The United States is blessed to be a nation where a large percentage of the population is still comprised of practicing Christians and where Christian organizations abound. There are a large number of Christian schools, colleges and, of course seminaries. So many, as a matter of fact, that one will find at least one seminary to suit any Christian’s taste, budget, theological view, gender, and preference.
So why would anyone consider going out of the country for seminary? After all, do we not have excellent ones right here? I recently visited an online board where one prospective seminary student asked if he should consider attending one of the good seminaries he had researched in Europe. The responses came from pastors and professors in an absolute consensus: There is nothing good enough outside the United States, so don’t look elsewhere for your education. As it turns out, this is one example of how culture affects one’s views on Christian practice and ministry. American culture is a patriotic culture and our patriotism, while justified (in my biased American view!) is just one example of how we see truth through the eyes of our culture.
The reality is that there are indeed excellent seminaries all over the world. Granted, America is a vast land and therefore offers an incomparable number of options. However, when several other countries are in view, one can also find a suitable seminary elsewhere. The question is, however, as posed in the title of this post, why do it? Why go through the trouble? What would I gain, and what could I have to lose?
Beginning with the last question, I would say, since subsidized loans for graduate students were discontinued, one has nothing to lose. If Uncle Sam will not pay for your tuition in the U.S., nor for the interest on your loans, you might as well keep your horizons broad. As for why do it and what you have to gain, there is no end to the possible answers to this question. Yet, I would say the greatest benefit you would have is the opportunity to learn about the Bible and ministry through the lens of another culture, therefore being able to strip cultural bias off of your Biblical worldview. This includes not only what you learn in class, but the experience of attending a church abroad and serving in it. Not to mention the life experience gained through living in a foreign country for a few months or years and being immersed in a different culture, with people who love the Lord all around you but who think, talk, and live differently.
If you are concerned about support, just remember: Some of the very same means of supporting yourself in an American seminary are available overseas as well: Working at the seminary, getting a job elsewhere, asking your church and family members to help out financially and, of course, having your spouse work full time while you study. Most countries (such as Canada) will grant a work permit to spouses of those who are on a full time student visa. Another advantage is that you will be pressed to find a country where education is as expensive as it is in America, so you might even end up saving some money.
If you are concerned about not speaking another language, just remember: Other countries speak English as well. You may consider Canada, Australia, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, and New Zealand. And just because the language is the same, it does not mean you would not have a truly foreign experience. The way people do church in these countries is peculiar to them and the context of their culture and you would gain great life experience. You might have lots to learn and gain a much greater understanding of yourself, your church, and your own beliefs while still acquiring an excellent seminary education. I hope that if this is for you, you will be able to think outside the box and may the Lord give you guidance and courage.
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.