The Truth about Seminary
Seminary doesn’t prepare people for ministry; it merely meets manmade expectations
I know many people who have gone to seminary. And I have friends who are going to seminary. I encourage them, pray for them, and once even helped pay the tuition. I respect those who have gone to seminary and graduated. Yet for most ministry-minded people seminary is a waste of time. Truly.
Seminary Is Man’s Idea
Attending seminary is a human concept. Nowhere in the Bible is there a command to pursue advanced education in order to minister to others. Jesus doesn’t say, “Before you go into the world, spend three years in advanced studies,” he just says, “Go.” We made up the seminary part because it seemed like a good thing to do, but it isn’t God’s idea.
Seminary Isn’t Required
None of the disciples, apostles, or elders went to seminary or received any sort of special religious training (Acts 4:13). The only one requirement is that they had spent time with Jesus. Yep, that’s it. The one essential qualification to ministry in the New Testament is having spent time with Jesus (Acts 1:21). Paul barely qualifies because, as one too late, he lacks one-on-one time with Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:8-9), but…
Seminary Knowledge Confuses People
Paul is the closest example in the New Testament to having a seminary degree. However, this detracts rather than helps. After Paul talks to Felix, the governor exclaims, “Your great learning is driving you insane,” (Acts 26:24, NIV). Yet Felix is an outsider. What do insiders think? Peter, the church’s first leader, writes this about Paul: “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand,” (2 Peter 3:18, NIV). At best, advanced learning creates a gulf between ministers and other people.
Seminary Doesn’t Help
I read that ministers who haven’t been to seminary are happier in their jobs than ministers with religion degrees. Furthermore non-seminary ministers are deemed more successful in ministry than their diploma-toting peers. So it seems seminary prepares ministers who will not be as happy or as successful.
Seminary Delays Ministry
I’ve had my heart broken too many times by people who say, “God has called me to full time ministry—so I’m going to seminary.” The first part excites me. The second part vexes my soul. If God calls you to full time ministry, then obey him and go. Don’t waste three years to get more schooling that doesn’t really matter, because…
Seminary Trains the Wrong Things
Seminary does little to draw students into a closer, personal relationship with Jesus, help them connect with God through prayer, or partner with the Holy Spirit. And it doesn’t focus on the essential people skills needed to lead a congregation. The one thing seminary is good for is to prepare people to teach at the college level. A seminary graduate possesses the academic credentials universities require. Of course to actually teach seminary requires a PhD, but an MDiv does give great credentials to teach at a Bible college.
Seminary Wastes Money
While a few seminaries are free, most cost money to attend. Spending money on something that isn’t commanded or required by God, delays ministry, and prepares for the wrong things is foolish and an example of poor stewardship. Instead invest that money in kingdom-facing initiatives that will actually do some good.If God actually tells you to go to seminary, then go. Otherwise just start serving him now. Click To Tweet
The one thing seminary does accomplish is that it fulfills the expectation of people that their clergy have endured the rigors of advanced education. Indeed, in some religious circles a seminary degree is a necessary document to gain entrance. Yet this manmade requirement does little to equip ministers with the skills needed to do their jobs well.
If God actually tells you to go to seminary, then go. Otherwise just start serving him and leave the advanced education to the academics. Jesus is all you need.
Read more about the book of Acts in Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.