What’s So Great About Seminary?

Today is the final day of my final on-campus class for my current (and possibly final) degree. After today, I will only have one online class in order to graduate in December. My wife is already celebrating.

It’s been a good class and has reminded me why I’ve loved my time at Southern (and Boyce). There may be inherent weaknesses in the modern seminary model, but overall I am grateful for the experience.

What’s So Great About Seminary?

1. It’s a great privilege to be instructed in God’s Word by godly men. The best professors are those who love the Bible and love God’s people. Such pastor-scholars are abundant at Southern Seminary.

2. It’s one way to become competent in many skills useful in ministry. You can’t learn everything in the classroom, but there is much you can learn.

3. It’s an opportunity to make lifelong friends who will encourage your ministry. This is something I was slow to figure out. Making friends is much more helpful than making the grade.

4. It’s a intense experience that will train you in perseverance, a quality essential for pastors. If you can learn to manage the pressures of seminary, you will be more prepared to survive the pressures of the pastorate.

5. It’s a safe setting for theological reflection and to confirm the reliability of the scriptures. On the many secondary issues, students will often try on several positions before they settle on a firm conviction based on God’s Word. As much as possible, this development should be done outside the pulpit.

6. It forces most students to live in greater dependence upon God. I’m always amazed at the young couples who move across the country to attend Southern. This type of faith and sacrifice will produce pastors who are willing to serve in hard places.

7. It’s a time to clarify the mode of ministry to which God is calling you. Many young men come to seminary with an open-ended sense of God’s calling. As they step out in obedience, their path becomes increasingly clear.

8. It’s a chance for younger men to gain valuable maturity. Those extra three years of following Christ are one of the greatest benefits of coming to seminary. It sometimes feels like a holding pattern, but spiritual maturity is measured in decades – not years.

9. It’s a system that screens out many who are unqualified for the ministry. There are many students who withdraw from seminary, often questioning their fitness for the pastorate. While this is sad, it would be much worse if their unreadiness was discovered after they entered the ministry.

10. It’s a time that eventually will come to an end. Yes, even the marathon timetable will eventually reach its objective. As I approach graduation, the time spend on my degree seems increasingly short. I suspect it will one day seem a very brief season of my life.

What do you think? You can add your thoughts in the comments below.

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13 Responses to What’s So Great About Seminary?

  1. Doug Smith says:

    Tony,

    Thanks for these insights. I am somewhat on the other end of the church – online student residing in Virginia, hoping to be serving nearer L-ville or an extension center in the coming months. I have taken two seminary classes in person, and wWhile I appreciate the distance-enabling technology, it is so much better to be in a class with real flesh and blood people and have more personal interaction with the professor. Taking Hebrew this fall will probably be a continual reminder of the importance of perseverance! I would love to see a big change in seminary that gets back to a more local-church model. But, I too am grateful for the many benefits the current status quo provides. The Lord bless you as you trust Him and serve Him.

  2. Jerry says:

    It has been almost 20 years since my Seminary days (MDiv. SWBTS ’89), but I would agree with all of your points. Some things remain constant in this changing world.

    Jerrys last blog post..Free Book

  3. Sandra says:

    Numbers 6 and 7 were especially true for my husband and me, having graduated a year ago now. I would also add that if you can find the right balance of ministry, work, and family time while in seminary it will help keep your priorities in order after graduation. Seminary also helps you get started on a great collection of books that every pastor needs to fill the bookshelves of his office!

  4. Andrew says:

    I’ve finished my first year at another SBC seminary (yes, we are watching this blog intently!) and have enjoyed it thoroughly…and yes, I’ll be returning to it this fall! I agree with everything you stated, especially the point about life-long friends and colleagues. The support is the best incentive to on-campus/in-residency education

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  7. Ah, now I’ve made the connections, Tony! Good to see you today. Anyhow, I would agree with your assessment, at least as it pertains to Southern—as well as with the commenter who pointed out how important it is to have face-to-face interaction with professors. A couple of other thoughts: (1) I went to one of our other seminaries for my MDiv before that institution shifted gears from “L” to “C,” and I went to SBTS for my doctorate after the shift was solidified. I was amazed at how much more passionate the conservative scholars were about their subjects and how much more they wanted to see it applied in local churches compared to those from more liberal perspectives. Never lose sight of the blessing of being trained under scholars who are passionate about Scripture and about the local church. (2) As a professor, I am deeply and repeatedly humbled by how much our students sacrifice to come here for seminary. It constantly drives me to do everything in my power to teach better and to learn more because there truly is “a charge to keep” here, and I love every moment of it.

  8. @Timothy–Thank you for your second comment. As one of those “sacrificing students” it is easy to get into the mindset of “no one understands” or “no one appreciates why I am here.” I am not saying we want to be appreciated but it is nice to know explicitly that the professors understand and that they still drive us to finish the task at hand. Thank you brother.

    Terry Delaneys last blog post..Softball for a Day

  9. Tony Kummer says:

    @Doug: The disconnect with the local church is one major drawback to the seminary experience, that is where the online/extension center guys have a real advantage.

    @Sandra: The books are definitely a wonderful side effect. Before I went to Boyce/SBTS my books were mostly Christian “best sellers.” Now I have many better resources.

    @Dr. Jones: Thanks for stopping by, we did enjoy your church this morning. Thanks for your insights about seminary. Most of the professors I’ve had at Southern have the same attitude and take their academic ministry very seriously. That is certainly a benefit of SBTS.

  10. john says:

    Great post. I’m starting my first classes at SWBTS this fall and am excited.

    May the Lord bless and lead you after graduation.

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