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FIRST-PERSON: Training for the souls of men

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — “Training? You will not need any training! You just need a passion for the USA, for democracy, and a love for the fight. Watch a few videos about war, and you will be as good as any Special Ops operator in the Marines. Don’t waste your youth. Volunteer now.”

“Whatever you do, avoid pre-med and medical schools and steer clear of all hospitals. Watch some videos on delicate cardiac surgery and attend a few lectures, and you will be as ready as anyone. And people will flock to you to perform this surgery on them.”

Young man, you have been called to do the most delicate, life-saving surgery in the entire world. You must deal every day with the souls of men, which will never die. They will become consummate evil in hell or perpetual good as a result of Christ’s work. And you must take strongholds and attack them, often alone. You have to understand all that can be known about this and how Jesus provides a solution.

May I offer you 10 reasons why you should attend Bible college and/or seminary? People who propose the opposite either did not attend an intensely missionary, soul-winning seminary or else paid little attention while they were there. So consider my suggestions before God.

1) There is a biblical prohibition against placing a novice in a lead ministry position. 1 Timothy 3:6 specifically states this position. A novice does not specifically reflect age. A 50-year-old could be a new Christian. But it is certain that while there is much that a 22-year-old can and should do for God, he is vulnerable to misunderstandings and misapplications and even heresy just because of insufficient guidance and training. He needs the seasoning of several years of seminary.

2) The critical exposure to sound doctrine, to clear biblical truth and to the Bible in its linguistic format of Hebrew and Greek are strategically important. If these factors are unimportant, even unnecessary, then Christians have wasted their time and energy for 2,000 years.

3) Learning to walk carefully with God can be done in relative isolation, but it seldom is. A good seminary will teach that through the lives of its professors. How many times have I heard of one of our late evangelism professors, “I walked out of Roy Fish’s class and was never again the same.”

4) The situations that you will face in ministry are a thousand times more complicated than you can imagine. Facing those situations in class and learning the value of biblical counseling is essential to effective ministry.

5) In seminary, you make lifelong friendships that uphold you in hours of need and that establish a sense of cooperative effort and prayer, which is irreplaceable.

6) Mission trips and other guided experiences under the watchful eye of wise and experienced personnel provide correction and guidance often otherwise missed.

7) Being an effective preacher or teacher does not arise naturally. God’s gifts are indispensable, but as one begins to employ the gifts God has given, the guidance of others is also from the Lord. There is no place more important for receiving this mentoring than in seminary.

8) If one is to serve as a Baptist minister or missionary, he must comprehend the unique contribution of Baptists and Anabaptists to the world. I have met few without seminary training who had any idea about these things. It takes a while to do enough reading and have sufficient discussions in the coffee shop to begin to see the wisdom of these great men of God.

9) Learning how to study is a skill with which few are born. Studying with a cadre of godly professors will teach something much more valuable than subject matter. You actually learn how to discover truth and distinguish truth from error.

10) The birth of a baby is an exciting moment. But it is no longer exciting if that baby never matures. And to mature takes time. Spiritual maturity does not happen immediately. Some progress more quickly than others, but this is always a process — sometimes a painful process. Seminary provides the environment for this development.

The apostle Paul was clearly well-taught in Hellenistic philosophy. Further, he held an equivalent of an M.Div. from Gamaliel in the Jerusalem seminary. When he was saved, he did not unleash himself on the world immediately but retired to the desert for several years to rethink his theology in the light of Christ. That example is worth imitation.

Please hear my heart. I would not want to be part of a denomination or church that had an educational requirement for the ministry. I believe with all my heart that in every generation God calls and uses men who do not have the benefit of formal education. But the history of doctrine is replete with examples of what has often happened to people who educated the mind but not the soul and of those who nourished the soul but neglected the mind. Both leave their heritage of burnout and of heresy.

Prepare yourself for the ministry to which God has called you through the sacrifice of study in a seminary that emphasizes doctrine, leading men to the Savior, the world mission endeavor and the discipline of carefully walking with God. Do yourself a favor. Do the world to which you will minister a favor. If there is any way possible to make it to a Christ-honoring seminary or Bible school, do that.

Relatively few move from high school baseball directly to the Major Leagues. Fewer still from high school to the NFL. And heart surgeons untrained are non-existent, and Special Ops that proceed untrained are soon dead. How can men and women engaged in the most complicated, demanding work in the world with more at stake than all other professions think that it is best to avoid the most intense preparation?

    About the Author

  • Paige Patterson