Should You Go To Seminary?

GraduaciónBecause of my public ministry, I receive a lot of questions. One question that comes up from time to time is whether the questioner should go to seminary or perhaps the location that one should attend seminary.

I see myself in many of these people. A while ago, I was in the same boat, just accepted my “call to ministry” and was ready to go to school to get the entrance requirements into ministry.

Refine Your Tools
Ahh…little did I know that my ministry had already started. You don’t merely go to seminary to get the entrance requirements into ministry, you go to seminary to refine the tools of ministry that you are already exercising.

Also don’t expect seminary to help you determine the kind of ministry that you are to enter. Well unless you want to go into the parish. Those of us in other ministries have to kind of feel our way around without much help.

Don’t expect that anyone will care about your ministry other than the ones whom God is calling you to minister. Some churches will be very supportive. However, some will not really care. And sadly some will go out of their way to demonstrate their lack of interest in the ministry God calls you.

Diploma Is Paper Without Function
Your Diploma is a piece of paper. I remember having
lunch with a former classmate about seminary. At some point in the conversation he picked up a napkin said “The only difference between this paper napkin and my paper diploma is that at least I can use the napkin to wipe my face. We both laughed. We must remember that this is simply a piece of paper. It is not the key to open many doors that you didn’t have access to before (that could happen, but probably wont)…There are hundreds of people with the same paper.

I do not however want to leave you with a misunderstanding. I think seminary helped me in many valuable ways. The process and the road was very helpful. What seminary did for me is that it opened the door to interdenominational ministry as well as encouraged me to recognize the gifts that I had before attending. Did I need the degree to start my ministry? No…But would I have without the rich experiences of seminary? Probably not. I am only saying that the value of seminary is what you learn not the piece of paper.

I came to seminary understanding how to read the Bible devotionally or even apologetically (in defense mode), but Seminary taught me how to read the Bible in other ways. I came to seminary largely from a particular ecclesial heritage, but left seminary with a deeper understanding of my sisters and brothers in other traditions. I came to seminary with a more limited vision of what the church was and what ministry was. Seminary gave me a broader vision.

I Loved Seminary
At the end of the day. Seminary can be helpful and valuable. But please don’t expect that it will do what it will not do. Seminary will be a fun time. But remember that ministry happened before you got to seminary. And you will do it after.

Should you go…it is a personal decision, but if you go, allow it to refine the ministry that God is already leading you in right now…which is what brought you to seminary in the first place.

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Comments

  1. alan hiland says:

    Thanks for the insight.I always look forwardbto reading what you have to say on many different topics.Gid bless you!!!

  2. alan hiland says:

    Sorry for typo..typing way to fast.

  3. Tyrone Leonard says:

    I believe seminary is very helpful, it does not teach u how to preach, but help refine your preaching. Seminary may not be for everyone, but it is valuable .

  4. Seminary was helpful for me, and I am thankful that I had a chance to go there. The only thing that discouraged me was when the Bishop said we would not be ordained, until we received our M.D. degree. I could not find in the bible where that was required to preach the gospel. Peter and John were unlearned and ignorant, but they had been with Jesus. That is the only requirement in being called into the ministry. There are many that have their M.D. degrees, but they have not been with Jesus. We must preach the word in season, and out of season. May the Lord bless you richly.

  5. Rahiem Allen says:

    This article is great there are some valuable points in it thank you sir!

  6. I really like your view about Seminary and its limitations. I agree that Seminary provides insight, experience and personal revelation. However, depending on your religious tradition and understanding it is not needed. In my humble opinion, if someone is uninformed Seminary can kill your passion for preaching and ministry. Those who attend Seminary need to have a good vision about what they want to do in ministry. Seminary is not for everyone.

  7. Kevin L.Neal says:

    Just recently received B.S. Degree in Christian Ministry and Ethics. Considering applying to United Theological Seminary and get my Masters in Christian Ministry. It is unfortunate that some denominations demand that you get M.Div to become full ordained ministers. I know of many who have M.Div’s and seminary training but yet are still weak in the Lord. Seminary is the opportunity for me to become engaged in a study of my choice and build upon what i have learned as an undergraduate.

  8. I am a graduate of the Interdenominational Theological Center, in Atlanta, Ga. Aside from denominational requirements, one can do ministry without going to seminary. I believe seminary addresses there diverse needs that people are called into the ministry for. Preaching can be taught, however there is a depth of understanding about homiltetical an hermeneutical use that can and will be sharpened with the seminary experience. There is a need to learn about administration of a parish or any ministry and those skills are honed with the seminary experience. Counselling and administering “pastoral care” is something every person in ministry needs guidance in; for one to be a facilitator of spiritual healing, one must also be aware of one’s own wounds…… In essence one may minister without infecting those we minister to with our own spiritual, psychological and emotional issues. Preaching and teaching can and will be developed over time; however I believe with the diverse needs of humanity and the fact that those in the pews are more educated in bible and theology, it takes more training to keep up with the needs of the ministry that God call us to; another thing, folk are learning from the likes of biblical giants such as Bishop TD Jakes, Bishop Noel Jones etc. God is not calling us to be in competition, but we need to understand the those in the pews are learning from a lot of learned men and women of God on tv, and it’s incumbent upon all ministers to get as much formal academic learning in regards to our calling in order to keep up with the needs of those we serve; knowing that they are possibly also being fed through the media… I always train my preachers to understand that if folk get up on Sunday morning get dressed and come to hear you and they can get as much out of the bible on their on, as the clergy has to offer, then the clergy needs to study more and perhaps lay prostate before God more. One can do ministry without seminary. There are people that can perform medicine, without going to medical school; there are lawyers who could represent you in court, without going to law school……. However the expectations that doctors and lawyers have a higher level of specialized training in their field and that they are tried and proven before being allowed to practice; I believe ministry is moving more in that direction. Those who can and God makes a way for them to go; should go to seminary if being a professional clergy is your calling…

  9. Akinwale Ebuka says:

    Sometimes seminary will not help to build faith, but it can build skepticism instead. This depends on the kind of seminary that you attend. Liberal seminaries with liberal professors can easily produce liberal ministers. I would like to see seminary focus less on academics, and more on evangelism. Knowledge is necessary, but information without inspiration, and revelation, can lead to deformation.

  10. Rev. Sylvia Moseley says:

    I thank Bishop Jackson for his eloquent response to the question of the necessity of seminary. I am a graduate of Payne Theological Seminary in Ohio. My theological education required me to read the writings of Dr. James Cone, Dr. Jacqueline Grant, and many other anointed, gifted, men and women that I had never encountered in the church book store. Seminary gave me an understanding of church history that went beyond the book of Acts and taught me a greater tolerance, and gave me a bigger God than I had prior to seminary. I learned to see into the Word of God and help the lost see liberation and deliverance for the addicted, incarcerated, and bound up professional Christians in the church. I would not give anything for my journey in seminary. It was a blessing.

  11. Sheryln says:

    Great points by the bishop…..I was ministering to the residents at our local homeless shelter last month and one of the ladies interrupted what I was saying to say she agreed with me because Juanita Bynum said the same thing. This person has elaborated before or mentioned a corresponding scripture to a scripture I have quoted. The girl knows her stuff. So yes, the pews are full of people who know the word so preachers and teachers should prepare themselves to the best of their ability.

    My daughter stopped going to a church last year because the pastor kept mispronouncing basic elementary English words. She said she tried to overlook it because she liked the church and his messages but became it increasingly irritating.

  12. Forward Musungo says:

    I was very much against seminary all my life.I used to think that people go to seminary and in the end try to treat God’s work as an occupation not a calling. I know a lot of successful preachers who have never been to a seminary school,however when in their proximity you sense that they are called. Nevertheless recently I enrolled with Christian Leaders Institute and I have to agree what I am learning will make a difference in the ministry. My advice is go to the seminary to learn not to justify yourself as a “man of God”

  13. Henry Gurley says:

    I accepted my call to the ministry very late in life although others who heard about it said that I had already been ministering many years earlier to my surprise. Wanting to get some Biblical training and because i already had a graduate degree in counseling I signed up to an online seminary. I completed that coursework in March and now beginning the Major Writing Project. I appreciate the variety of training and foundational knowledge I received. However,, I have to say I regret only recently discovering your websites. I’m on lesson 13 of your Supercharge course and anxiously await each lesson. My preaching got better beginning with lesson 2 according to the feedback I received. The beginning of the course coincided with my becoming Acting Pastor for 2 months and greatly increased my confidence. I am an Associate Minister and get many rewarding opportunities to preach at the prison, Rescue Mission, Senior Citizen Rehabilitation Center as well as ministering to my many family members in need of the Gospel. My attendance to the seminary was very rewarding and helpful, but your course has “Supercharged” that experience to the glory of God. Thank you very much.
    Rev. Henry Gurley

  14. Should a person who wants to be a dentist go to dental school? Should an aspiring medical doctor go to medical school? The fact that we are asking if a preacher should go to seminary is a sad commentary on the state of the church and the academy. Preacher, go get a good biblical and theological education!

  15. Seminary is great to enhance the gift that God has given to the preacher. The more you know the gift will grow and also to expand the preacher’s mind in preparing a message.

  16. Brady L Williams says:

    Brother Coxx you have an inspiring testimony and Bishop Jackson is truly admirable. But there is a problem I have seen for a long time that needs to be addressed. I hope you don’t mind that I am slightly off subject but why is it that most, and I say most because I do not feel this spirit from you or anyone I have read concerning this subject. But of a truth I have seen a disdain for the faithful in the spirit of seminary-trained preachers. Why is it that a seminary-trained preacher cannot respect a non-seminary train preacher? Consequently a seminary-trained preacher cannot respect anyone who has not had similar types of worldly training. What’s wrong with this picture? Do we truly understand what the Pharisees represented in the Lord Jesus’ day? What has happened to the church?

  17. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    Ouch…Pastor Williams you have said a mouthful there that we need to really discuss in the larger community. I am going to put a post up on it very soon.

  18. Minister William J. Wilson says:

    Good Evening brother minister, how are you doing? Thank you so much for sharing the article with me as well as with my brothers and sisters in the ministry. It helped me to put things in perspective as far as what attending seminary can do and what it won’t do. I will attending seminary as soon as possible.

  19. jonathan mobley says:

    brother cox all of the info you presented is very true.seminary can be very helpful I love to illustrate or narrate on GOD’S word twice I attended seminary but could not graduate because of other financial obligation’s but trusting God to send some one in my path please pray that GOD would make it possible..GOD bless

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