Seminary kicked my butt. And I am happy to admit it. I am a better pastor and my congregation is better fed because of it. I arrived at seminary thinking I was special, that I had what it would take to light the world on fire. Seminary cured me of these notions.
My first quarter introduced me to Dr Horace Hummel. Dr Hummel kicked my butt. I had never worked so hard hoping only to pass. Second year introduced me to Dr Norman Nagel. Dr Nagel obliterated me. And I love him for it. He broke down my legallstic and limited notions of God's work and tore the roof off my understanding of the Gospel. I got to know Dr Jeff Gibbs who introduced me to the sheer joy of exegesis. I got to know Dr Fueherhann who brought thoughtful analysis to my own history as he opened up the ideas that string from generation to generation. I can personally say with no hesitation that I can see farther and clearer because I stand on the shoulders of these and other men who were my teachers during my years at the seminary.
There is currently a movement in our synod to to deprive burgeoning pastors of the treasure trove of seminary education. Through various programs such as the Specific Ministry Program, men can become pastors with little to no residential time on our seminary campuses. In my mind this is sentencing us to poverty.
Think of it this way, suppose you were the owner of a 5 star restaurant famous for its culinary delicacies. Would you turn your kitchen over to someone who studied at home via the internet? Would you want a chef trained from a video series? Or would you want a chef mentored by the world's foremost and best chefs? Would you want a chef who spent time being trained and personally tutored by those who know the craft inside and out?
It is true that there are some pragmatic reasons for moving away from a residential seminary training program. Seminary training is expensive. A three year residential program is inconvenient. Non residential programs provide an easier means for capable men to become pastors. However, at the same time there are those who resent their seminary training. They arrive, as I did, thinking seminary was a hoop to jump through. They are resent their instructors, seeing them as unreasonable and harsh for their expectations. They get through their time at the seminary with a minimum of work and effort and then brag about leaving their Greek New Testament and their Book of Concord on their shelf. I thank the Lord that he moved me to repent of these sins and see the error. Yet I fear that our current "seminary lite" programs are a capitulation to those who deny the fruitfulness of seminary training. I am afraid that our 5 star restaurant could soon become a Denny's.