So, Seminary or Cemetery (as some would call it)?
Yep, thatâ€™s my answer and Iâ€™m sticking to it. But since youâ€™ve been nice enough to stay with me these three posts, Iâ€™ll even tell you why.
The simple truth is, sometimes seminary is the absolute right move and sometimes itâ€™s a disaster. Want to know whatâ€™s really sad? Itâ€™s actually pretty easy to avoid seminary becoming a spiritual graveyard, but somehow people walk right in with their shovels and start digging from year one. By year four they are done and all that remains is to shut the coffin lid and have one of their fellow grave diggers throw some dirt on top. That graduate will not be coming out. They will not minister much (if at all. Itâ€™s too hard from the coffin). They might even go back into the work force like nothing ever happened. They will not use their new found knowledge of Godâ€™s Word. They might even walk away from God Himself!
I know, its crazy, but it happens every year. The seminary I graduated from actually has tens of thousands of graduates who never even left the city. They are still walking around the area like a scene right out of, â€œNight of the Living Dead.â€ No ministry, no impact at their jobsâ€¦no nothing.
Now, this isnâ€™t all of them, mind you. A lot of them stay and enter thriving ministries that are doing a lot of good, but those are the ones who made it to the dawn and let the sunlight restore their vitality (at least I think thatâ€™s how it worked in the movie). But I wonder how many of them would do even more good if they left one city with thousands and thousands of graduates and went to more unchurched areas to spread the gospel.
So, let me sum it up by being blunt. The ones who tend to crash and burn are the ones who arrive at seminary because they figure thereâ€™s nothing else they can do. Or theyâ€™ve failed at other jobs in the secular work place. Or, they have gone to Christian school all their lives, then Christian college, and now it just seems the right thing to do to follow it up with seminary, right?
If you werenâ€™t called, stay away. Seminary will be like garlic to you the vampire. Or, maybe itâ€™s the other way around. The school will be like a blood sucking leech to youâ€”draining you of all passion and spiritual vitality by the time you walk down that isle and pick up your diploma.
However (and Iâ€™ll finish with thisâ€¦maybe), if you are called to ministry, donâ€™t simply assume you had all the spiritual knowledge of the apostle Paul beamed into you from the heavenly mothership. You didnâ€™t. And chances are you will do one of the following (all bad):
- Detour from orthodox truth
- Start elevating yourself instead of God
- Walk away from the faith because you never answered your own questions let alone anyone elseâ€™s
- Build a kingdom, but not Godâ€™s.
My own road was really pretty straight forward. At the end of the one year program at Word of Life my call to ministry was more certain than ever and I now needed to determine what my first move should be. After seeking God in prayer, godly council, and through the reading of His Word, I determined that I needed to be extremely well grounded in the Bible myself. Even though we were entering the age of internet sermon stealing and â€˜cut and pasteâ€™ theology, I knew that was smoke and mirrors and those guys would be caught up short at some point. Thereâ€™s a lot of great stuff on the internet, and we should avail oursleves of it, but you have to know the Bible yourself if you are ever going to authentically lead others to follow Christ in a genuine and life changing way.
You canâ€™t fake it. Not over the long haul anyway.
After I realized this, I looked carefully back over my year at Word of Life. Who were the speakers and teachers who impacted me the most? When I remembered them, I wrote down their names and then tracked their roads to ministry. I discovered a few very important things for me.
- They all went to seminary.
- They all used their degree and were in active ministry.
- They all (but one) went to the same seminary (Dallas Theological Seminary â€” check it out here)!
I had my answer. I applied to that seminary and the rest is historyâ€”at least the educational part.
One final note: Is it possible to be called to ministry, go to seminary, and still come out with the passion sucked out of you and no desire whatsoever to do ministry?
Yes, and I believe with all my heart that the preventative medicine to this is to be heavily involved in ministry the entire time you are at seminary. Put what youâ€™re learning into to practice. For me that was the key to keeping my enthusiasm for the ministry I knew God was calling me to. All in all it was a balance. I filled my head with knowledge at seminary and I filled my heart with passion through the ministry of Young Life.
Itâ€™s that simple.