Back to Seminary


Since I finished my time at Moody I have yearned to return to seminary. Since I sat down in Dr. Ron Sauer’s Greek class(es) I began yearning for a masters degree in Biblical Languages.

Having put it off for years because the timing wasn’t right or for whatever other reasons came up at the time, I do not wish to wait any longer. I want to go back to seminary. Technically I suppose I’m not “going back” since Moody Bible Institute isn’t exactly a seminary – it’s a Bible College. Nevertheless I desire a masters degree.

To that end I’ve begun the Master’s program at Lincoln Christian Seminary (Henceforth LCU) in Lincoln Illinois this fall.

This decision was not reached in a vacuum. It comes on the heals of prayer, expresses the fulfillment of a deep seated desire, and has the blessing of my wife.

When embarking on a large undertaking it is wise to seek counsel and then make your decision. To that end I did a bit of searching concerning the return to seminary.

A few years ago Mark Dever wrote about How to Pick a Seminary. In the article which I pulled from the digital mothballs he provides five factors to consider in picking a seminary.
In brief they are:

  1. Confession of Faith
  2. Quality of Education
  3. Cost
  4. Church
  5. Connections for Life

Josh Bleeker, the Director of Admissions at Dallas Theological Seminary has only two questions. “What to they believe?” and “What will I get?” Let me just add that last one to the mix since the first one is already covered.

Confession of Faith.

The first and most important factor for you to consider when choosing a seminary is what doctrine is taught there. … the seminary’s statement of faith is foundational to what it teaches. Look to be trained at an institution which seems to be committed to a right understanding of God’s Word. Do they have a good confession of faith? Do they adhere to it in their teaching? Do their graduates reflect it?
Mark Dever. How to Pick a Seminary

After reading through LCCS’s Statement of Faith I have no major concerns. It may be light in a few areas, but it’s not meant to be a Systematic Theology book. The only potential for concern is the lumping in of Baptism with Salvation as a requirement. (Read Baptismal Regeneration). I do believe baptism is a requirement to obedience, but I will draw fire, I’m sure, when it comes to discussing some of these points in class.

On the other hand I’ve had enough exposure to a few graduates from LCCS and I know they’re far more even handed in their interpretation of scripture. One even went so far as to acknowledge that “Baptism isn’t necessary for salvation but”, he continued, “how can a Christian claim to follow Christ if they will not obey his command?” An excellent point.

A major core value to LCCS as a seminary associated with the Stone-Campbell restoration movement is adherence to the Scriptures as the sole authority over and above any and every creedal statement.
My friends ability to work with me in the realm of baptism is reflected in the preamble to their statement of faith:

“…practicing unity in the church based upon the restoration of Biblical authority and the essential elements of New Testament Christianity. This movement refuses to embrace extra-biblical creeds as tests of fellowship, standing on the Scriptures alone as the foundation for faith and practice. Furthermore, each congregation is self-governing under Christ, so individual churches may differ from one another on non-essentials.”
Lincoln Christian College and Seminary

There’s not much I can disagree with here. Having grown up completely outside of any denomination I’ve always been in churches that were classed as “Independent”. Dr. Greg Quiggle one of my former professors once mocked me tongue in cheek style for “belonging to a group unwilling to commit to any given doctrinal mandate”. While I disagree with that summation I must agree that it is “in my blood” to not care much for denominational boundaries. In short, I can live in fairly easy unity with anyone who declares Christ as their Lord, Savior and God.

Mind you I’m not quite as floppy as that sounds. I do believe it is my mandate as a pastor to find the truth at the core of the debate and that I must hold and teach that truth. Yet I do make room for hard headed individuals who claim that the style of cracker they use for communion is the only kind that is appropriate.

Quality of Education.

Another consideration in choosing a seminary is the quality of the education offered. …
Mark Dever. How to Pick a Seminary

A few years ago I audited a course at LCCS and through that was exposed to one professor and a number of students who were already in the Masters program. If that one professor can in any way be considered a representative of the school’s scholastic merit, I have no concerns.

Cost

… How expensive is the education there? What are the living costs like in that community? Are there good scholarships or jobs to be had? It would be unwise for you to commit yourself to considerable indebtedness. In that sense, an MDiv is not like an MD degree, an MBA or a law degree. The calling that you are following doesn’t usually pay the kind of salaries doctors, businessmen or lawyers may receive. It is part of your being a good steward to consider the cost of the education you are pursuing. Your ability to pay for it will effect your ministry during and after seminary.
Mark Dever. How to Pick a Seminary

Careful now, what I’m about to say may sound dismissive, but it isn’t.

The money is God’s problem not mine. As I prayed over my decision to apply, I believe that God will provide the finances necessary. My minimum plan at the moment is to use funds that I have set aside to pay for the first class. Yes you heard me, I said “class” as in the singular form, meaning only one. If God wants me to go, he’ll pay. If God doesn’t provide the money to attend, it’s going to be a long education indeed. But then I’m already planning on this taking longer than “normal” whatever that means. I’ve already spent time on this in prayer, “Lord, if you want me to go you’re going to have to provide.”

Church

…you must also consider if there is a good church nearby that could be a place of ministry and spiritual encouragement and direction while you are in the seminary.
Mark Dever. How to Pick a Seminary

I’m learning more so I can lead my church better. God is bringing about some amazing opportunities right now that deserve their own post in time. Suffice it to say however, I love them, they love me, they are my church family. ’nuff said about that.

Connections for Life

… Seminary is usually a time of making friendships that will last throughout your ministry. Such friendships are means of encouragement and support later in life. They are resources for your ministry. … Opportunities for service may come to you because friends you know from seminary are aware of you and your gifts and ministry.
Mark Dever. How to Pick a Seminary

I’m not to sure about this one to be honest. I have maintained connections to only a few fellow Moody Grads. I’ve even fallen out of contact completely with a man who I spent a great deal of time with there. Networking may be the modern mantra of business, but I look at this with just a little suspicion. Sure I’ll network as it happens naturally but I’m not going to seminary in order to build my LinkedIn profile.

What Will I Get

“How much bible will you get? I.e., how many credit hours does the curriculum devote to knowing the Scriptures? How much theology will you get? Some schools require one to two courses in Systematic Theology. Do you feel confident that this adequately prepares you for your direction in ministry? Maybe so. Maybe not. If not, there are schools that require more, some much more. Is there an internship component? A spiritual formation component?”
The Two Most Important Questions to Ask Any Seminary | Going to Seminary

I received an almost unimaginable education at Moody Bible Institute. From that, I am hoping to gain “advanced standing” at LCCS by testing out of some of the courses. Should that not work and I end up taking all of the hours no harm will be done and great rewards, I trust, will have been reaped. Either way after looking through the course catalog and the projected course load I’m satisfied that I’ll get a good education at LCCS.

So now I’ve consulted the experts, it’s time to make a decision. On top of the prior issues I had my own reasons for choosing LCCS as my seminary. I’m going to give them to you in reverse.

Second, I’m committed to Pastoral Longevity, it’s a guiding passion of mine. It’s a big deal to me that pastor’s stay rooted in one place for as long as possible. All of that is fodder for another post, but I’m convinced that the weakness which is often perceived to be a part of the American church is a direct result of pastors who go church-hopping as a means to climb the ladder of notoriety. Churches need a long term pastor, and quite frankly I think that in order for a pastor to fully mature he needs to be at a church over the long term.

With that in mind it was imperative that I go to a seminary nearby since I do not feel in any way that my work here is finished. Yet despite it’s importance to me, this wasn’t my first consideration.

My first concern was that I wanted to obtain a Masters in Biblical Languages or more appropriately a Master of Arts in Biblical Languages (MABL). I sought out a few schools who specifically offer the degree and there aren’t as many as I would have liked and most of them (contradicting with my second desire) were far away. But I did find it amazingly provident that I was living within easy driving distance of a seminary which did offer a MABL.

With all of that said, I’m happy (if not a little nervous) to report at last that I have been accepted to the Spring 2012 Semester at Lincoln Christian Seminary.

Classes start tomorrow.