I have been asked recently about what my thoughts are concerning seminary and why I never finished. I have found this to be a very polarizing subject where people put me in the camp of those who think that seminary is unnecessary or put me into the other camp that thinks scholarship isn’t important for the pastorate. The truth is I think most men need to go to seminary and scholarship is extremely important. I want to address it as a Pastor, though, and talk to Pastors about seminary. If you are looking to become a professor or scholar these thoughts wouldn’t apply to you.
There is a recent trend of really sharp, entrepreneurial, driven men skipping seminary all together and planting churches. I don’t have a problem with this at all if those men have picked up the tools they need in other places and are continuing to grow theologically and philosophically. If a guy can handle the Greek and Hebrew, knows at least at the cursory level Christian history and can wrestle through and find answers for deep, difficult theological questions then he might not need a degree from a seminary. These men are usually driven, avid studiers and readers by nature. If they could, they would spend their whole day with the scriptures as well as with men like Calvin, Luther and Spurgeon. I said might because seminary then becomes an obedience issue between him and the Lord and may still be a very good idea.
On the other hand, if you don’t have the tools, have a tendency to be lazy in study, can’t handle the languages, know nothing of how to find answers to deep, difficult theological questions except to quote John Piper and know nothing of our rich history then you need to go get some tools. If you are lazy in study and continue to get in front of people and teach, you have much more courage than I do. I would strongly recommend seminary for its accountability and plan to educate you in doctrine, language and history.
The Village doesn’t look long at the degrees a man has when hiring but it does have long talks about doctrine and philosophy of ministry. We have found that there are those who have been to seminary who are about as ignorant concerning the things of God as a pagan and then there are guys like Josh Patterson who received his THM from Dallas Theological Seminary and is a better, more brilliant man for it. The same can be said for those who haven’t done seminary.
I started seminary twice and dropped out both times. Seminary felt to me like I was laying a foundation in a house I was already living in. I was working as an associate pastor, traveling and speaking as well as teaching at a large, ecumenical Bible study every week. On average I was preparing anywhere from 3-5 sermons weekly and was living in study. I had an undergrad in Bible that had prepared me to handle the Greek (thanks Dr. Knight) and taught me where to look to find answers to questions that would arise in study. After a great deal of prayer and seeking wise counsel, Lauren and I decided that I would continue to study and learn but not to seek a degree. We continue to have strong relationships with professors at Dallas Theological Seminary and Westminster Dallas.