.
  7. PaulCLawton

    PaulCLawton Puritan Board Freshman

    Brother, I do not see any reference to the elders of your church in your post. Do they think you are called to ministry? What seminary have they encouraged you to attend? Forgive me for being blunt, but you are doing this backwards.
  8. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    In what denomination do you seek to serve? The SBC? Then you need to submit to its process of ministerial preparation.

    If you are seeking to serve in some Reformed or Presbyterian connection, most of those require an undergraduate degree then seminary training, as well as local sessional endorsement and being taken under care as a candidate for gospel ministry by the presbytery (or something equivalent).

    The long and short is that you need an external call and you need to have your internal call tested. You thus need to work with the church and, as I noted, Reformed and Presbyterian ones require an educated ministry and that's the path that you need to follow.

    What Ruben said here cannot be exaggerated. It is indeed the case that learning is indispensable for the ministry. This is why churches require it. Some may note that the apostles were not learned men. However, they knew the languages that you'll study and were also versed in the history of their nation, theology and related matters. And they were with the Master for three years.

    I can understand that you are eager to get on with things. You do need the evaluation and judgment of the church and times-a-wasting anyway: rather than questioning whether you need the education required, proceed to get it. You don't wish to start off service in the church by questioning the church's own ministerial requirements. Rather, follow the process in every respect and get the preparation that all the called need to serve effectively.

  9. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    Or you could work toward becoming a ruling elder. You would be able to preach, teach, and shepherd people. No college necessary.
  10. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    This would not be the case in the OPC, Ryan: elders do not ordinarily preach. In fact, that verb is reserved for ministers (TEs) and licentiates. This is also true for the PCA, though the OPC and PCA differ somewhat in the specifics of the church order.

    I believe that Jonathan is clearly talking about a call to be a gospel minister and that is not what a ruling elder is, even though the Presbyterian bodies here have some differences on the question of ministers and elders.

    In other words, he is talking about doing what he proposes as his full-time calling and that does require the sort of preparation he envisions (perhaps not in some SBC churches--though he still means full-time, I believe).

  11. Jonathan95

    Jonathan95 Puritan Board Freshman

    Forgive me, my brashness took over while writing my initial post. I have made mention to my church elders about wanting to discuss the call of ministry on my life to see if it's a temporary feeling or something I should take seriously going forward. We have not been able to schedule a time to talk to due busy schedules and the like. I'm hoping to be able to have that discussion with them soon.

    I am thinking far ahead. Excuse my hubris. I tend to like to have a 5 year plan all written up and ready to go, and any sense of being unsure causes stress and depression in my life but I need to be willing to grow in patience and follow procedures as they have been laid out in scripture. I understand that I don't get to decide to do something just because it seems right in my own eyes.

    The next step is to have the talk with my elders and we'll take things from there. I'll be prayerful in the meantime. Thank you.
  12. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks for the clarity, Dr. Strange. We are in a small church plant with one ruling elder, so that's what I'm basing my experience off of. Our ruling elder sometimes preaches, he runs our prayer meeting, leads worship, does pastoral visits, etc. Maybe he's just stepping up in these ways because of our lack of leadership size.
  13. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    He does if licensed by the presbytery. If not, he is exhorting.

    In any case, he's not a full-time servant of the church, which is what I understand that Jonathan wants to be. He needs to follow the established conventions of the denomination he seeks to serve.

    His last answer, in fact, clarifies that he intends to take the counsel of his ecclesiastical governors.

  14. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    Like perhaps many here, I thought I had a call to the ministry. Since I dearly wanted to learn and read and then spew out all I had learned, I thought it was a call. I have since changed course not being prepared for the many sacrifices (financial, movement, etc.). However, my course, initially meant for seminary was not wasted. It propelled me to something else. I hope one doesn't confuse the love of knowledge, especially, or the Word, as a calling.
    You are 24. I completed my initial BA at 23 four years ago. I am now back at my university completing a teaching licensure and paying for it out of pocket. You are young. I would tell you please go for it. You'll likely get grants ; enough to pay for it depending on where you go (I recommend a nearby secular university). Or at least get an associate's at a community college to try things out and save money all the more. You will undoubtedly be able to transfer to an instate university.
  15. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    That's my understanding of the historic Presbyterian approach, but that's not the practice in the PCA.

    PCA BCO 4-5 for churches without a TE - includes exhortation, but also permits "presenting and expounding of the Holy Scriptures". It would be a mighty fine line between that and expository preaching. BCO 8-9 would also seem relevant. Indeed the only requirement seems to be for the Session "to ensure that the Word of God is preached only by such men as are sufficiently qualified" PCA BCO 12-5 e.
  16. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    That's not quite the way that I read 4-5, together with 8-5 and 19-1. An RE may exhort; if he is regularly to preach, he must be licensed.

    Now whether one calls the RE's occasional exhorting "preaching" seems debatable. I certainly have PCA friends who would only call it preaching if done by someone licensed (RE or TE) or ordained as a TE.

    I realize that such distinctions are commonly lost on congregants and most would consider an unlicensed RE opening up the Word in a sermon to be "preaching."

  17. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    Regarding Gordon-Conwell specifically, I imagine that depends on where you want to serve. I imagine if you continue to serve in SBC churches, you will be viewed very skeptically with a degree from Gordon-Conwell (the way I understand it is that Southern Baptist seminary degree is expected generally, then after that another Baptist seminary is the next best), especially if you're ever looking to serve outside of areas where GCTS is well-known. If you have Presbyterian convictions, I imagine the GCTS degree would not be as problematic in the PCA (I've met and known of severals PCA ministers with M.Divs from there) or EPC but probably would be in smaller, more confessional denominations.

    That said, if you're in a strong church that lines up with your convictions and you are so encouraged by your elders, I could see value in being able to stay in your local church and serve and finding the best seminary option that allows you to stay local.
  18. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Jonathan, I firmly second Alan's recommendation to go through the church. Trust its judgment about whether you have the necessary gifts and graces. It seems that is what you are doing, and that is right.

    As to schooling, I will lay before what T. David Gordon says in his outstanding preaching book Why Johnny Can't Preach, and that is to consider pursuing a bachelor's degree in English. The reason for considering it is that all too often, people show up at seminary, and they don't have a clue how to analyze a text. Furthermore, since their English grammar is often weak, they don't have the categories to understand Hebrew and Greek. So, for two very excellent reasons, I would encourage you to consider getting a BA in English, and focus on your English grammar, and your text-analyzing skills. The other stuff you can get in seminary itself.
  19. Jonathan95

    Jonathan95 Puritan Board Freshman

    This is something that I haven't thought of before and sounds like excellent advice, thank you!
  20. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I'm not sure how old you are but let me encourage you to pursue equipping. The ministry will be there when you are done. Whatever difficulty it may seem to overcome to have to complete your Bachelor's degree and MDiv over time will be far outmatched by the difficulty of actually being a minister.

    I also think it is important to attend a Seminary where you can be taught by Pastor-scholars. You may get differeing opinions on this but Pastors who are in ministry will not treat theology as much as an "academic" discipline. That's not to say that all theology needs to be in service to whatever a Pastor finds "practical" but being a mature Pastor grounds that work.

    One suggesting for you is to move to an area where you can work and attend a solid Church next to the place you'll want to go to Seminary. You can find a job, get your bachelor's and be mentored by a Pastor and a session and work on your internship. It takes a long time to learn how to be a spiritual leader so don't just do the "go to school" and figure that stuff out later. I'm not saying you must move but this sounds like a possible option.
  21. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Regularly being the key word. Occasional preaching by someone who isn't ordained or licensed is clearly permitted. And the issue is that 'regular basis' isn't a defined term in the BCO (if it is defined and I missed it, please point that out to me). Now, I do understand that some Presbyteries have undertaken to define it.
  22. ArminianOnceWas

    ArminianOnceWas Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi Jonathan,

    I can respect your desire to plan five years out and I understand that in the SBC the process for ordination may be less consistent than in a Reformed denomination, thus sometimes elders are not as helpful as they ideally could be.

    First, let me say about Gordon Conwell. I know SBC pastors here in the southern US who are Gordon Conwell graduates and well received. My assumption is that if you are aiming for SBC ministry then Gordon Conwell will be quite accepted especially within the Northeast.

    Secondly, even if you attend a Reformed seminary there is a chance you may have to feed yourself. I have looked at some of the course syllabi at certain schools and find you will likely need to supplement your reading if you want a deep Reformed education.

    Lastly, I'd like to encourage you to start your journey to a B.A. It's possible that by the time you conclude those studies your needs, ideas and life circumstances could be different which would give you additional criteria for selecting a seminary.

    I'd like to hear more about what your undergrad plans and options are.
  23. Jonathan95

    Jonathan95 Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks so much for understanding the situation that i currently find myself in. I was able to talk with my pastor today and we pretty much talked about if I'd be a good fit for seminary one day seeing as how I dropped out of high school and have essentially never written a paper in my adult life. So he encouraged me to try taking one english course at a nearby community college to see if schooling is exciting and life-giving or draining and soul-sucking for a person like me. We're just trying to gauge my competency for furthering my education.
  24. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    Let me just echo what others have said. I was in a similar position to you when I was your age. I was a single young man with not much else going on except my involvement in my local church and I went to a Christian college to major in biblical studies with the plan of continuing on to seminary. I was even a high school drop-out too. During the first two years of school while interning at a local church I realized that my call wasn't what I thought it was and eventually changed my career course. I also found out that I actually enjoyed school despite hating high school (leading me to spend close to 15 years in post-secondary education. I won't recommend that).

    You may well not have the same experience, but I believe that process of engaging in a secular studies (which I mean only in the sense of being non-ministerial) and getting out of your church bubble, even if to a conservative Christian school, will help try your calling and also give you more time to mature and grow academically, socially, and personally. This can only benefit you as you move towards seminary. Looking back now, I can see that it would have been a bad thing for me to jump right in to seminary--even if I had a true calling. Now if the calling was true I'm sure that God would have prepared me differently, but I wasn't mature enough then and would not be for some time. At the very least you need good study habits to be an effective minister and seminary is too late to start on that.

    I'm also hesitant about single men entering the ministry. I don't believe that it is an absolute requirement, but the life experience that comes with a family is invaluable for anyone interested in church office.
  25. Susan777

    Susan777 Puritan Board Freshman

    I don’t know....most English departments are pretty scary places these days. It’s almost a misnomer to call it the study of English. More like “deconstruction of everything”. However this may not be the case ata community college.
  26. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    If you'd like a challenge right now, you might enjoy these lectures out at Southboro, Ma:

    L'abri is part of the (very) broad reformed community, you'd meet some great folk, and you'd get a good taste of applying God's word to all of a culture. They've had a connection to Gordon Conwell in the past, perhaps doing lectures on campus? My memory is vague.
  27. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I think both are true. On one hand you need to be willing to die for grammar. On the other hand, as you note, most humanities depts today basically just chant "Never Trump" and don't actually teach anything.
  28. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    From what I've heard it may be even more the case at community colleges, where embittered pedants nurse their crushed dreams of tenured university professorships.
  29. Jonathan95

    Jonathan95 Puritan Board Freshman

    It seems incredibly interesting. I'll prayerfully consider checking it out!
  30. TheInquirer

    TheInquirer Puritan Board Freshman

    Think about some of the skills a minister may use quite frequently:

    - Reading and analyzing texts
    - Critical thinking
    - Communication (written, verbal - formal and informal)
    - Budgetary decisions
    - Personnel hiring and firing
    - Strategic deployment of resources
    - Staff/intern training and leadership
    - Conflict resolution
    - Cultural analysis and engagement
    - Counseling

    I am sure there are more. You can begin to develop an understanding of some of these skills and disciplines at the undergrad level if you choose your school carefully. Why not look at a Christian undergrad school where you can learn some liberal arts skills along with a foundation in Bible and theology?

    A seminary alone will not make you into a useful minister. It is only one piece (albeit important) of the training.

    Also, while you wait for the opportunity to go to seminary, there are plenty of audio courses from good seminaries that are offered online that you can listen to. There is also plenty of reading you can do that will aid you in both life and ministry.
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