My Cynical (self critical) Thought For The Morning

I’m sure this only applies to the careerists among us, but I see too much of it in my own heart.

@ Seminary
Time + $$$ + Hard Work = Status (degree)

@ Churches
Status + Hard Work + Time = $$$ + praise of man

I wonder why we are so eager to follow Paul’s doctrine but not his example. (2 Tim 3:10-13)

Most of what really sticks from seminary can be learned from mastering 15 great books.

  • Q: Why not read those and serve as an apprentice under a godly pastor?
  • A: Without the status (degree) it’s hard to get a job.

Feel free to rebuke me in the comments.

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19 Responses to My Cynical (self critical) Thought For The Morning

  1. So… What are the 15 books?

  2. I am totally there with you man. I’m a new student at NOBTS, and I wonder how in the world I can break the cycle. I guess what I will have to do is get the seminary education and then encourage future leaders in my church to not pursue seminary but be mentored and well read. I would love to have a pastor down here to mentor me, so I wouldn’t be tied to getting a seminary education.

  3. Tony,

    Can you give the list of fifteen books? I would rather continue to be self-studied and in the will of God than to leave the pastorate He has placed me in.
    On a personal note. I wish we could have met each other at the Convention. I looked for you but did not come across your path.


    Martin Pitchers last blog post..SBC Annual Meeting 01

  4. Matt Privett says:


    I couldn’t agree with you more. Following the example of 2 Timothy 4:2, it is the church’s responsibility to disciple and raise up more godly men to take the reins of ministry. This coming from someone who will eventually, God willing, get at least an M.Div. Unfortunately, the current mindset, which has been for quite some time, is that a degree is required. I believe churches would be better served training their own men, teaching them theology, Greek, Hebrew, et al. Anyway, I think you’re onto something.

    Matt Privetts last blog post..Prayer: A mandate so often ignored

  5. Tony Kummer says:

    @John: This is the complaint I heard from almost everyone, no mentors to be found. I think this is an area where some of the new networks will really excel. The T4G cooperation map might be a good place to start looking.

    @Martin: I’m not sure which 15 books would be top. I would say several systematic textbooks would be a great place to start. If a person really mastered Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology then they would have a very strong start. It sounds like a good question for a forum post.

    I should also mention all the excellent free Seminary style instruction being created on the internet, like the Biblical Training website

    @Matt: The sad truth is that getting hired without a degree (status) is very difficult, unless you are willing to preach in churches that need the most help.

  6. Dave Travis says:

    I am a SBTS grad and I had a good experience. But the most valuable part of the experience was developing relationships with professors that served me in some mentor ways. Sadly, all those are dead or gone now from Southern.
    I am not against seminary educational experiences but after looking around the national landscape of training for ministry, I would put my eggs in something like the Vineyard Leadership Institute, which combines the great books with personal mentoring in a peer delivered process.
    I am not a Vineyard guy or a charismatic guy but I would put a VLI grad up against any SBC seminary grad any day for biblical knowledge, understanding and practical ministry.
    Just my two cents.

  7. ABClay says:

    How about going to school to learn “tentmaking” and being trained in theology and pastoring by the church staff?

    I believe that much of the problem has to do with wanting to impress the culture and sister churches. The “Our Pastor has a doctorate” mentality if you will.

    Grace and Peace…


    Oh, as a post script, might I add that Reformed Theological Seminary has many seminary lectures you can download. It’s a great resource.

  8. Scott says:

    You left out an important variable for your equations…

    The lip pucker firmly applied to either rear cheek. )x(

    Scotts last blog post..Miracles were not Common Place in the Bible — They were Rare!

  9. Joseph Gould says:

    If someone is in seminary for the sole purpose of getting a degree so that they can get a full-time church position, then I wouldn’t want them as my pastor. Of course, we must all guard against this temptation, and I am not suggesting that it is a struggle which we should never expect to face. But if all who came to seminary had the mindset that they had a unique opportunity to dive deep into studies which would be of great impact for their next 40 years of ministry, perhaps most seminary graduates wouldn’t abandon or be forced away from pastoral ministry in less than five years?

    And on a different note, I would say that another thing you learn in seminary, or at least should learn, is how to write well. Learning to organize your thoughts and write well is helpful for one’s preaching. If someone can’t write coherently, don’t expect them to stand behind a pulpit and preach coherently.

    So yes, seminary is expensive. Yes, seminary is time-consuming. But when we keep our mindset in check, when we work hard to truly learn and not just get by, and when think of the long-term benefits, then both our families and our churches are going to be better off. Of course, seminary isn’t required, and someone should not feel bad if there circumstances do not allow them to attend, but it is very helpful for the majority of us.

    Joseph Goulds last blog post..How Christianity Conquered Rome, Part 2

  10. Tony Kummer says:

    @Dave: I agree with you about the positives that come with faculty mentoring. The difficulty now at Southern is that for every full time professor, there are hundreds of students. Most of my recent classes have been 40+ students. It is getting harder for the professors to even learn your name, much less mentor you. And if you are shy (or unwilling to seek them out) you become invisible.

    @ ABClay: I like your point, but I don’t think anyone is dreaming of a “tent making” ministry. For whatever justification, there are very few men willing to serve God without pay.

    @Scott: You are officially licensed to the Ministry of Mischief

    @Joseph: I agree very much with your point about pastors only seeking to move up the religious career ladder. In this I think many guys may be self-deceived.

    Maybe it would be better if we thought of the default preparation for ministry to be serving in the church, and then we had to make a case for seminary. As it stands, it is the only option if you ever expect to support your family as a pastor.

  11. You knew you weren’t going to get through this one without hearing from a bivocational, Tony. 😉

    Been there and done the seminary part of the equation. But not that often (at least nowadays) do we see anyone our age get the second part of the equation. What we do get is a lot of debt and frustration, and a lot of Job-like moments where we wonder if we’re really doing what we’re supposed to be doing.

    Don’t get me wrong, “praise of man” isn’t the goal, but it would be nice to have a little affirmation once in a while from someone other than a fellow minister/student. For that reason alone every young pastor ought to read the prophets, especially Jeremiah. 😉

    Furthermore, “greenage” isn’t the goal either (if it is, why the heck are you in ministry to begin with???), but it sure would be nice to not have to slave at a secular job and live paycheck to paycheck because the church doesn’t want to give you a living wage. Especially when one is forced to choose between buying gas to get to work/church or paying bills/buying food.

    That seminary degree isn’t as valuable as it used to be. Yet if we want a hope of making a decent living as ministers and especially bivocationals, we need the degree.

    Stephen Newells last blog post..Confronting Unbelievers In Our Midst

  12. Terry Lange says:


    You have a valid point. Some things are so ingrained that they will be hard to change. I wonder because there are so many seminarians seeking degrees (I have one and working on another) will we cheapen the MDiv because there are so many people out there with them? Remember when the MBA was a rarity, now there are people with MBA’s everywhere.

    Terry Langes last blog post..Highland Park Baptist Church to rejoin SBC

  13. Toney Sauks says:

    i have a cynical reaction to your cynical thoughts: where in the world am i supposed to find a pastor, much less a church that will allow me to apprentice? and if i did find such a place outside of a history book, who is to say that said pastor will actually be there long enough to see the thing through? i have sat under several pastors up to this point in my life and i cannot say that i would have trusted any of them to teach me the ins and outs of doctrine; church polity and pastoral care MAYBE, but never theology. in my case, the men i speak of where bonifide fence sitters. because of that, i became an avid reader, trying to figure out what they refused to teach.
    i understand this experience may be the exception, but it is the only one i have ever had -over and again. SBTS is a blessing that i cannot even begin to express. at this place have learned that there are men who actually have opinions, are not scared of making mistakes, have credentials to spare, yet will go out to lunch with students (the approachability of our professors is fascinating to me). i am not sure of what your 15 books are, but they could never take the place of looking a professors in the eye and asking him to defend/explain/expound on an idea and then hearing what actually turns out to be one of the most profound moments in ones theological development. i love books as much as the next bibliophile, but they are a cheap substitute for the flesh and blood experience of the classroom (which i love if you have not figured it out yet).
    as far as the status goes, well, i for one am proud of the seminary i attend, proud of our president, proud of our stance in the world, church, and convention, proud that we are considered the most academic of the SBC seminaries. when i walk across that platform and shake Mohler’s hand, i will have earned no small amount of status among my fellow seminarians and professors -i will have done it, finished the race as it were, not to mention completing a task that God has set before me and my family. the people in the church(s) i serve will probably care less what school i attended, but i will know that i am at least mentally prepared for the task of church service and the theological pitfalls therein -our professors do a fantastic job of applying the knowledge to everyday church life.
    i agree with you whole-heartedly that the apprentice model is the way to go. i wish deeply that i would have had someone to take me alongside them and teach me what it means to be a pastor and a mature believer in Christ -but it simply did not happen that way (and not for lack of trying). it is up to us to take “Timothys” under our wings when we have the chance -but i will still send the man off to seminary and SBTS at that if i can help it.
    it is late and i don’t know if i have put together a cogent statement here, but i am glad you brought this up Tony and i am glad that to see that there are young pastor among us who are dedicated to discipleship and teaching the next generation of pastors the ropes instead of leaving them to figure it out on the fly.

  14. Scott says:

    Tony K,
    Is that a paid position? LOL

    Toney S,
    I assure you, you are not the exception. Though I was jesting with the pucker comment, humor often presents the truth in a more acceptable way. In the unfortunate climate of politics that defines our religious outlets its the kiss-up method that usually garners a respectable place of ministry. For those that refuse to succumb to the one-knee approach, they are left wondering how to have a viable vocational ministry.

    Study hard and enjoy it. It will serve you well.

    Scotts last blog post..Miracles were not Common Place in the Bible — They were Rare!

  15. KBarry says:

    I have visited a couple of churches where the pastor did not have a seminary education and found the teaching to be sorely lacking (although I have also been to many where they had and the teaching was also not firmly biblically grounded). I believe that, short of a personal recommendation, I would hesitate to visit a church (no less think of joining) where I knew the pastor did not have a seminary education. For me, which seminary they graduated from also is very telling as to their theological position.

  16. The Lord rebuke me if I ever say I am “proud” to have a seminary education. This may be a picky matter of semantics, but I abhore the way we Christians use the word pride, as if the Bible has nothing to say about it. We learn from James the importance of choosing our words wisely and I think the believer should never say that he is proud of anything. Everything of which we can say we are proud, we should turn back to God in praise and say as much, rather than claiming to be proud about it. We should not boast in anything save our weaknesses and the grace of Christ. Try on “I praise God for in mercy in allowing me to have a seminary education, to go to SBTS, etc.” I’m not trying to be harsh or critical. I’m just concerned that our choice in words as Christians to use the word “proud” may betray some inner….well…pride.

  17. Tony Kummer says:

    I’ve edited the post a little to reflect this is something I see hints of in my own heart.

    Please don’t think I’m down on SBTS – God has used the seminary as a tool of grace in my life.

  18. John Baker says:

    my brother, that’s not cynism, that’s reality! ….expanded further
    @one church
    Time + praise of men = bigger church
    Isn’t it amazing that God’s call is always from small to big, why isn’t it from big to small as Jesus taught in Luke 14:7-11? Just a thought..
    Thanks for putting reality into an equation that demands change!

  19. There’s a reality where a seminary education gives credentials for pastoral search committees to check. This reality leads to another – accrued credentials for a prospective pastor seem good ifnot necessary for fulfilling God’s perceived calling.

    I’m well educated. I’m primarily self-taught, but I have studied music, physics and Bible with high marks achieving no more than an Associates degree in pre-science. I pay the bills as a production controller in the laboratory furniture industry. I’m also active in music ministry, teaching and missions through my church. Staff members with doctorates seek my insight.

    However, I couldn’t get a job on the staff of most churches because of my lack of a degree. It doesn’t matter and I’ll tell you why:

    Whether you are on the staff of a church or work in a “secular” job, if you are a Christian then you are a full-time minister of the gospel of Christ. Period. It doesn’t matter where your paycheck comes from. Christians shouldn’t work for a paycheck. We should work in all ways as in service to our Lord and trust Him to supply our needs.

    As for mentoring, we are building a system of mentoring (discipleship) in our church – not from the pastors or staff members, but through the rest of the congregation. There are those who are strong in the faith and those who are weak in the faith. Those who are strong in the faith mentor those who are weak one-on-one. The gaol is to make them strong in the faith so they can, in turn, mentor someone else. I’m guessing we’re at about 10% of the congregation. The next group to focus on mentoring are next year’s high school seniors, in order to shore them up against what they will encounter at the colleges and universities they plan to attend. Meanwhile, the numbers of mentees and mentors increase steadily.

    We are all to be ministers. Seminary or not.

    Jim Pembertons last blog post..John Piper on Spiritual Depression

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