Surprises in seminary point to our purpose

January 6, 2013

BobRogers2011-400Holy Humor
by Dr. Bob Rogers

When I went to seminary to train to be a pastor, I was met with several surprises.

I think I expected all of the students to look like monks or something. Instead, I saw students who were tall and skinny, and some who were short and fat. I saw guys running around in t-shirts throwing footballs, and I saw egg-heads with wire-rimmed glasses carrying briefcases. Suddenly, it was as if God spoke to me and said, “Bob, I’ve got a great variety of churches out there, and I have called all of these different people to serve my different churches.”

Some things at the seminary remained the same, however. There was a lady who worked in the registrar’s office, who had been there since the time of Noah and the flood. When I met her, she remembered the days when my father was a student at the same seminary, and I was a little toddler living with my parents in the apartment above her. She said I would take my mother’s shoes out to the balcony and throw them off the balcony. I told one of my friends what she said, and he replied, “That’s nothing! I was in line to register and when she saw my name she told everybody in line that she used to change my diapers!”

Soon after we arrived on campus, one of the administrators made a speech about following God’s purpose. If we were studying to be pastors, he recommended getting the M.Div. degree (Master of Divinity). If we were studying for youth or education ministry, he recommended the M.R.E. (Masters of Religious Education), and for music ministers he recommended the M.C.M. (Masters of Church Music). He told us that one young lady came to the seminary, and told him that God had called her to be a pastor’s wife. She was looking for her “Mrs.” degree! Sure enough, after a few weeks, he saw her holding hands with a young ministerial student, and the next year they were married. She knew her purpose, and went after it.

All four gospels record that Jesus was constantly calling people, saying “follow Me!” (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 19:21; Mark 1:17; 2:14; Luke 5:27; 9:59; 18:22; John 1:43; 21:19) God has a purpose for everybody’s life, and not all are the same. The Mrs. degree is just as important as the M.Div. degree. Jesus is calling you to something. Are you answering His call?

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Johnathan Pritchett


Well, I never recommend ministry students to get an M.Div. Especially from a Southern Baptist Seminary. What a bloated and altogether useless degree program that has become! The grads come out knowing hardly anything useful in theology, or anything else for that matter, and then oversee and preside as pastors over the decline in our denomination that has been going on for ten years and stacking. SBC churches in decline are stocked full of M.Div grads, and there are plenty of thriving churches where none of the staff bothered with this or other useless credentials that used to be worth something.

Though, this program, like so many others, with its over-bloat of useless credit hours, does give seminaries a way they can rake in the cash and saddle future pastors with mountains of debt on the other hand. Well done us!

Furthermore, while one does probably see a variety of different kinds of people, they are overwhelmingly a variety of different kinds of white, middle to upper-middle class folks who are not representative of our denomination as a whole.This is a serious injustice, and that goes to the faculties of these places as well. Electing Fred Luter is not something that we can use to feel better about that particular issue and then ignore it again, nor will I entertain usual tokenism responses to it.The general trends here can not be overlooked.

Furthermore, if these hack HR departments in our churches that have replaced real search committees (even though these folks still call themselves that) want their staff to have these useless credentials, they either need to get their churches to pay for them, or pay their staff enough so that the staff can pay their loans back without having to feed their families on Raman. Looking at online postings, one wonders if SBC churches are looking to hire ministers or sales reps and middle-managers for large corporations.

This whole SBC system of doing it this way from the seminary to the local churches has become corrupt and evil, and no one is addressing it to help out the truly called ones either shut out of it, or smart enough to avoid it, and yet still have their churches and ministries within the SBC blessed by God for leaving it well alone, and in many cases more so than the M. Div folks.

As someone who will, God willing, hopefully get a doctorate one day, I hope that when I get my credential it will give me a bit more clout to address these issues, since no one is caring or listening now.

To the truly called, to the future pastors and scholars in the SBC, please help fight this wicked, nonsensical injustice in our churches and our seminaries. Start by saying no to it until it changes. And shame on those who are in a position to effect the changes needed, who know deep down they are needed, and don’t bother.

    David (NAS) Rogers

    So what’s the solution then? Cynicism will only get one so far.
    I see step one in your solution is:
    (1) Say “NO” to something (clarity is needed to understand what one specifically needs to say “no” to)
    (2) ?

Johnathan Pritchett

I am sure you have fond memories. I have fond memories of being in seminary and I am still in it. Fond memories does not negate serious problems anymore than not addressing and shining a light on them makes them disappear or not exist.

In any case, that wasn’t cynicism. It was criticism. I’m not the guy that has a solution to everything. Even if I had some solutions, what good would it do? I couldn’t even get my fellow Traditionalists to start doing anything meaningful whatsoever besides blogwhining. But if blogwhining is all there is gonna be for us, then I am gonna whine on the most popular Traditionalist blog since it is the only outlet. If Rick thinks we need to widen the discussion, then okay, but these issues are more important than eschatology and whether or not we should care about the environment and whether those are “Calvinist” issues.

In any case, one does not need a handy solution ready to identify and point to problems. Solutions follow the recognition and deliberation of problems.

In the mean time, future students should reject the current system, and they are, in fact, starting to do so. I read relatively recently that fewer and fewer are going into pastoral ministry after graduation from SBC seminaries, and that enrollment in M. Div programs, as opposed to other programs, are dropping slightly. It goes unnoticed when other programs are increasing, but the brightest, youngest minds I know of in the SBC right now attend anywhere but SBC seminaries in general. I even had Dr. Yarnell admit, after I cracked at his own SWBTS on his Facebook page, that our seminaries need revamping.

However, being an ostrich does us no good. I raise these issues because if I don’t, hardly any Southern Baptist will, and I actually understand that I will have to give an account one day for the deeds I do in the body. This kind of stuff actually matters more than how Southern Baptists hash out soteriology. I better stand for more than just having my own ticket punched to heaven, abstract theological positions, and then who cares what else happens in the world, to say nothing of what goes on in the denomination I have loved and been a part of for over 20 years.

Maybe if others put their minds to not only recognizing these serious problems, but thinking of solutions, it might be easier to address them. Step one is a good start.

    Jim G.

    Hi Jonathan,

    One way to help with education and cost is through something called a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). They are online courses that only have tuition and fees if enrolled in a degree program. A student can do all of the work required for the course at no cost for no credit, but the learning is still there. I’m sure some kind of certification assessment will develop as this new innovation gains steam.

    SEBTS is launching one this summer I believe. The school where I work (New Life Seminary in Charlotte) wants to start them right away as well. That is a possible solution, though only in the infant stages, to the debt problem incurred by seminary students. It’s at least a start.

    Jim G.

      Johnathan Pritchett

      It will do no good in the impersonal credential-obsessed job market (i.e. search committees who know next to nothing about interviewing and hiring ministers) that we Southern Baptists mockingly label the “call” process,

Bob Rogers

Whoa! Lighten up! I thought this was a humor column, and it got hijacked! BTW, some of fondest memories seminary were when I worked for the grounds crew with a student from Nigeria and a student from China, in our “all white” seminary.

Johnathan Pritchett

I didn’t say “all white”. I did say “overwhelmingly a variety of different kinds of white”.

Do you dispute this?

Anyway, it wasn’t a hijack. It was a reply from a different perspective on some of the themes you addressed. Humor or not, there was an opening to address these issues, and I took it. These opportunities don’t come along often, and you never know what will spark a conversation.

In fact, my initial post didn’t disagree with yours about anything, though it did disagree with the assertions of administrators that you cited regarding academic programming.

Sorry if it bothered you. But the bright side is that your weekend post has more comments on it than mine does now. :)

Bob Rogers

Jonathan, my bad. “Overwhelmingly … white” not “all white.” Please forgive the paraphrase.

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