The Scriptures are clear that those who desire to be pastors must be “able to teach” (see the requirements of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). This does not necessarily mean that those called to vocational ministry must attend seminary, but it does mean that there needs to be an ability to properly interpret the Scriptures, a thirst for knowledge and wisdom, an awareness of historical heresies and an ability to discern current variants, a consistent theological framework, etc. For the vast majority of us, the best way to be academically equipped today is through seminary. Here are a couple of related posts on the necessity of education and the relationship of seminary to that requirement:
The Village often gets questions from members, attendees, and podcasters who are curious which seminaries we would recommend so I thought I would post my typical response for those who are wrestling with this question.
First, recognize that every place has its own strengths and weaknesses Just like churches, no seminary is perfect.
I would highly recommend that one pursue a proper balance of complementing one’s own foundational beliefs with being stretched spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. If you choose a place where you are completely comfortable, you probably are not learning. At the same time, there are certain theological beliefs that are simply so foundational as to necessitate agreement. For example, I am reformed or “Calvinistic” in my soteriology (the study of salvation) and find it foundational to my overarching theology and thus I would not be comfortable at a school which believed and taught according to an Arminian framework. That doctrine is simply too important.
Here are some questions which I would ask myself in order to try to decipher the proper fit in regards to calling and strengths.
What ministry do you look to go into?
How firmly established are you in your basic theological framework?
Are you willing to move away from your current city and church and would that be financially feasible and wise? - I ask this question specifically because I was already involved at The Village when I began the admission process. Because of my love for the church, I was more willing to sacrifice some degree of theological and philosophical consensus in order to remain in this particular body. Though other schools might have better complemented my beliefs, I did not think it worth it to leave a place that I love.
Here are examples of how I would use these questions to assess a seminary: In regards to the type of ministry - those called to preach and teach might benefit from a more academic school while those called to counseling and care might desire a more pastorally-equipped school. In regards to the current theological framework - those who are already more established might have greater freedom to pursue studies at a school with which they differ theologically.
While once again noting that each place has its own strengths and weaknesses, I would recommend the following in no certain order:
Also, Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, MN has a great training program that I would highly recommend called The Bethlehem Institute.
A number of pastors at The Village (myself included) pursued graduate studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and we have a great relationship with the school. That said, there are certainly theological distinctions between my church and my school. This is an example of sharing common essential beliefs (trinity, deity of Christ, substitutionary atonement, salvation by grace through faith, etc.) and common foundational beliefs (such as a reformed soteriology) while differing perhaps in more peripheral matters (eschatology - the study of end times).
Take a tour of various campuses if you can, talk to professors, talk to students, sit in on a class (hopefully one which you have at least some familiarity - if you have no knowledge of Hebrew, you probably shouldn’t choose to sit in on a 3rd semester language course which spends the time reading and parsing through Jonah), talk to the faithful laborers who work in the field in which you feel called, check out the costs of hours and housing, visit neighboring churches, and read Statements of Faith. Gather as much information as you can and then offer it and yourself up to the Lord. Spend much time in prayer.