Should you embark on this journey? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
What I am posting today applies not just to seminary, but also to Bible College for those wanting an undergrad. This is a question I sometimes get asked in email as to if someone should go to school. I also have strong opinions on who should be allowed into a pulpit in a church and also what are some grounds that are insufficient to state if you should seek higher education in ministry. However, I want to focus on one really big bad reason.
I am sure this will shock many of you, but I do not really take seriously claims someone has that they are called to preach.
Now let’s also be clear that going to seminary doesn’t mean that you will be a pastor, as some can want to be professors, some missionaries, some counselors, some teachers, or any number of positions. The call to preach is the most common one I hear and usually seems like an obvious given. Everyone believes in a call to ministry. Right?
But look at people like Moses and Jeremiah and Paul!
Yes, and you are not them.
There seems to be some idea in Christianity in the West that our experiences should be just like the great heroes of the Bible. We see Moses go up on the mountain and speak to God face to face as a man speaks to his friend. That’s us! We’re not at all like any of the other Joe Israelites at the bottom of the mountain who didn’t get this privilege. Nope! We are the ones who are privileged.
It’s really an arrogant position.
Or we are like Paul and Barnabas. Why the Holy Spirit Himself personally spoke to the congregation and asked them to set apart these two for missionary work. That’s what he’s going to do to us! Never mind that when Paul went on his second journey there was no call. He just said he wanted to go see those cities again.
I have seen too many pastors that have said they are called to preach and they do not have a clue on how to preach or any real knowledge of Christian doctrine. They just have a lot of strong emotion. This is how you get people like Dan Barker. There is even a Clergy Project for ministers who have left the faith and become atheists or agnostics.
If all you have is a call, then seriously reconsider entering official ministry capacity. Ministry requires a lot of work and if you run just on your emotional leanings, you will run dry. If you approached marriage, parenthood, work, or anything else wanting to run on pure emotion alone, you will not make it.
Bible College and Seminary I think are a lot of fun indeed, but they are also very hard. Later this week I plan to blog about that and explain why, but it is not really an easy path. If you go this route, you could get burnt out in seminary alone, which could be a good thing. It could show that maybe you should try something else, and there’s no shame in that. God needs people in every field.
Now someone could say “Yes, there are a lot of people that say they are called to preach and turn out to not really be, but you’re basing your position on the wrong experiences instead of the true ones.”
I am basing it on first off, Scripture never gives any such requirement. Some people are called to ministry in Scripture, but it does not follow that everyone in ministry in Scripture or outside is called to ministry. When Paul finds Timothy, he finds Timothy is well-spoken of and wants to take him along. There is no indication that there was a divine call on the life of Silas. Paul listed requirements for elders and deacons and callings were never any of them.
Not only this, but we run the risk of being like Mormons with this. Consider how the Mormons have the burning of the bosom test. If you pray about the Book of Mormon and you receive the burning in the bosom, then the Book of Mormon is true! If you didn’t get it, well, you weren’t sincere in your prayer. All disconfirming experiences are ruled out as not true and all the ones that get the desired result are true. Hardly a real test.
Well, that’s a brief look at an insufficient call, but what are some real reasons to consider seminary? That’s for next time.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)