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Seminary: Relevant or Relic for Pastoral Preparation?

I’ve been doing some thinking and talking with fellow ministers lately about whether or not they need to go back to school. In a couple of cases, they want to know if they need to go to seminary at all. Having spent a loooong time in college to prepare myself (and I would do it again), my impulse is to say, “Well, of course!” I love the classroom and know the benefit my education has been. In times past, I’ve gone so far as to think a person shouldn’t go into ministry without formal study.

I’m not sure I feel that way any more.

Don’t get me wrong. I still believe educational preparation is a preferred way to cultivate leaders for the church. It’s hard for me to believe education would actually hurt someone’s ministry potential. However, I now know a number of effective church leaders who have intrinsic gifts of ministry and the ability to interpret and preach the Word effectively. I also know some extremely “prepared” ministers who still struggle in ministry.

How do we explain this? I’m not sure, but I’ll take a stab at it.

Albert Einstein, in this lesser known quote, says: “Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” I know some of my colleagues just tore their clothes when they read that, but Einstein’s point is worth thinking about.

I’ve always been a proponent of the “leaders are readers” concept–and I still am. However, I do know some preachers who are more-or-less professional readers. I do think there comes a time when education and preparation can reach a point of diminishing returns.

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Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California--a fast-growing plant launched in 2011. Tim is also the purveyor of New Vintage Leadership - a blog offering cutting edge insights on leadership and theology and the author of numerous articles and one book: Jesus, the Powerful Servant.