Friday, June 16, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

One year from now I will be graduating from Southeastern Seminary with an M.Div. degree. Over the past three years I have developed a passion for Biblical studies, discipleship, and spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The question that has constantly been on my mind recently is "What next?" There are many avenues I could go down and many options I could pursue. My passion for Biblical studies has me thinking about pursuing a PhD degree from Southeastern. However, my passion for missions and discipleship has me wanting to be free of school to have more time for these pursuits. So I have been asking myself, in light of this tension, what God is leading me to devote myself to for the rest of my life. Will I continue working in the IT field as a means of providing for my family? Should I pursue a PhD in Biblical studies and seek to teach in a Bible college or seminary? Should I seek another bachelor or masters degree in a different field to equip myself to teach at a high school level as a profession?

One question I have been asking as well (I do not mean to offend here. I am only asking the question.) is the effectiveness of teaching in a Bible college or seminary. I do not doubt that the students of these institutions grow and mature in their faith as they study alongside their professors. The limitation I am seeing is that a Bible college or seminary will only minister to a limited segment of the general population. Typically it is those people who are "called to ministry" meaning those who see themselves becoming religious professionals. (Just a side note: All believers are called to ministry. Eph. 4:16) Since my desire is to be a part of discipling the whole body of Christ, I am having a hard time committing to a PhD in Biblical studies since it appears to lead naturally to teaching in one of these institutions. From what I have seen, the great things that are taught in a seminary rarely if ever trickle down to the common man since there seems to be a great divide between academia and everyday life. Well, enough rambling about this topic.

So if I do not go that route, then I am faced with what to do next. Maybe another bachelors in a romance language in preparation of teaching high school and developing relationships with students and their families. Maybe a masters in IT or business and continuing to work in the business world. Maybe a PhD in Biblical studies for personal edification. At this point only the Lord knows and I am thankful that He knows and desires to reveal His will to me.

3 comments:

Matthew Rondeau said...

Theron,
I understand your dilemma, as I too am struggling with what to do after seminary. Actually, I am struggling with the validity of seminary in general because of the professionalization that you mentioned. It is unavoidable that seminary develops such a dichotomy between the clergy and laity, but perhaps we could change this. Maybe we can get Ph.D.'s, teach in seminaries or universities, and minister in the trenches right alongside the believers who have no "professional" training in theology. Perhaps we can even develop churches that will train up pastors from within their ranks. I think that whatever we do, we need to get rid of the distinction between the professionals and the non-professionals. While some are gifted with the languages, philosophy, apologetics, and other professional training, these are not the requirements of an overseer in 1 Tim. In fact, we would be hard pressed to find a seminary degree as a requirement for a leader, or even see it as an implication in Scripture.

Theron said...

Hi Matthew,

I hope your summer is going well. I too have struggled with the validity of a seminary. After all, they were not necessary for the passing on of the truths of the Faith in the early church. I also do not see a clergy/laity distinction in Scripture. One thing that I desire to do is to strive to be an example for those that I am discipling. (Jesus is their perfect example of course) What I mean by this is showing people what it means to live as a follower of Christ in their daily lives. This may be in the workplace, the home, etc. This seems to be difficult to do when working as a "religious professional" (i.e. a full-time paid pastor or even a seminary professor) since these types of work tend to isolate someone from lost people and the good majority of believers. Anyway, I am still praying and studying Scripture on these issues. I'm just questioning things since I want my life to be used in spreading the Gospel and maturing the Body of Christ. Thanks for your encouragement.

Theron

Calvary Baptist Church said...

Theron:

Since I am a PhD student and fulltime pastor who recently recieved a MDIV from SEBTS here are my thoughts.

I agree with you strongly that there is an increasing separation between seminary life and "real" ministry life. I, too, have struggled with the current thinking that seminaries exist to produce biblical scholars and not pastors and missionaries who know how to relate to the common layman.

I believe one of the dangerous things is a zealous seminary student filled with head knowledge but has no church experience.

I believe ministry enables one to choose what was worth learning in seminary and what was not.

I am not trying to overspiritualize why I am in the PhD program but I believe God was calling me to do it but I am able to be in the fulltime pastorate as well. Thus, I live in the best of both worlds.

I usually tel guys who have no ministry experience to get some before they pursue a PHD. However, guys who have several yrs of ministry experience should go as academically high as they can no matter how they feel about academics at the present. God's strength will see you through.

You may regret it later if you do not.

However, it is different for every person.

I hope this helps and I hope it makes sense