The first time someone said this to me, I was both excited and dismayed: “God’s calling me to full-time ministry – so I’m going to seminary.” Though I’ve now heard it many times since, my reaction is the same.
I’m thrilled whenever anyone desires to work full time to support God’s causes. I’m equally distraught when they assume more education is a prerequisite. In fact, there’s often a requirement to first spend three years of intense theoretical study prior to action. That’s quite a detour!
I’m not against preparation. In fact, I insist on it, but unless the goal is to teach at the graduate level, I don’t see seminary as the best means to prepare. I say this, knowing that many friends have been to seminary and more are presently attending. I do my best to support them, but my insides scream, “You’re wasting your time!”
Most people don’t need more esoteric education, they need application in action. One minister recently said, “Our level of knowledge is about two years ahead of our obedience.” Others are direct: “Stop learning more about the Bible and start applying what you already know.”
Look at the disciples. How many of them had anything resembling today’s seminary training? None. Their preparation was following Jesus around, of seeing him in action, learning by doing, and applying faith to life. The closest they came to a theology class was the Sermon on the Mount, but that was practical, life-changing, perception-altering teaching, not abstruse rhetoric. Then, after three years of on-the-job training, they went out and changed the world – with God’s help, of course, but that’s the point.
Paul was likely the most educated of Jesus’ followers, but let’s be honest. How often do the things Paul wrote perplex us? I know it’s not just me. In Acts 26:24, Festus became so bewildered with Paul’s discourse that he shouted, “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
I’ve heard that ministers who don’t go to seminary are happier with their work and enjoy greater success. That’s telling. Knowing that, why would anyone want to attend seminary?
Most of us don’t need more education to serve God; we just need to do what he’s telling us to do. Now go do it!