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Christian Living

How Important Is Seminary for Today’s Church Leaders?

Knowing Jesus and Hearing the Holy Spirit Is Better Than Formal Education

Most all churches expect their clergy to have undergone formal, academic education. Many insist on a seminary degree, especially for their ordained ministers. From a worldly standpoint this makes sense. But from God’s perspective I can imagine him laughing.

Look at the credentials of Jesus’s twelve disciples. They were ordinary people, having received no higher education beyond that which all Hebrew children underwent. They had a relationship with Jesus. Their one essential qualification is that they spent time with Jesus.

Don’t miss that. Their one essential qualification is that they spent time with Jesus.

Though today’s leaders can’t spend physical time with Jesus, they can in the spiritual sense. They should. They must. Walking with Jesus in an intimate way and having his Holy Spirit lead them—just like in the Bible—is what we most need from our church leaders today.

If they don’t have a close relationship with Jesus, nothing else matters. Their credentials accomplish nothing.

A Personal Relationship with Jesus

Instead of emphasizing a personal relationship with Jesus, today’s seminaries focus on an academic deep dive into the Bible. This in-depth training ensures that graduates overflow with a substantial theological foundation, of which most church members care little about.

One common argument made in favor of seminary is that it’s a necessary protection against heresy. Yet, most all major heresies in the past two thousand years have come from trained clergy.

In truth, seminary best prepares graduates to teach other seminary students. But it falls short in equipping its students to provide the type of ministry functions that people at churches want.

Even worse, I fear formal religious education downplays having a relationship with Jesus and following the Holy Spirit, making these traits secondary in importance.

We need to select our clergy based on their godly character and not their seminary diploma. Click To Tweet

We need to select our clergy based on their godly character and not their seminary diploma. We must reorder our priorities away from man-made credentials and toward godly character.

Read the next post in this series about things we must change in our discussion about Sunday school.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus 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.

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Personal Posts

A Sad Situation

Several years ago, locally, a 16-year-old girl was tragically killed in a house fire—because her parents had her chained to her bed.

After they were given appropriately long prison sentences for her death, the father vented to any who would listen. While he admitted a “possible error in judgment” over chaining her to her bed, he justified the action as being warranted and needed.

According to reports, he then said it wasn’t his—or his wife’s—fault, launching into a tirade of blame. He accused the local school system, the children’s protective service, the local law enforcement agency, and the state, asserting that they either knew about—or should have known about—the situation and intervened.

These diverse and varied authorities should have stepped in, he claimed, to help them properly raise their daughter and prevent her unfortunate death.

I’m not sure what bothers me more, a child being chained up and dying in a fire or the people who caused her death claiming that it wasn't their fault. Click To Tweet

I’m not sure what bothers me more, a child being chained up and dying in a fire or the people who caused her death claiming that it wasn’t their fault.

What were they thinking?

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus 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.

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Personal Posts

The Mathematics of Influence

Once, while at a party, I made a new friend. She was pursuing her PhD in Mathematics. Her course work was finished and she was focusing on her dissertation. Interestingly, at one point in my life, I too wanted a PhD in mathematics, but she was the first person I’ve met who was actually doing it!

During a career, the average teacher will directly influence 500 to 5,000 student. Click To Tweet

Aside from the math part, another intriguing aspect is what she’s researching.  At the risk of over simplification, she was studying the teaching techniques used by the people who teach the math teachers.

Consider, depending on the circumstances, that during a career, the average teacher will directly influence 500 to 5,000 students.

And, again depending on the circumstances, during a career, the average teacher of teachers will directly influence 500 to 5,000 teachers—and thereby indirectly influencing 250,000 to 25,000,000 students.

Now, if she can help these teachers of the teachers be more effective, say 500 to 5,000 of them during the course of her career, the span of her influence will be vast and pervasive, beyond what is reasonable to calculate.

That is a profound amount of influence that one person can make. There is the very real possibility that she could improve and even change the way math is taught to the next generation.

And if you’re one who struggled with math in school, that should be some welcome news!

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus 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.

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Personal Posts

Words Can Tear Down or Built Up

A friend in a Master’s program recently took a pass/fail class designed to weed out weaker and mismatched students from the program. After spending less than 10 minutes in one-on-one communication, the professor deemed him to be ill suited for the program and its associated profession.

He was summarily failed. Although discouraged, he repeated the class with another instructor, who declared him to be functioning at the PhD level!

Another friend was wrapping up her last semester of college, doing her student teaching. Things were going well and the mid-semester report was glowing. Imagine her dismay when her mentor’s final assessment asserted that she was not fit to be an educator.

It took quite a while for her to rebound from the shock and disappointment; she selected a different career and never taught again.

Use your position to encourage others, to build them up, and to strengthen them Click To Tweet

Anytime someone has authority over another, their words carry a great deal of weight—so much so that career choices can be unnecessarily abandoned and self-esteem destroyed.

If you find that you have to deliver disheartening news, make sure the recipient knows why; explain your reasons; salt it with something positive; and never abandon them when they are at their weakest.

It is far better to use your position of authority to encourage others, to build them up, and to strengthen them. Imagine my friend and how hard he will work and how far he will go, now that he is secure in the knowledge that he is functioning at the Ph.D. level.

With authority comes responsibility; use it well.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus 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.

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Personal Posts

Are You Colorblind or Color Aware?

I rarely think back to my time in high school, but recently I remembered a conversation I had with a classmate. Or at least I remember the end of our conversation.

I don’t know what we were discussing or what I said, but my friend glared at me. “You forget. I’m not like you… I’m Mexican!” She was right. I forgot. Or to be more precise, it didn’t matter to me so I no longer considered it.

As the initial shock of her rebuff wore off, my surprise gave way to pride. I was colorblind when it came to the tone of her skin. I treated her as an individual, not as a stereotyped member of a different race.

I no longer noticed the hint of her accent or the physical characteristics that revealed her ethnic origin. I only saw a friend, someone I liked, who liked me, and was fun to be around.

Discuss and celebrate our differences. Click To Tweet

However, my smug self-satisfaction didn’t last long. My next reaction was distress. By failing to remember our differences, I assumed we were the same. I disrespected her by not acknowledging her culture, her traditions, and her family history. To be blunt, I viewed her as white—just like me.

For matters of race, being colorblind isn’t enough. We need to be color-aware, too. How to balance these opposing goals, though, is an ongoing struggle. Sometimes I manage okay, but other times I don’t do either as well as I would like.

That’s where dialogue comes in, being able to discuss and celebrate our differences. That’s when I need a friend who is brave enough and cares enough to gently say, “You forget; I’m not like you.”

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus 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.

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Personal Posts

Lessons for a 5th Grader

I remember channel surfing once when a show caught my attention: “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader.” Although I’d heard about the show, this was my first (and last) time watching it.

Overall, I fared better than the contestant, but then I didn’t have the pressure of a live audience and irksome host. I found it all to be mildly interesting.

Remember, today's kids will be tomorrow's leaders. Click To Tweet

What caught my attention, however, was that two opportunities to “cheat” were given to the contestant. If he was unsure of an answer, he could opt to “peak” or to “copy” from his fifth grade classmates—and he did!

How incredibly insane, promoting cheating in the same context as highlighting fifth grade knowledge. With examples such as that, it is any wonder that cheating and plagiarism is reportedly rampant in schools and colleges?

How about lying on job applications, embellishing resume facts, fabricating degrees, padding expense accounts, lying to congress, defrauding shareholders, spinning the news, cover ups, and the overall belief that the ends justify the means?

I’m not blaming all this on one simplistic game show, but that game show is perpetuating the mindset that it is okay to forgo integrity in favor of expedience.

That conclusion has been building for years. Yet, the elementary school children who are watching this show now have one more example encouraging cheating.

Remember, it is these same people who will be tomorrow’s leaders—and it doesn’t seem that ethics and honesty have much of a chance.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus 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.

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Personal Posts

The Graduates, part II

Here is a picture of the happy graduates.

(Mom and Dad are happy too—no more tuition payments!)

Now on to their wedding next weekend!

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus 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.

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Personal Posts

The Graduates

This weekend my bride and I will celebrate an event twenty-two years in the making. Our son, Dan, and our soon-to-be-daughter, Kelli, will graduate from college on Sunday.  I am exceeding proud of them both.

First, not every high school graduate is college material and others opt for alternate paths. Of those that head off to college, many are not cut out for the rigors of academia’s next level or lack the life skills to actually go to class and apply themselves. 

Then there are those who change their major along the way—sometimes multiple times. Lastly, there is an increasing phenomenon of being a “fifth-year senior.” Indeed some colleges seemingly count on that; it is quite common at our local State University. 

Even for Dan, this was a threat. Had he taken his first engineering class the first time it was offered and not taken any class without its prerequisites, he would have required nine semesters (four and a half years) to graduate.

We spent many hours pouring over the class materials and degree requirements in order to devise “the four-year plan” (only bypassing one prerequisite in the process). 

Poor Dan heard “the four-year plan” so often that surely it caused him much ire and consternation, but he kindly let dear old dad continue to proclaim it. Just recently, however, that mantra changed to “finish strong.”

I didn’t want the beckoning of life’s post-college future to get in the way of the present.

Indeed, he stuck to the four-year plan and he finished strong. On Sunday, we will celebrate that reality—before we quickly segue into the next event that will also be twenty-years years in the making, a wedding six days later.

Congratulations Dan and Kelli—on your degrees and your nuptials.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus 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.