Apr 26, 2013

Thoughts on Seminary Training

Q.: What do you think about the statement, "Seminaries exist because the church has lost its ability to disciple?"
A.: A whole lot has been written on this already, but here are some thoughts:

At the heart of the question is the thought, "Do seminaries exist for discipleship, and if so, is this because the church has failed?"

The answer: Churches exist for discipleship, seminaries exist to train pastors/church leaders by ensuring they actually are discipled, as well to ensure they also meet the more specific qualifications and posses the necessary skill sets given in 1 Tim. 3, Titus 1, etc.
Seminary faculties are staffed by high-level pastor/elder tested and qualified faculties who help to ensure that church leaders obtain the spiritual character and ministry tools necessary for faithful ministry beyond what a typical church would be capable of doing. Note: the faculty is a group of specialized/expert teaching elders who concentrate their teaching/discipling energies on select future leaders. A key benefit of seminary is receiving the concentrated training efforts/investment of these men.
Questions for Thought: What skill sets/tools did the biblical figures possess that made them qualified for their specific ministries/roles? How did these skills/tools allow them to be successful? What is the relationship between training and effective spiritual leadership as seen in Scripture? What links can you identify between training & productivity in Christian leaders, both in the Bible, the early church, and in the present?
Consider the below schema of relationship between fields of theological study. These make up the traditional divisions of a seminary curriculum. Would a church be able to sufficiently train a pastor in these respective categories? If so, who would do the training and how long would it take?

Notice each phase is predicated upon the previous phase(s). The phases are as follows:

Level 1: Biblical Introduction (establishing the original reading), Hermeneutics, and Biblical Languages.
Level 2: Exegesis.
Level 3: Systematic Theology & Biblical Theology; Church History; Philosophy of Religion & Apologetics; Homiletics, Counseling, Christian Ed., Administration, Missions, Evangelism and Contemporary Society.
Level 4: Bible Exposition/Application

Chart developed by Robert L. Thomas (Introduction to Exegesis, p. 12), ed. by R. Brian Rickett showing relationship of theological study to fundamental precommitments/presuppositions, used in my exegesis courses.

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