I was attending an association meeting a few years ago, and the preacher for the meeting said, “I don’t want to go to seminary. I don’t want to be polished. I want The Holy Spirit to work through me.” I was initially shocked, then angry, then more angry, then surprised at such an ignorant statement. I had heard the sentiment before, just not in such a blunt fashion.
After a year or two of being angry. Well, maybe not that long, maybe just the car ride home, but after that, I started asking myself, how would I answer such acclaim with grace and mercy? I admit, I wanted to walk up to the guy and call him a moron, but there has to be a better way to give an answer that is seasoned with grace. Why do we go to seminary? What were the benefits? Here are a few that I’ve experienced.
- Different theological viewpoints: I experienced different theological viewpoints for the first time in my life. I was challenged to know why I believe what I believe and to give a defense that included more than, “because so and so told me,” or “because that’s what I think.” These are confusing times and every effort should be made to give a defense of what we believe.
- Relationships: I met my best friend in seminary, and I’m sure many seminarians can say the same. I also formed many other relationships while I was in seminary that have been invaluable over the years. The pastorate is lonely enough, and it would be far more lonely without those friendships that began in seminary. I remember being told by a couple of preachers that I wouldn’t hang on to very many friendships from High School or undergraduate school, but the friends I made in seminary would be lifelong friends. Thus far, those pastor’s are correct.
- I learned how to preach better: I don’t think there’s any preacher who does not wish he could communicate the word of God more effectively. If he doesn’t long to be a better communicator, a better preacher of the Word, then he’s not a very conscientious preacher. That type of preacher is dangerous. My seminary training taught me how to interpret the Bible and then how to put that interpretation into a presentable, sermonic form.
- I learned to be a worthy worker: Josh Hedger was having a conversation on Facebook about a program for training future pastor’s at his church in Kansas City. That conversation inspired this post. He wrote, “If a guy doesn’t want to put in the work and time to train, then I don’t trust them to put in the work and time when they are pastoring.” This applies to seminary training. Are there seasons of life when we do not have the time to give to seminary studies? Yes there are. I have a few friends who just don’t have the time. Seminary is a sacrifice and I used to get upset at churches who required a seminary degree of their senior pastor, but now I understand. If you’ll sacrifice for your education, it’s a clear signal that you’ll probably work hard and sacrifice in your pastorate.
There are exceptions to these benefits. Seminaries have produced their share of crazy and lazy bums, but by and large, seminary education makes us better preachers, pastors, and people. There is certainly nothing wrong with being polished, and God has used more than a few seminary graduates to communicate the gospel message.