I am a local church guy. I believe that we must rely upon the Holy Spirit and the Word of God being taught by the faithful followers of Christ who are the body of Christ. I happen to believe that the Matthew 28:18-20 method of disciple-making is the key to building the body of Christ.
I also happen to think that local churches have failed to do this; therefore, seminaries have stepped in to fill the gap (just like the unbiblical idea of youth pastors have stepped in to fill the gap left by parents).
But are seminaries helping or hurting the church? Here are some of my honest concerns and I know you may disagree but here they are:
1) Seminaries are promoting the expert mentality. I hate the concept of the “lay person” versus the paid professional minister. Re-read Ephesians 4:11-16 and note that the label “lay person” is not in that passage! We are all ministers of the Gospel and are a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:5).
2) Many young people go into DEBT to go to seminary and are saddled with a huge debt with only a small, minister’s salary that is woefully insufficient to pay off that debt and to meet obligations. So many ministers work another job or ask their wives to work while they are already spread too thin between work and home life. It’s a difficult dilemma.
3) Seminary environments are not normal or natural – nor are they biblical communities of disciple-making. A student takes a class from a man who is really not discipling him (under the majority of normal circumstances) in any place other than the classroom once or twice per week. The young men at seminary are off on their own, studying, not learning to submit, working part-time jobs, and not in any real, thriving relationships. It’s sad.
4) One more note on the expert mentality which is rendering people to feel useless when they are not. People think they have to know Greek and Hebrew to understand the Bible. They think they need a seminary level education to do ministry. Nothing could be further from the truth! Nothing! We are all called to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20).
5) Most seminaries do not EQUIP ministers to do biblical counseling. These seminaries teach ministers to refer OUT of the church to so-called psychological experts which sends an awful message to the world and to the faith family which is this: “The church is ill-equipped to handle your problems. We are only good to tell you nice spiritual platitudes that might enhance your life but we don’t have a clue as to how to help you overcome life’s struggles and trials.” I think that is a message that Christ is saddened by immensely!
I really want us to re-think our American Christianity which has more seminaries to attend than any other nation yet 70% of young people walk away from the Christian faith in their college years and only 4% of ages 16-33 are even engaged in Christianity.
Not to mention the drop out rate of ministers is exceedingly high! Many of them will never return to active ministry.
-Mark (thankful for the men and women who serve in seminaries to fill the gap but wishing the body of Christ would step up in local churches to do the work to which they have been called so that seminaries are not necessary anymore)
NOTE: Jesus said in Matthew 16:18b: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” That is NOT the church I am critiquing in THIS post. Instead, I am critiquing American churchianity, the spectator sport of not participating in disciple-making (Matt. 28:18-20) by speaking the truth in love to others (Eph. 4:15-16) to build the real church: the body of Christ!