With the rise in non denominational churches as well as a new culture of church ministries where culture and seeker sensitivity is becoming ever more important, one wonders if all of the money and time spent on Seminary is truly necessary, and whether one might not have better chances at succeeding in ministry with a degree in Psychology, Sociology, or even Marketing.
Recently, I have had the opportunity to brouse at application forms for various large churches seeking paid ministry staff. For my surprise, the vast majority, if not all, did not require any Theological training, undergraduate or graduate. Experience and communication skills were clearly more important to these churches telling candidates in their Person Specification Forms that Theological training was “desirable” but not necessary.
Upon realizing the changing requirements for enterin full-time ministry in churches, one naturally wonders if Seminary is not a thing of the past. After all, is not the goal of academic training to prepare one for a lifetime of service?
The answer to the above question is, of course, yes and no. The goal of academic training is in fact to prepare one for a lifetime of service, if you are called into secular work. For those called to serve not only men but also God, the goal of academic training is not simply to get students the chance at filling a position, preparing them for it. For those who view ministry (including and especially church ministry) as a call to live a life of devotion unto God and man, Seminary is a means of acquiring maximum valor, in character, skills, and of course, knowledge. It is also a spiritual preparation for a lifetime of suffering for the sake of Christ. After all, there are still Seminaries where students learn that ministry is not all bright spot lights and thrills, but devoting and sacrificing oneself for the Lord and the people He loves and died for. There are still seminaries where you will develop excellent prayer habits, Bible memorization skills, and character traits that will aid you in not only knowing how to be a great minister who attracts crowds, but a great man or woman who attracts the attention of God and whose prayers are answered.
When one is in ministry, it matters not who gives you a check or direct deposits your salary into your account. You work for God, a God who cares little for how well you can communicate three points of how a certain chapter and verse can be applicable to your daily life. You work for a God who cares about who you are on the inside, how you live out your faith, and how high you uphold Him in your personal life. For this, Seminary will never be overrated. A degree in marketing will not help you. Neither will one in Psychology. Vast experience in the field of Communications and working with people of various backgrounds will not get your prayers answered or help you make difficult decisions that may affect the lives of people you minister to. Only a deep, personal relationship with Christ will, as well as a profound knowledge of Scriptures. Seminary will help you on these necessary elements for ministry success, even if your years of toil and expenses are not well recognized by a church or organization that will hire you in the future. Rest assured that God will recognize it, and He will use your Seminary learning and experience for His glory wherever He leads you.
Written by Luciana Damascena. Luciana is a student at Liberty Baptist Seminary, currently in the M. Divinity program. She is a full time career missionary with BCM International and is serving in Portugal along with her husband and two children.