The answer to this question was simple, but not easy. The reason I went to seminary was to get a theological education. However before I got to seminary I prayed long and hard about going back to school to pursue a Master’s degree. I’ve sought the counsel of perhaps a dozen pastors, Christian leaders, faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. Throughout that time I was wrestling with whether I should go to medical school, business, law or seminary.
I applied to medical school and didn’t get accepted so I thought maybe the Lord is leading me towards seminary. I researched seminaries, financial options, and things related to seminary. After talking with my wife, current and previous pastors, family, friends, employer, and after being tested and tried at my local church for two years – I come away persuaded that I should go to seminary.
There was a significant financial obligation, a move from Sacramento to Philadelphia, and other worthy worries.
Here are my four (more in depth) reasons of why I went seminary:
1) To get a good theological education. Seminary has forced me to read and study books I wouldn’t naturally discipline myself to read. Knowing my personality and how I learn an “on-campus” Seminary (as opposed to on-line) is best to create an environment that will force me to wrestle with the depth and breadth of theological studies in a way I just can’t do on my own. Generally there is the misconception that those who should attend seminary are those who are called and confirmed for pastoral ministry. Just to be clear, I didn’t go to seminary to purse the pastorate but I am open to it should the Lord provide that opportunity.
2) Earn an accredited Master’s Degree. A Masters in Divinity (MDiv) is the best way to go if you are not sure what you will be doing after seminary because the MDiv will allow you to have a wider range of options after graduation. It is true that most people who get a Masters in Divinity go on to pastoral ministry, but there are many ways in which an MDiv can be used, such as: research, legal studies, teaching, administration, copywriting, education, music, galleries, art museums, antiques, social work, management, consultancy, campaigning, media, communications, television production, journalism or publisher… just to name a few.
3) For gift enhancement. As Christians we are universally called to serve the Church with our gifts, time and money. We are to imitate Christ by walking in His love and giving ourselves for others (Eph 5:1). Each Christian has a unique skill-set or God-given gift that they are to employ in the church and world (1 Cor 12:7). Having been a Christian within the church for over 12 years I have been humbled to have the church’s corroboration and my occupation’s confirmation of my abilities in leadership. Seminary (as a supplement to a local church) is one of few places where I went to set aside a concentrated amount of time to continue to evaluate and be evaluated of what gifts will be enhanced throughout my studies. As I discern my calling through the input of my assigned advisor, mentors, and local church, I hope to have a clearer understanding of what my gift’s strengths and weaknesses are as I work on my weaknesses and enrich my strengths. I do believe the Lord has His hand on me for ministry I just don’t know what kind of ministry and at what capacity. There is no cookie-cutter way to go about this since no two persons experience is identical but we must all be eager to invest what God has entrusted to us (Matt 25), and for me that looked like going to seminary.
4) God’s providence is leading in this direction. I am not saying; “God made me do it”. No, I wanted to go, and I see the Lord had providentially paved the way to seminary in more ways than I can list here. He provided an overwhelming amount of peace, guidance, and prayerful support in this decision. The Lord has been faithful to answer prayer, and faithful to gently lead us in this direction. I wish to be faithful to follow where he leads. Did the thought of going worry me? Absolutely! But I think that’s a good place to be as we try to respond to the light we have.
Please don’t mis-understand me, this is not an endorsement for formal theological education. I simply wanted to give encouragement to those Christians, who wonder about going to seminary and if it’s worth it. For some people, at the right theological school, it is. For others, it may not be the wisest decision. You must work that out for yourself.
But if you go, seek first an education. It is important to remember that the call to ministry is primarily found in the context of the local church – not seminary. Seminary is not the Church; No one and no church should assume that a seminary degree is equivalent to God’s call to any ministry.
The Church today needs a wide range of leaders with a wide range of preparation and a wide range of influence. The Church has been richly blessed by well-informed Christians who love, support and care for her. Let each of us, then, seek the best education available to us: counting the cost, and benefit of it–to ourselves and to those whose lives we will touch.
By Pavel Bugriyev