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Don’t Go To Seminary by Greg Atkinson

One of our friends, Greg Atkinson recently wrote a great post that I wanted to share. You can read the whole post on his website by clicking here.

"Wait. Hold the phone. Don’t crucify me, yet. Allow me to share with you my heart and where I’m headed with that title. I’ll tell you my thoughts on seminary and continued education later on, if you stick to the end. If you don’t read this whole blog and say something mean, you’ll probably look like a jerk.

Our Worship & Arts department has 5 interns. 2 college students and 3 Dallas Theological Seminary students. 4 of them I get to spend time with and invest in. 3 of them I spend a little more one on one time with. 2 really get the most from me and 1 is someone I spend a lot of time with - my intern and friend, Jonathan Moon, who I’ve referred to before on this blog. Jonathan graduates from college this year with a degree in Cinema and Television. Am I encouraging him to join our staff at Bent Tree? No. Why? Because that would be selfish of me and short-sighted. Yes, he could continue to crank out video projects for our church, but the truth is we can find someone else to create videos.

Jonathan’s passion and dream is to be a producer in Hollywood. So, as his boss and mentor, what do I do? I push him out the door. We are a sending church. I’m constantly saying, “When you’re in LA…”, “When you change Hollywood…”, “When are you going to visit and stay with my friend, Cynthia Ware and spend some time with my friend, Phil Cooke?”

Enough about me, my intern and our situation. Here’s what I’ve felt and thought through for YEARS:

Why is it when we see a young man or woman that is sensitive to the Holy Spirit, has a solid prayer life, devours the Bible, clearly walking with God and “on fire” we automatically say, “You need to go ‘into the ministry’?” Our warped view of “ministry” means that they go to Bible college and/or seminary and become a preacher, minister or missionary.

Do we need current and future preachers, ministers and missionaries? Absolutely. Hear me out. I’ve just seen too many people over the years that were “on fire”, but were called to something in “the secular world” - only to be looked down upon and shamed because they didn’t go “into the ministry”. Shame on us.

Here’s what we need, folks: We need Christian, Spirit-led, God-fearing, prayerful young men and women to go into Hollywood, classrooms/education, hospitals, military, law and law enforcement and dare I say: politics. I grew up hearing that all politictians were crooked, ... evil and dirty. That may be true for some, but it doesn’t have to be true for all. Why can’t we send Spirit-filled, Godly, prayerful youth into our government?

Do you see what I’m getting at? All of this must be sought after with prayer. I’m not saying go here or there - listen to God. What I am saying is to not assume that those leaders in your youth group are destined to “ministry” and should head to seminary. Maybe their ministry will be outside the local church. Maybe they are being raised up to change the face of government/politics, movies and Hollywood, education, the medical field and our military. Just maybe.

For the record: I guest speak and teach at colleges and seminaries. I’m pursuing my PhD. I’m all for continued education, learning and personal/professional growth. I just think we need to see “ministry” more holistically and broader than just being on a church staff.

Dream with me:

What if Christians were shaping what we watch on TV and movie screens? I’m not talking about Christian shows or movies (don’t get me started on that). I’m talking about Christians making movies that are not offensive and have a spiritual/redemptive thread woven through them. Deep stuff like CS Lewis was a genius at.

What if Christian youth went to law school, became an attorney and joined IJM and started helping to literally free slaves???

What if a sold-out Christian became a pediatrician, hospice nurse, surgeon? I’ll never forget going into surgery 2 years ago and my surgeon asking if he could pray for me before the surgery. I’ll never forget going into surgery 9 years ago and the anesthelogist singing hymns as he was prepping me. What a witness!

I don’t need to tell you the stats of kids, the lack of a father figure/single parent homes, abusive homes and unhealthy situations. Think of them being able to build a healthy relationship with a Christian teacher.

What if we had Christian scientists and researchers that marry their brains with their morals and ethics?

What? What? What? Do you ever just dream? Dream of what the world could be?

I feel strongly about this: If EVERY fired up, sold out, Spirit-led, passionate young person in our church goes on to seminary and doesn’t realize their unique calling, passion, dreams and God-given desires - this world will look very dark and dim. We need lights. Salt and earth.
Do you see your role as spiritual leaders and mentors as a sending role? Do you think of the Kingdom first? Are you okay with someone that knows their Bible inside and out teaching 4th grade at an elementary school? I am. Your thoughts?"

You can subscribe to Greg's blog feed and read through some of the other 20+ comments found on his blog site by clicking here.

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posted by Justin Forman | 11.22.2008 - 9:22 AM


Check out Frank Viola and George Barna's book called "Pagan Christianity" and it will open your eyes to our traditions that are not biblically based. I just finished it last night and I can honestly say, apart from the Bible, this book has radically changed my paradigm.
commented by Blogger Shane, 11:56 AM  

We see that working out overseas as well...my dream is to empower Christian lay men and women to be the best at what God has called them to do. Too many missionaries went over and tried to replicate their entire Bible School/Seminary experience, which created a class of "super pastors". Especially the ones who learned the additional trick of raising support from the US or Europe.
See www.ephesusgroup.com for more ramblings on this topic!
commented by Blogger Ephesus Group, 10:21 AM  

We are facing the same problem overseas. Ah, that Christian lay men and women would stay doing what they are doing instead of following the Bible School/seminary paradigm! We have taught too much like we are. And when they learn the final trick of raising support from the US or Europe, we have created the "super pastors" a world away from any culture.
See www.ephesusgroup.com for more ramblings, clark
commented by Blogger Ephesus Group, 10:24 AM  

Great thoughts! I agree wholeheartedly. I would take it a step further and argue that seminary is a parachurch organization and that as churches we are abdicate our responsibility if we send individuals to seminaries and expect them to get their primary ministry training there and not from the church. I have no problem with seminaries; I have attended two and a looking to get at least one more degree when I finish this one. But I think the church needs to start carrying its weight in this area and start thinking more about bi-vocational missionaries.
commented by Blogger Keith Walters, 1:49 PM  

I am a management consultant. I started my business at age 52, four years ago. I had graduated seminary 4 years before that at 48. I was plugged in to the work place for 25 years and had been working towards integrating faith and work for 11 years when I entered seminary. I was had a matured, pragmatic view that only comes from experience. I went to seminary to firm up my theology to go with my business savvy. It was the best three years of my life, as fara person growth is concerned. Of course I went to seminary that is focussed on ministry being relevant. (Bethel) My point is that training of any type needs to make you better. If it doesn't it isn't training. It's not about seminary as much as it is about being ready and preparing yourself to do what God is putting on your heart.
commented by Blogger Whichway, 10:03 PM  

"We need Christian, Spirit-led, God-fearing, prayerful young men and women to go into Hollywood, classrooms/education, hospitals, military, law and law enforcement and dare I say: politics." I couldn't agree more. However, we need these Christian ambassadors to do a credible job of representing their Savior and His Word. Even among evangelicals, biblical literacy is lacking and becoming increasingly marginalized. Thus it is imperative that committed Christians know what they believe and why. I've been a believer more than 50 years, and, I'm sorry, the churches are NOT doing the job. Seminaries are not perfect either, but Christians need far better grounding than most of them are getting in their churches.
commented by Blogger ktwoo2u, 2:56 PM  

"We need Christian, Spirit-led, God-fearing, prayerful young men and women to go into Hollywood, classrooms/education, hospitals, military, law and law enforcement and dare I say: politics." I couldn't agree more. The problem is that the churches are turning out biblical illiterates who do not have the background to be credible, skilled, and wise ambassadors. Not only does the world need Christians in all walks of life who are zealous for the faith, but that also know the faith. The churches are NOT doing the job. Sorry if that offends, but there is plenty of research available now (see Barna, Gallup, and others) that shows just how poorly informed most evangelicals are about the fundamental doctrines of the faith. Yes, we need to practice what we know, but we also need to actually know something.
commented by Blogger ktwoo2u, 3:01 PM  

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