Seminary: Who Needs It?

If you survey leaders of megachurches in the United States…if you consider most leaders of the burgeoning house church movement in China…if you examine the leadership of exploding congregations in Africa…you notice one striking commonality: Most of them have little or no formal theological education.

A North American correspondent writes:

“Is theological education necessary for people engaged in occupational ministry? If so, is the contemporary seminary scene the best form for education to occur in the future?

“I have been wrestling a bit with this regarding the emerging church, rising student debt, and the complexity of the postmodern world. I think we live in difficult ministry times that demand excellent formation and education, but it seems the pragmatic opportunities for such education is being limited by ‘market realities.'”

I think this friend puts it well. Every leader does need to be “excellently formed and educated.” Those who seek to lead without being properly shaped as persons and educated as leaders may well attract a lot of followers by dint of charisma and hard work. But the lack of well-formed hearts and well-informed minds will put their congregations and themselves in peril: in peril of narrowness, of shallowness, and of heresy. God certainly has guided the church in the past through people without seminary education–indeed, ever since he called fishermen. But he also provided the early church, and every church since, with educated leadership, such as the carefully-trained apostle Paul.

Does a Master of Divinity degree necessarily produce and then certify a fine church leader? Certainly not. But does theological ignorance and immaturity of spirit somehow improve the picture? Hardly.

Yes, seminaries can and do narrow one’s options, but they are supposed to help students avoid bad choices and make good ones–about doctrine, about piety, about liturgy and evangelism and polity and the rest. Yet sometimes seminaries do narrow the options too much, so that those who are not socialized in such places sometimes are the ones who spontaneously innovate.

Creative people, however, normally have a considerable store of knowledge of a field before they innovate–in a way that produces lasting, influential, and positive results. Anybody can do something merely new in church: that doesn’t require knowledge, insight, or special imagination. Just have everyone who leads the service wear a pink hat, or just have everyone who attends a service keep hopping from one foot to another. (I hope I’m not giving anyone any ideas….) But lasting, influential, and positive results normally come from people who know a given field well–so well that they can see what needs changing and then how to change it for the better.

(A terrific book in this regard is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity [Harper, 1996].)

Still, most aspiring pastors aren’t looking to be especially creative, but competent, compassionate, and Christ-like. So do you need to go to seminary for that?

Well, yes. At least, some people do.

Obviously, for at least some kinds of ministry among some kinds of people, a high degree of sophistication is necessary. To be sure, well-educated congregants have the same basic needs as everybody else. But they have other needs as well that require leaders to have thought about a number of things and to have thought through at least a few of them. So those who are considering pastoral work among university or high-tech populations, therefore, will need to take seriously the peculiar intellectual demands of such work.

Yet ministry among anyone can be improved by good theological education: among kids, among teenagers, among the oppressed, among the interested and the confused of any age and situation.

For everyone asks about the problem of evil. Everyone wants to know about how to interpret Genesis 1-3. Everyone wants to know how to take the Bible’s “tall tales” of Flood, Exodus, Jonah’s fish, and Jesus’ resurrection. And everyone wants to know how to find Christ, follow him, and enjoy his company forever–in a way that avoids extremes, or compromises, or imbalances, or pat slogans.

So who shouldn’t get a proper Christian education? (That’s why I like teaching at a place that educates even more laypeople than it does pastors.) Yes, theological school is costly. But, as the old saying goes, if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Okay: so far, this is what you’d expect from a guy who earns his bread at a theological school.

So let’s recall again that lots of leaders around the world today don’t have seminary education and seem to enjoy God’s blessing. And that’s been true in every era of the church.

You don’t need a seminary education to introduce people to Jesus. You don’t need it to preach the gospel. You don’t need it to administer baptism or the Lord’s Supper. There is much that can be done, has been done, and is being done by simple Christians with a simple understanding–and much that puts our educated, sophisticated churches and leaders to shame.

The point is not, however, whether God uses some people in some situations to do good pastoral work. The point, rather, is whether God is calling some people in some situations to do pastoral work that really does require sustained education in the Scripture, theology, history, liturgics, administration, counseling, and other staples of contemporary seminary education.

The point is whether God is calling such people to join seminary communities in which, for a few years, they can be immersed in an environment of mutually reinforcing teachings and practices that will form them in a fundamental way for a lifetime of fruitful–and, doubtless, also creative–service.

And the point is whether we ourselves want to be pastored by people who have never been taught even the basics of Bible history, of how to interpret a parable, of the history of missionary success and failure, and of what makes for a good marriage. Yikes, I say.

I know seminary costs a lot. I didn’t earn a typical seminary degree at a typical seminary, but my theological education cost a pretty good whack of cash and it took me quite a while, so I sympathize.

Medical education and engineering education also require a lot of money and time, however, and I don’t think that pastoral work is any less conceptually difficult than medicine and engineering. I want my surgeon to know what and how to cut, and I want my engineer to know how to build a bridge that will stay up, and I want my pastor to know how to lead us to become a better church. So the money and time is justified if the education helps a lot toward that goal.

Thus the question is whether, in fact, seminaries offer good, and good enough, education for those whose callings require it. And I would then say that some seminaries do, and some don’t. Some are academically arcane; some are dogmatic and authoritarian; some are sloppy; some are only warm and fuzzy; and some are self-righteous–and guess what kinds of students they tend to attract and to produce? Yikes again, I say.

So this is not a brief for seminary education in general, nor is it a blanket endorsement of every theological school. Heavens, no! But it is an encouragement to those serious Christians, like my friendly correspondent, who wonder if the time and money is worth it. For some people, at the right theological school, it is. And maybe it is for you, too.

In sum, academic snobbery–“Every pastor ought to be a seminary graduate”–flies in the face of church history and contemporary experience around the world.

Yet anti-academic snobbery does, too–“No pastor needs to go to seminary, and I sure don’t.” The church has been too richly blessed by well-trained leaders–from Paul to Hildegard, from Augustine to Luther, from Aquinas to Bonhoeffer, from John Wesley to John Sung–for us to cavalierly congratulate ourselves on our avoidance of formal training.

The church today needs a wide range of leaders with a wide range of preparation. Let each of us, then, seek the best education available to us: counting the cost, yes, and also the benefit of it–to ourselves and to all those whom we will influence.

0 Responses to “Seminary: Who Needs It?”

  1. David Worley

    John, I liked the post. It was particularly helpful to hear you say: “The point, rather, is whether God is calling some people in some situations to do pastoral work that really does require sustained education in the Scripture, theology, history, liturgics, administration, counseling, and other staples of contemporary seminary education.”

    Part of my job is to help people think through whether my rspective school is the right choice for their ministry preparation. I often wonder whether the benefit of theological education will ultimately serve them or whether the price and debt associated with most seminary degrees will actually hinder their abibility to follow God faithfully. In most cases I am fairly confident that the benefit exceeds the cost, but this simple distinction that about the type of calling one is pursuing is helpful. Thanks for writing this detailed and specific blog and I will continue to chew on several of your thoughts as I process this myself.

  2. Matt Walsh

    Having spent five years at Acadia Divinity College I observed the following: those who needed a theological education the most did not want to be there, and often complained, “what are we doing this for…”

    I am of the opinion that if you have the opportunity to learn from experts in their field , you should soak up everything you can (critically, of course) and stop the moaning and dripping.

    PS-Thanks for the Hayward Lectures in 2004!

  3. Mike O

    I think seminary sets the standard for theological education, much as any academic institution sets the standard for any profession. Good engineering, medicine, law, business … comes from a good foundation. Sure, there are those that can “do it on their own”, but seminaries mean more and better pastors. The set the standard for the laity. There is a radio program (RC Sproul) that has a goal of bridging the gap between Sunday School and Seminary. I wish all seminarians had that goal.

    Seminaries create “critical mass” among the students. A seminarian will find fellow souls, who are on the same wavelength as him. In a local geography, it would be hard to find half a dozen to create critical mass, but a seminary allows that. Once modeled and formed, the seminarians can take it with them. The can keep their networks, and having seen how it’s done, replicate new ones at their new locale.

    Academically, seminaries need to keep abreast of, and teach the newest models. Megachurch, house church, emerging church, and other models need to be critically examined, and application specifics need to be taught. Theology isn’t everything, the analysis and encouragement of relationships is just as important. The mix of academics need to change, and more field work, internships and “laboratory” experience. Churches need to become an extension of the seminary.

    Economics are a factor. An engineering, or medical education can be financed out of future earnings. Seminaries need to find a way to produce graduates without producing debt. The “left brain” problem demonstrates that there is rarely an adequate cash flow to pay off the debt. The “right brain” problem makes it hard to effectively minister with a huge chunk of debt hanging over you, clouding and bending your style. It would be good if there was a culturally popular paradigm that churches also paid down school debt (as well as salary), like teaching in an urban school.

    One factor has me stumped. But I’ll toss it out anyway. It is harder for a single seminary graduate to get employment. Churches favor married pastors. As a result, undergraduates rush to marry, in their senior year, often marrying the “wrong” spouse, unsuited to their career. This particulary affects seminaries in rural settings, but can be a factor in large cities, too.

    Seminaries, we all need them. But we need ones that are more up to date, economically sustaining and relationally savvy.

  4. Don S.

    This was a great post…on a topic that I’ve been struggling with for some time…

    I don’t have a seminary education but I am a driven person who reads constantly…I attended a couple years of a seminary (though my credits were being accumulated toward a Bachelor’s Degree)…I miss the intellectual stimulation that came along with those classes and discussions with my peers…but I’ve found it almost impossible to return (financially and time constraints are the biggest reasons)…

    I started my own business immediately out of high-school with success (that now haunts me because I don’t even have an associates degree)…I have been in the pastorate for about 7 yrs…and am not sure what the next step should be…I am smart enough to know that I am not ready to be a Senior Pastor – but I am aspiring to that at some point…

    any suggestions on how to go about continuing my education? I am married and have a son…the nearest seminary is 45 minutes away – and besides I don’t even have my bachelors to get me started there…

    Thanks again for your post – and let me say, “I completely agree!” I just don’t know how to go about it…

  5. Glen Davis

    Excellent post.

    One addendum: the majority of nationally-known megachurch pastors are actually seminary grads. Most people just don’t realize it.

    * Andy Stanley – Dallas Theological Seminary
    * Craig Groeschel – Phillips Theological Seminary
    * Rob Bell – Fuller Theological Seminary
    * John Ortberg – Fuller Theological Seminary
    * John Piper – Fuller and the University of Munich (Ph.D.)
    * Tim Keller – Gordon Conwell and Westminster Theological Seminary (Ph.D.)
    * Rick Warren – Fuller Theological Seminary

    There are several who haven’t. Bill Hybels hasn’t gone to seminary. I don’t think Ed Young, Jr. has, either. Joel Osteen hasn’t. Mark Driscoll is, I believe, finishing up a seminary degree right now.

    I believe similar ratios obtain if you spread the net wider and look at greater numbers of pastors who are national influencers.

    This doesn’t mean that going to seminary will cause your church to grow and that you will become a nationally prominent spokesperson for the faith, but I think it does make the common notion that seminary is a counterproductive creativity-killer suspect.

  6. Mike O

    don says:> any suggestions on how to go about continuing my education? I am married and have a son…the nearest seminary is 45 minutes away – and besides I don’t even have my bachelors to get me started there…

    You may want to consider a “degree completion” program. Here’s an example of a degree completion program:

    Check with the seminary and see if they know of any programs that fit your needs, and meet their standards. Consider moving? If it’s your passion, you may want to make that sacrifice?

  7. kbartha

    I like this line John: “But the lack of well-formed hearts and well-informed minds will put their congregations and themselves in peril: in peril of narrowness, of shallowness, and of heresy.”

    Last year I spent every Thursday night “teaching” in a Bible College dorm with a bunch of smelly guys. We would typically go from 10 pm till 5 am. Crazy hours… and the topic? Prayer and the Holy Spirit. These guys told me that in the midst of all their theological training no one ever taught them about what happens when the presence of the Holy Spirit changes everything… It took them four months of long nights to learn how to fast and pray…

    I don’t think I would have been any good to those boys had I not studied hard at Regent 🙂 Just thought I’d plug the best school in the world there. And the thing about Regent – it’s intentional Christian community. Very hard to find anywhere today… keep up the good work friend.

  8. Mike O

    Another area where the seminary is crucial is ministry to the poor. A few decades, feeding the poor was easy. A basket of food, or some money was all that was needed, the “poor” were skillful, just poor.

    Nowadays, the poor are a bigger challenge. In the city, one encounters addictions, mental diaorders, poor life skills and “wise” (manipulative) street smarts. A minister to this paradigm can learn the hard (and expensive) way through experience. Or he can be trained on what works. Learning a balance between tough love and grace. Contributing versus enabling. Friendship versus authority. Assessing the “long tail of homelessness (Malcolm Gladwell) and using finite resources to benefit the most.

    A seminary can provide the tools, but more important, the wisdom and judgement to use those tools. And, a seminary can efficiently infuse ministers, to bring the bestest to the mostest the quickest.

  9. Michael Crook


    Thanks for the post. Since you mentioned the wonderful fact that Regent educates more Laity than Clergy, I wonder if you might fold some of these thoughts into the question of whether someone not intending to minister in a church would be led to study at a school like Regent.

    I’ve been listening to suggestions to go into ministry for a good chunk of my life and just don’t feel that’s where I’m going to end up. I wonder for what reasons students end up at regent without the intent to pursue ministry (Other than the obvious example of becoming academics).

    Anyway, thanks for another wonderful post and for spurring on the conversation.

  10. John Stackhouse

    Thanks for these additional insights and perspectives, friends.

    Don S. and Michael Crook ask questions I can at least begin to answer, in terms of where I teach, Regent College, as well as perhaps elsewhere.

    Don, lots of theological schools are willing to accept students who lack a proper undergraduate training on a provisional basis as “mature students.” So check that out in terms of some schools you might like to attend and see if God is calling you to the sacrifice of moving and taking up full-time study for a while. We have a number of such students here at Regent, from Canada, the USA, and around the world. We try not to accept anyone who clearly can’t make the grade, and most of those who do come are able–with a fair bit of work, to be sure–to enjoy their studies here.

    Michael asks about our non-pastoral and non-academic student body. I encourage anyone similarly interested to browse Regent’s site ( For now, I’ll just say that Regent was founded (circa 1970) to give laypeople a theological education that would equip them for adult life in every dimension, as well as for service in the church and other Christian organizations.

    So we start everyone with basics–Bible, church history, Christian thought and culture, and the like–and help people then move on to more particular fields of interest, including Christianity and science, the arts, politics, economics and business, apologetics, missions, and more. Our main task, though, is a simple one: to help our students develop a well-furnished and well-formed Christian mind (in the Biblical sense of “mind”: heart, attitude, intellect, motivation, etc.).

    Just to illustrate the diversity of our students, I’ll pick one set of students, namely, my teaching assistants over the eight-plus years I have been here. One is now a thirtysomething Baptist pastor in Canada’s Maritime provinces; one is an American twentysomething woman applying for Ph.D. study in theology; one is an American pediatrician and public health expert who is my age, with a husband and five kids; and the last is a Chinese woman from the Philippines who has a background in international marketing and is now finishing her second master’s degree in theology.

    Most people don’t come to Regent to train for a job, therefore. They come to train for life.

    I’ll bring this commercial to a close (!) by encouraging anyone out there who hungers for more theological education to consider coming to Regent for our spring or summer schools–just one- or two-week courses, for just 2 or 3 hours a day. You don’t even need to take them for credit, if you would prefer just to come and participate. And if you do want credit, you can enjoy Vancouver when you’re not in class and then have 45 days to mail in all the coursework. Lots of our full-time students start this way, with a little “taste.” Check our website and look for “Summer School.”

  11. Carl Wade

    John: Wonderful to see a man of your caliber exploring this issue.

    Academia misses the mark with just ‘theological’ education – if it’s missing ‘evangelism’ as its core! How much education does a servant need to take the gospel to uneducated or practically-uneducated third world countries?

    The lost masses are looking for men/women of God who love their Lord, know the Word and love them! Beyond that, the rest of our learning, may just be ego massaging fluff that misses the mark! I think you laid out that premise in your opening remarks.

    The best example may be Jesus in selecting blue collar workers to accomplish the most important task God had ever assigned to a group of men! Our Lord went to the streets & streams to staff his church….not the centers of theological exposition of his day.

    “Preach the Word”…after that the rest is just academic! In eternity the degrees at the end of names won’t be worth much if no souls are brought before the throne!

    Theological training may be nothing more than just our attempt to perpetuate a particular form of doctine or denomination through scholarly indoctrination. And, maybe little else. The test…”How’re we doing, reaching the lost?”

    Get it…..but don’t lose the passion for souls!

  12. Don S.

    Thanks for the response! I have been feeling a tug to return to schooling…my wife and I are pursuing that in our prayers. Thanks again…

  13. Craig Blomberg

    Let me add my thanks to everyone else’s. I will keep this and use it with students for quite awhile, I suspect!

    One addendum to one of the other respondents. Bill Hybels took quite a bit of seminary at TEDS quite a while ago, but it may be the case that he never graduated.

  14. [rhymes with kerouac]

    “Yet ministry among anyone can be improved by good theological education: among kids, among teenagers, among the oppressed, among the interested and the confused of any age and situation.”

    I seriously doubt seminaries actually believe this. If they did believe it – I mean, really believe it – they would make all their material available on the internet for free. They would open franchises in shopping malls and church basements, in youth centres and night school classrooms. If they really believed in the value of their education they would do everything in their power to make it available to as many church workers and leaders as possible. Instead they occupy large tracts of land with increasingly high overhead costs and ask their students to make the sacrifices necessary to come to them.

    Sort of like how our churches operate… oh wait, that light just came on.

  15. John Stackhouse

    I look forward to “rhymes with kerouac” supplying the funds necessary to do what he wants seminaries to do “for free,” since what he proposes would, in fact, cost a lot of money.

    Who, for example, will “make the materials” that are supposed to be “free”? Who will “make it available on the internet,” using what technology and machines, what Internet Service Provider, and what staff? Who will pay for the space in the malls and basements? Et cetera.

    And as for the last crack about church buildings, I’m all for churches exploring other sites to save money, connect with their neighbourhoods, etc. But, again, renting storefronts or movie theatres or schools or what-have-you also costs money.

    So let’s make suggestions for the real world.

  16. [rhymes with kerouac]

    The real world answer might be partnerships. Not the televangelist kind of partnerships, but the kind that make Christian Classic Ethereal Library work, or Wikipedia work, or the kind that make Project Gutenberg site work. I might be dreaming, but they seem like real world examples of the extraordinary efforts people will make for a cause they believe in. As far as the franchise idea, well, what can I say? Why can’t a seminary or college train trainers and then take their programs beyond their campuses? Church and para-church workers don’t need a diploma. We don’t need a degree. We need exactly what you were suggesting – the answers to those tough questions, and practical teaching on how to minister to specific needs or identifiable groups (e.g. the recently bereaved, young adults) A course certificate is the only paper a church worker might need – most of them won’t care about credits. I wasn’t suggesting that this be done for nothing – hence the ‘franchise’ idea, though that might not have been clear from what I said. But the costs of this kind of training – right in the church and/or communtiy where it will be used – have to be a lot less than that of a campus where everyone comes to you. Again, I have to ask, if seminaries really, really believed in the importance of their teaching, wouldn’t they be trying to put that into the hands of as many leaders and lay workers as possible? And yeah, maybe I’m not living in the real world on that one, either. That’s not a jab, just me recognizing that I’ve never been to college so I don’t really know how these things work.

    There’s absolutely no way I could ever, ever afford a seminary education. Seminary is what rich people do, and I’m not that. But what would it cost to post a reading list on your school website? Just a reading list, for crying out loud. Link to Amazon and take the percentage, if you want – I can go to the local library or scour the used bookstores or the internet for something I can afford. I’m desperate for this kind of stuff but have no idea where to begin and I can’t be the only one. And every time I look at bible college or seminary all I ever see are a whole lot of dollar signs.

    When you said, “Yes, theological school is costly. But, as the old saying goes, if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”… You were talking about me. I am ignorant. I am that cost.

    I’m sorry for bugging you. For me, seminary is a dream that’s permanently deferred. My apologies for venting that frustration on you. It’s just that the post is entitled “Seminary, who needs it?” and the answer is, ‘I do’. Maybe I just need to learn to live with the fact that it ain’t gonna happen and that’s hardly your fault.

  17. John Stackhouse

    I thank [rhymes with kerouac] for this rejoinder. I wish education of all sorts was free. Alas, most forms aren’t. So those who are called by God to professions and other ministries that require it must trust God to provide the funds. And those who supply that education must do all they can to make it as affordable as possible. And those whom God has blessed with wealth must do all they can to help those in need–and, in this context, particularly to help students attend seminary and then to defray debt when they’re done, not least by paying pastors a proper salary so they can do so.

    A lot of us in professional theological education do try to make our teaching available beyond tuition-paying students, to be sure. We write books, for very little royalties (we make about a buck a book:publishers, distributors, and bookstores make the rest). We write also for magazines and newspapers. And some of us write blogs.

    We also teach in our own churches and others’, to campus groups, youth groups, camps and conferences, and in lots of other “live” situations that often charge little or nothing–and thus we speakers charge little or nothing.

    Finally, we expect our graduates to take what they have received at considerable cost and to make it available through adult Christian education programs at church, through paracongregational work, in their own families, and so on–and not just through sermons. Thus we hope what we sow in the classroom will be disseminated much more broadly.

    So I do sympathize with the several of you who have indicated that you wish you had more theological education. Indeed, I spend most of my workweek training people to train others, or in writing and broadcasting to help spread the word further and cheaper. And I hope my college, as others, will find more and more donors who are willing to step up and help students pay what this level of education costs.

  18. Matt

    I graduated from Gordon-Conwell in 2000. After spending a number of years seeking a position in a church here in the Midwest, I had to give up and pursue other options.

    There are a lot of reasons I didn’t find a place to minister full-time. (My wife and I limited our search to two states, which was very limiting.) But a big factor was my seminary education. I was continually told that my seminary degree was seen by the congregation (search committee, etc.) as a liability.

    One church made it clear that a pastor only needed several years as youth pastor to lead their congregation (and that’s who they hired, a 20-something with no education who was a blast at Six Flags and Waterworld).

    At another church, the senior pastor (also a GCTS grad) told me that when I was interviewing with his search committee, I had better come up with a good explanation for going to seminary since they had already voiced concern about my having “too much education.”

    So that’s another factor to consider when considering theological education. Look at your denominational options and see what the people hiring you will think of your degree.

    If I had the energy and charisma necessary for youth ministry, I might have started as a youth pastor. Then, once I convinced a congregation I was ignorant enough to hire as a head pastor, I could have snuck off to seminary on the sly.

  19. asktoh

    Thank you Prof Stackhouse for the tone of discussion and wisdom on your site. This is my first time reading your blog and I am inspired and informed.

    I was not going to leave a reply till I read “rhymes with kerouac”.

    I will be 52 this summer. I have been a Christian for 32 years. I have preached sermons some 25 years, led Bible study groups for 29, ministered in various capacities (organised church camps,evangelistic rallies, taught Sunday School etc) almost 30 years.

    When I announced to my church (where I have been an Elder for 6 years)that I was considering seminary,many mwmbers (but not the leaders) asked:”why do you need seminary now? You already know so much!”

    My theology is self-taught;I read many Christian books (many of which were very expensive for a person in a developing country on a low income),attended (free)courses taught by well-trained pastors from good seminaries;and in the age of the Internet, read with discernment on the Internet many of the materials mentioned by “rhymes with kerouac”.

    The more I read, the more I realised how inadequate I was for my teaching ministry.I want to go to seminary for the reasons given by Prof Stackhouse (and many, many more). I prayed, and the Lord confirmed it; and gave me a verse in Haggai 2:8: “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the LORD Almighty.” And God is faithful, and He is true to His Word.

    Immediately after I made my decision, the funds came rolling in: my church is giving me a small grant; friends have pledged support; the Lord blessed me with some extra funds (from a relatively small but well-timed inheritance); I have some savings….Submit your desires to the Lord, brethren!

    And I am coming to Regent (which I chose for all the good reasons of the responders and Prof Stackhouse) though I can find cheaper seminaries at home and in the USA.

    Most of all: would you trust your surgery or court case in the hands of (respectively)a self-taught surgeon or lawyer? Would you entrust your hard-earned savings and your financial future in the hands of a self-taught banker? What more your
    eternal future!

    See you in class Professor!

  20. asktoh

    Oops, sorry for my poor typing in my previous post.

    I forgot one more point I wanted to make: Professors need to pay their mortgages and feed their families too. So, much as seminaries believe their messages, the real world they live in require that funds be raised (through course fees, which make up a small portion of their support) to fund the seminaries.

  21. Andy Rowell

    Thanks for all this discussion a year ago. 

    A few quick things to add:

    On comment number 7 by Glen Davis: According to Wikipedia, Rick Warren earned "his Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1979) in Fort Worth, and his Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California."Two seminaries offer free seminary courses:

    Covenant Theological Seminary’s "Covenant Worldwide" – free seminary courses.

    Gordon-Conwell’s Dimensions of the Faith free online theological education program. Listen to full Church History, Systematic Theology, and Biblical Studies courses.

    Also World Impact (a missions organization) has designed a low cost to free inner-city seminary program that they hope to place in the 100 largest cities in the world in the next few years.  It is called The Urban Ministry Institute

    Here is the link to their required textbooks.

    Fuller Theological Seminary puts all of their Syllabi / Course Descriptions online

    Still, I would encourage you to consider Regent College where I went!


    Andy Rowell
    Doctor of Theology Student
    Duke Divinity School
    Durham, North Carolina
    Blog: Church Leadership Conversations

  22. Andy Rowell

    John,Have you ever posted your guidelines for people considering a Ph.D.?  I know you have written them as I have a copy in my folder.  It might be interesting.  I ask because today Sean Michael Lucas, Chief Academic Officer and Associate Professor of Church History at Covenant Theological Seminary, has written a post about the phenomenon of seminarians getting sick of the church and falling in love with their professors and becoming infatuated with getting their Ph.D.  He tries to set them straight:Ministerial Students, Calling, and PhD Studies

    There is a sober and comprehensive description of the New Testament Ph.D. process by Nijay Gupta, a Ph.D. student at Durham University: Interested in a NT PhD?

  23. End of Week Round Up | Byrnesys Blabberings

    […] On Similar lines I noticed Andy Rowell talks about seminary and lists off a few US Seminaries which might be of interest, he concludes by linking to Theologian John Stackhouse’s Blog who makes a compelling case for seminary. […]

  24. John Stackhouse

    I have indeed belatedly answered Andy Rowell’s request for a posting of my guidelines for thinking about a Ph.D. It’s now entitled “Thinking about a Ph.D.?” and is listed under the Pages in the top right corner of the home page for this blog.

  25. Fudge

    John, thanks for your posts. I have just read this one and the one about pursuing a Ph.D. I’m just finishing up an M.Div. and am thinking about doing an additional year at my seminary to tack on a Master of Theology for the Teaching Fellowship and the Thesis (as my M.Div. does not require it) that it will require. I didn’t notice a mention of a Th.M. in either of these posts and was wondering if you think it is worthwhile (generally speaking) as preparation for pursuing a teaching post at a Bible College and eventual Ph.D. work.

  26. John Stackhouse

    I’ve written about the ThM just now in the comments section of a newer post, “Ph.D. Applicants: Don’t Apply Unless You Mean It.” I’ll repeat that bit here:

    A ThM is a good idea if you have an undergraduate degree that is not at all relevant to religious studies (e.g., accounting, engineering) OR is not going to impress the doctoral program (either because your grades are low or because it’s from an unimpressive school). The ThM gives you a further opportunity to pile up relevant credits and impress the doctoral program even more.

    Writing a thesis is excellent preparation for doctoral work, but is not a necessity for application even to the most elite programs–since many of them don’t require, or even offer, a thesis track at the master’s level themselves.

  27. John Stackhouse

    One more thing regarding Bible colleges: Many of them still, both in North America and elsewhere, will be glad for a ThM as your highest degree and will not (yet) require a doctorate. Most degree-granting schools in North America and similar societies, however, do require a doctorate and, usually, the PhD in particular.


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