Many of you know that back in late April it was announced that I would be taking over for Pastor John Conley at Cornerstone Community Church as the new pastor. And while I'm only going to be "interim" pastor now, I have a feeling it will be longer term than that since that's what I feel called to do.
An interesting conversation arose this afternoon when I was talking to my lovely wife, Jiwon. I asked her if she felt that a seminary background was necessary to become a pastor. She has several people in her family that have been in formal ministry so she is a good source of information. She said that in Korea, it's expected that everyone receive their bachelors-level seminary degree (a must) and that most people go for their masters (equivalent of a MATS, ThM or MDiv). It's highly preferred that people go for these graduate degrees and more and more seminary students (the majority now) are doing exactly that.
But I thought, "This isn't Korea...this is the U.S. of A". Is it much different here? Is the expectation when I tell someone I'm going into ministry for them to knee-jerk ask me where I've gone to seminary? Early Christian followers like the Apostles were not well educated men with the exception of Paul (Saul of Tarsus) who was a lawyer and teacher. They were fishermen, tax collectors, etc. None of them had any formal rabbinical training (pastoral training for that time period). All they had as far as credentials was a commitment to follow Christ.
While I do think that having a seminary background would make you a bit more well-rounded theologically and perhaps even in your ministry as a whole, I don't necessarily think that seminary makes or breaks you. However, what I have usually seen is that pastors with a seminary background (even at the undergraduate level) seem to have better academic discipline and more well-versed sermons. I also think that sacrificing some of your own life to undergo these advanced studies shows how much you want to be dedicated to Jesus.
This is why I have elected to pursue my seminary studies at this time. I am currently evaluating a number of programs which include an M.Div. degree program online with NationsUniversity. The others include Liberty University's Biblical Studies Diploma, The Christian Leaders Institute's 2-Year Diploma in Ministry, and a couple of others.
Regardless of what I select, I'm going to try my best to learn as much as I can. Getting THE calling from God feels really good and really right. But I also want to be as prepared as I can be to accept this pastor role and while I don't think that seminary is the end-all, I do think it will help me.
I would be interested in hearing what some of you think.