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Posts tagged ‘Seminary’

God’s Everyone Seminary.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God … that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Recommended Reading
2 Timothy 3:13-17 ( )

A “seminary” is a school specializing in theological training especially for those entering vocational ministry. The word seminary, akin to the term for “seed,” comes from the Latin term seminarium, or “plant nursery.” Since the 1580s, this word has described schools that train Christians for ministry. Good seminaries enrich the Church with scholarship and instruction, and they’re important to the advancement of our Christian work.

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Though not everyone can attend seminary, every Christian has a seminary between two covers — the Holy Bible. God’s Word is a school that trains us for the work He has planned for us on earth. According to 2 Timothy 3:17, as we invest ourselves in God’s Word, we’re “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We’re not just equipped for good work; we’re equipped for every good work, and we are thoroughly equipped for every good work. We become spiritually productive through the Word of God.

The Bible is God’s Everyone Seminary. Make sure you’re enrolled today by having a personal plan for reading, studying, memorizing, pondering, obeying, and sharing the Bible.

2 Corinthians 5-9

By David Jeremiah.

God Does Big Things in Small Churches.

Small churches


Remember the Pepsi Challenge? It was a marketing campaign in the 1980s where people would be offered two unmarked cups. One contained Coke, and the other contained Pepsi. After taking a sip of both, the participants would be asked to reveal which one they liked the best.

Apparently, more people picked Pepsi. At least, that’s what their ads led us to believe.  (Incidentally, Malcolm Gladwell has a great chapter in his book Blink that explains the flaws of this taste test.)

Comparing two different brands of soft drinks makes sense to us. But what if someone ran the same test, this time using the same brand? Let’s say the only difference would be the size of the cup. Wouldn’t you think that was a strange comparison? Does anybody really think a 24-ounce cup of Pepsi tastes better than an 16-ounce cup? No matter the size, the contents are the same—and that’s what matters!

I think we would all agree that testing by size would be ridiculous and illogical.

So why, then, do we often measure the effectiveness of a church by its size? A church of 50 and a church of 5,000 are both full of the same thing: followers of Christ!

Don’t get me wrong; not every small church is healthy, but neither is every big church. The fact of the matter is that the majority of churches around the world are what most would consider “small.”

I’m afraid some have the mistaken impression that “small” means a lack of mission or purpose. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Some of the most passionate missional churches have relatively small congregations. Make no mistake about it, “small” does not mean inferior.

There are a number of reasons why a church may be small:

1. The community may be small to begin with.

2. The congregation may be transitory.

3. The congregation may be sending out people to plant churches.

Stop and think. Is there a big difference between having a few large churches as opposed to a lot of small churches? Of course there isn’t. If anything, a larger number of small churches may allow more people to exercise their gifts of leadership. When you think about it, a large army of small churches could be the sleeping giant that strategically infiltrates the world.

Small churches have some great advantages:

1. Many people feel more comfortable and are more prone to open up in a smaller setting.

2. Small churches have less logistical distractions.

3. Pastors can spend more time investing in each member.

Maybe that’s why it should be no surprise when we hear a pastor or missionary reminisce about growing up in a small church. For that matter, we would do well to remember that every large church started out as a small church!

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not against big churches! Many megachurch pastors do a great job making sure their congregations enjoy the same level of fellowship and mission as a small church.

All I’m saying is that it would be a mistake to write off churches because they are small. So I want to go on the record proclaiming my love for small churches.

Don’t worry if your church isn’t a “three liter” congregation. After all, God does big things in small churches!

After seven years of pastoring, Scott Attebery was selected as the executive director of DiscipleGuide Church Reources, a department of the Baptist Missionary Association of America. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible from Central Baptist College, a Master of Divinity from the BMA Theological Seminary and is a candidate for a Doctorate of Ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. You can read his blog at

For the original article, visit

Written by Scott Attebery

Stay Sharp, Pastor!

by Pearson Johnson

If you have been in ministry for a number of years since seminary, you know how easy it can be to get into a ministry routine and allow other things in your life to become your first love, whether it is a hobby, a recreational pursuit, or other amusement. We, as pastors, need help in staying sharp, setting priorities for continued growth in knowledge and ability in that which is our main calling–the ministry. Here are some tips for doing so:

1. Take a class. Perhaps every other year or once a year, enroll in a class at a nearby seminary or online that will push you to read, study, and interact with others. At DBTS we allow grads to audit a class and provide a discounted audit rate for non-grads. We are now offering a few remote classes and other schools offer good online courses. You may even want to pursue another degree if your circumstances permit it.

2. Form a reading group with other nearby pastors. Many pastors form a regional reading group, reading through a book together and meeting to discuss it weekly or monthly. This exercise provides mutual encouragement and edification.

3. Start a new series or class. Pastors, you can offer an elective Sunday School class on a particular topic, a Bible Institute level class, or small group study that will push you to read and study in a new area.

4. Submit book reviews or articles. Many blogs and journals will receive book reviews from pastors willing to invest the time in reading newer books and offering a critical review. Others accept submissions of articles. Set a goal to do one or two of these per year for your benefit and hopefully for the benefit of others as well.

5. Read biography and history. Reading biography and history will usually lead to a refreshing of your desire to re-engage in ministry growth. When you see how others poured their lives into people or how others erred in history, you will be all the more passionate about your ministry and careful with the truth.

6. Attend a conference. Ministry-specific conferences on preaching, counselling, or theological issues can be helpful in keeping us sharp. The large rally-type conferences are encouraging (and often expensive) and helpful to a point, but smaller, more interactive conferences and seminars can be most profitable for the purposes of staying sharp.

These suggestions are some ways I have sought to stay sharp in ministry–now over 15 years past my M.Div. Do you have other ways you have sought to stay sharp in ministry?

The Soul of a Leader.

In my book “What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary,” I wrote about something you may have never heard before: Ministry is spiritually hazardous to your soul.

Actually, leadership of any kind has a built-in set of challenges.

Here are some of the reasons why that are ministry specific, but are easily transferred over to other areas of leadership:

First, it is because you are constantly doing “spiritual” things, and it is easy to confuse those things with actually being spiritual. For example, you are constantly in the Bible, studying it, in order to prepare a talk. It’s easy to confuse this with reading and studying the Bible devotionally for your own soul.

You’re not.

You are praying – in services, during meetings, at pot lucks – and it is easy to think you are leading a life of personal, private prayer.

You’re not.

You are planning worship, leading worship, attending worship, and it is easy to believe you, yourself, are actually worshipping.

Chances are, you’re not.

When you are in ministry, it is easy to confuse doing things for God with spending time with God; to confuse activity with intimacy; to mistake the trappings of spirituality for being spiritual.

It’s an easy deception. Think about something like the game of golf. I first started playing when I was in graduate school. I took all of two lessons from a course pro, which basically taught me which end of the stick to hold. I bought a cheap set of clubs and began to play. Initially, I made great strides. My score went from the 140s, to the 120s, then the low 100s. Sometimes even the 90s.

Then I’d play the back nine.

But then I began to play with less and less frequency. Soon, I only played at the annual Christmas gathering with my wife’s family. And as you might expect, I would play about the same each year — translation, horribly — because I hadn’t played since the previous year.

It’s gotten a little better these days, but it would be very easy to trick myself about the state of my game. Why? Because entering into “golf world” is easy and deceptive. I can subscribe to golf magazines, purchase golf equipment, live by a golf course, wear golf clothing, watch golf on TV, and enjoy eating at the clubhouse — and feel like I’m a decent golfer!

But I’m not. Because simply being exposed to something has little bearing on whether or not we become proficient at it.

We can be this way spiritually through our vocations in ministry. Just swap out “church world” for “golf world.”

A second reason why ministry is hazardous to your soul is because you are constantly being put on a spiritual pedestal and treated as if you are the fourth member of the Trinity. In truth, they have no idea whether you have spent any time alone with God in reflection and prayer over the last six weeks; they do not know what you are viewing online; they do not know whether you treat your wife with tenderness and dignity.

They just afford you a high level of spirituality.

Here’s where it gets really toxic: you can begin to bask in this spiritual adulation and start to believe your own press. Soon the estimation of others about your spiritual life becomes your own.

This is why most train-wrecks in ministry are not as sudden and “out of the blue” as they seem. Most leaders who end up in a moral ditch were veering off of the road for some time. Their empty spiritual life simply became manifest, or caught up with them, or took its toll.

You can only run on empty for so long.

I had a defining moment on this in my life when I was around 30 years old. A well-known leader fell, a leader who had been a role model for my life. I was devastated. But more than that, I was scared. If it could happen to him, then I was a pushover.

It didn’t help my anxieties that I was in a spiritual state exactly as I have described: confusing doing things for God and time with God; accepting other’s estimation of my spiritual life in a way that made it easy to bypass a true assessment of where I stood; I was like a cut flower that looked good on the outside, but would, in time, wilt dreadfully.

I remember so clearly the awareness that I could fall; that no one would ever own my spiritual life but me; and that I needed to realize that the public side of my life was meaningless — only the private side mattered. This was not flowing from a position of strength; it was flowing from a deep awareness of weakness.

So the gun went off.

I began to rise early in the morning for prayer and to read the Bible. I began to take monthly retreats to a bed-and-breakfast in the mountains for a more lengthy immersion in order to read devotional works, pray, experience silence and solitude, and to journal. I entered into a two-year, intense mentoring relationship with a man who had many more years on me in terms of age, marriage and ministry.

There was more, but you get the idea: I was going to be a public and private worshiper; I was going to be a student of the Bible for my talks and for my soul; I was going to pray for others to hear, andfor an audience of one.

I hope you hear my heart on this. It’s not to boast, it’s to confess. I have to do these to survive. Maybe you do, too. And again, this was not something anyone had warned me about, told me about, pulled me aside and counseled me about.

Interestingly, at the same time my “awakening” occurred, I was part of a breakfast meeting with the great British pastor and author John Stott. He had been touring various American seminaries, and someone asked him for his observations. He did not suggest anything about a diminishing state of orthodoxy, a lack of biblical preaching, or diminished standards of academic excellence.

Instead, he said two things that still stand out to me to this day: first, he said he wanted to tell everyone to “cheer up.” Seminaries all seemed so serious, so gloomy, so joyless.

Coming from a Brit, that was particularly interesting.

But second, he said that there seemed to be a real lack of spiritual formation; that the seminaries did not seem to be doing much to help people know how to grow spiritually, to care for themselves spiritually, or to develop themselves spiritually.

I know it was true for me.

So here’s a spiritual truth that should never be forgotten: no one will ever own your spiritual life but you.

And if you are a leader, that ownership better run deep.

By Dr James Emery White


Adapted from James Emery White, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker).

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book isThe Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log on to, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

What They Don’t Teach Lawyers…or Ministers.

“How do you get a merger done?” asks Scott B. Connolly, an attorney.

There is silence from three well-dressed people in their early 20s, sitting at a conference table in a downtown building in Philadelphia.

“What steps would you need to take to accomplish a merger?” Mr. Connolly prods.

After more silence and an embarrassingly wrong answer or two, it becomes painfully clear:  nobody knows.  The dilemma is that the three well-dressed people being asked are associates at a law firm, hired to handle corporate transactions.

And they have each spent three years and as much as $150,000 for a legal degree.

As New York Times reporter David Segal notes, “What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training.  Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England.  Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like law review articles with titles like “A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Legal Theory.”

“The fundamental issue is that law schools are producing people who are not capable of being counselors,” says Jeffrey W. Carr, the general counsel of FMC Technologies, a Houston company that makes oil drilling equipment. “They are lawyers in the sense that they have law degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.”

In truth, as Segal notes, “the essential how-tos of daily practice are a subject that many in the faculty know nothing about — by design. One 2010 study of hiring at top-tier law schools since 2000 found that the median amount of practical experience was one year, and that nearly half of faculty members had never practiced law for a single day. If medical schools took the same approach, they’d be filled with professors who had never set foot in a hospital.”

“Law school has a kind of intellectual inferiority complex, and it’s built into the idea of law school itself,” says W. Bradley Wendel of the Cornell University Law School, a professor who has written about landing a law school teaching job. “People who teach at law school are part of a profession and part of a university. So we’re always worried that other parts of the academy are going to look down on us and say: ‘You’re just a trade school, like those schools that advertise on late-night TV. You don’t write dissertations. You don’t write articles that nobody reads.’ And the response of law school professors is to say: ‘That’s not true. We do all of that. We’re scholars, just like you.’ ”


Now go back and read everything that you just read again.  Only this time, substitute the word “seminary” for “law school,” and practical knowledge about lawyering with practical knowledge about ministry.

There are wonderful exceptions, I know, but by and large, the contemporary American seminary mirrors the contemporary American law school – and in all the worst ways.

As I wrote in the introduction to my book What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary, I’m not trying to pick a fight.  My life has been lived, largely, in two vocational worlds:  the church, and the academy.  I am the founding and senior pastor of a church; I am a professor and former president of a seminary. 

So I would only be picking a fight with myself.

More than that, I loved seminary.  I loved learning about church history and theology, philosophy and ethics.  My pulse quickened the first time I was able to stand behind a podium and say, “In the Greek, this word means…”  I loved building my library with works from Augustine to Zwingli.  Adding entire multi-volume reference sets, such as Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, made my hormones bubble.

I was the classic, three-year, residential M.Div.

But toward the end of my seminary degree, just before I started my doctoral work, I received a call from a church near the school asking me to consider coming as their interim pastor.  It was an established denominational church in a county seat town near the seminary.  The interim turned into a full-fledged invitation to serve as their senior pastor. 

Yet when I, as a new pastor, was asked to officiate my first wedding, my first funeral, my first baptism, and my first communion, I was totally clueless.  So why did they ask me to be a pastor?  It was assumed that since I was nearing my graduation from seminary, I knew what I was doing.

I didn’t.

It didn’t get any better.

I needed to raise money to meet the church’s budget, and there had never been a class on that. 

I wanted to try and grow the church numerically by reaching out to the unchurched, and my coursework had never touched on it. 

I had a problem with a combative and disagreeable deacon, and I searched through my seminary notes and found nothing. 

I found I needed to be in the office for administration, in my study to prepare my talks, in people’s lives to stay connected to the community, and in my home to raise my family – and there hadn’t been any instruction on how to manage that. 

It was becoming painfully clear how little my seminary education was actually preparing me for the day-in, day-out responsibilities of leading a church. 

I knew about the Council of Nicea, but no one had ever told me how to lead my own council meeting. 

I knew about the Barth-Brunner debate, but not how to handle the breakdown between two Sunday school teachers when one was asked to start a new class, for the same age-group, from the existing class. 

I knew the significance of the aorist verb, but not how to parse the culture to know how best to communicate. 

I could tell you the leading theologians of the 16th century, but not about leading and managing a staff.

This is why so many people look back on their seminary education with a critical eye. 

It’s why pastors will go to a two-day leadership conference headlined by seasoned leaders passing on their insights for effective ministry, and feel like they gained more in those two days than they had in their entire three years of seminary education. 

It’s why quickly after graduation, Melanchthon gets dropped for Maxwell, Luther for Lucado, and the seminary’s continuing education program for the latest Catalyst event.

We need seminary.  We don’t want to lose the necessary academic side of things.  But we also need seminaries to realize they do not exist to serve the academy, but to serve the church.

One of the more promising movements of late is the partnership between larger churches and seminaries.  The idea is to use churches stocked with resources (adjunct professors, students, buildings) to bring seminary back into the life of the church. 

As opposed to a three-year residential program tilted away from the day-in, day-out life of ministry, these new partnerships would blend the academic with the practical, the scholar with the practitioner, the student with the church.  Many of these partnerships never require the student to leave their ministerial setting, except for possible short visits to a nearby campus, but instead, bring the seminary to the church.

Meck is in conversations for just such a partnership, and I couldn’t be more hopeful.

So while law schools need to step up and get better at teaching lawyering, they aren’t alone.  Seminaries need to step up and get better at teaching ministering.

And the place to start just might be partnering with who it is they are trying to serve.

James Emery White


“What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering,”  by David Segal, The New York Times, November 19, 2011. Read online.

James Emery White, What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary (Baker, 2011).

By Dr. James Emery White.

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