You’ve decided that you’re called of God to be a minister.
You’ve come to a decision that God is actually calling you to the Pastorate!
You understand that you need to go to Seminary.
Lord help you… 😉
One thing you need to decide is what you want to look like at the other end of your seminary experience.
Please understand, where you go to Seminary will mark you in some way. I don’t care what your professors say, they will indoctrinate you. They can’t help it. If you go to a seminary with a conservative reputation, you will be more conservative at the end of it. If you pick a seminary with a more progressive reputation, you will come out more progressive at the end of it.
You can’t help but be influenced by your surroundings.
Secondly, there will probably be some expectation placed upon you by your particular brand of Christianity. You may be a non-denominational, Bible Church kind of minster. Technically, you can attend any seminary you desire. There isn’t any rule that says you need to attend a certain seminary.
Now, look at most of the pastors of the “Bible Church” variety in your area.
Where did they go to school?
If I were to do that in my area, then I would see that many of the local Bible Church ministers have graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary.
If I look at the local Baptist Churches, I would see that most of the pastors are graduates of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Many of the Methodist Pastors went to Perkins School of Theology, and many of the Disciples of Christ Pastors have degrees from Bright Divinity School.
Of course, you’ll find some folks who went to my alma mater, George W. Truett Theological Seminary!
You get the picture?
Each of these schools have a reputation. That reputation will follow you throughout your ministry. Perhaps you decide to attend a seminary that is something other than the one “most” of your brand of Christian ministers chooses.
That says something as well.
You may say it’s about broadening your perspective. Those interviewing you for that future ministry position may see it as someone ashamed of their denomination. And don’t forget, your theology will be influenced by where you attend.
Let me give you my experience as an example.
As mentioned, I went to Truett. It is a smaller seminary, associated with Baylor University. When I went there, it was graduating it’s very first class. It met in the education space of First Baptist Church of Waco.
You could go a whole semester never having stepped foot upon the main Baylor campus, with the exception of the library.
From my experience, it is a small, fairly conservative, evangelical, thoroughly Texas Baptist seminary.
Many people choose to go to Truett instead of Southwestern. They feel that Truett is more of a “moderate” seminary, and they will use the term. “Moderate” is a term used in Texas to mean “non-fundamentalist.”
Some people will decide that I’m “more liberal” than some of my colleagues. Some people may like that, or not. What they don’t know is that there is only one theological area that I may disagree with my more “conservative” brethren on. It is the area of women in ministry. I believe that God can call whomever he wants, to do whatever he wants. Including the pastorate.
My more “conservative” brethren, or you say more “fundamentalist” types may say that women aren’t allowed to be pastors.
The crazy thing is that these terms, “Liberal, Conservative, Progressive and Fundamentalist” are used within a cultural context. What it means in one state may be entirely different in another.
In Texas, there aren’t that many differences between the terms “moderate and fundamentalist” from the rest of the world’s view.
You’ll be surprised what people read into your decisions. They will never ask you why you chose to go to seminary A instead of seminary B. But, they will have some sort of opinion as to “what kind of person” graduates from there.
Now you’re there, so now what?
Work your tushy off, that’s what.
If you’re a recent college grad; then you might treat it as an extension for college. There is a chance that you treated college as an extension of high school.
Let’s not do that.
Seminary is there to teach you how to do a job. That job is to be a minister in your brand of Christianity’s churches.
Yes, you do need to learn how to properly exegete scripture.
No, those years in church did not prepare you for this.
You are going to learn how to actually study the Bible. This will be both a blessing and a curse.
I’m very grateful for my years of intense Bible study. I also have found it difficult to experience purely devotional reading of scripture. I’ve a lot of baggage when it comes to every single book of the Bible. There is no such thing as reading scripture with a clean slate and fresh eyes.
Most seminaries have a Spiritual Formation series of courses. Be sure to take everyone, even if you don’t need to. Learn about Lecto Divina, types of Prayers, Christian meditation, Fasting, and other spiritual disciplines. God will use these in your future to help stem the tide of spiritual aridity, when the Bible seems nothing but a text book.
Dive into authors like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster, just to name a few.
Work at a church (whether they pay your or not).
Your studies will come alive when they are mixed with real life ministry.
And finally, enjoy yourself and your classmates. You are at a special place. More people will be on the same page as you. You are in a place where more people are spiritually minded than you will ever experience again.
Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that your future ministry will be marked by extended experiences of that nature.