Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thinking About Going to Seminary

Well, I'm not thinking about packing up everything, moving across the country and going to seminary, but I am thinking about where to pursue my M.DIV while I am pastoring the church that the Lord has stationed me at. I graduated Bible College 13 years ago and decided to walk away from full-time, vocational ministry soon afterwards because the legalistic stench that I had breathed every day for four and a half years while at HAC and GSBC. I enrolled at a computer school for a one year diploma so I could get a fast start at a computer company in the Silicon Valley and move on. But God wouldn't let me. He gave me just enough work at a software company to pay off my technical school bill and then plunged me into seven months of unemployment! It took four years to finally get me into anything remotely close to vocational ministry. Two years later, I became a full time pastor! Six years later, I'm still pastoring, have learned a lot, but I know my education is not sufficient for a lifetime in this calling. My wife is expecting our first child in October, and between then and some time in 2018, my child will be preparing to go to school. That means I have a short window of time to get this Masters degree under my belt before the Christian school bills start piling up. I'm only four  years away from 40 and all I have to show for myself in terms of schooling is a piece of toilet paper with some signatures on it.

 For the past few years, I  have taken several classes online with Veritas School of Theology and will continue to do so working on a Masters in Theological Studies until I finally finish. However, Veritas is not accredited, and I want at least one of my degrees to have some academic respectability behind it.  So, what are my options? I can't move anywhere, so I'm limited...

Seminaries with online programs: 
Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA - The disgraced Ergun Caner was president. The scandal wasn't handled well. No thanks.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville KY - Most credits can be earned online, but there are internet fees and trips to Louisville on top of my non-SBC status which will cost me more.  Al Mohler is their president and they are on the cutting edge of the "New Calvinism" reformation. I'd love to do their program if I chose to go the online route...but it's really expensive!!

Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, PA - Full MDIV online, low cost and there is a scholarship program available to students whose churches are willing to help with the cost.  They used to be connected to the GARB, and have moved away from that to more of a conservative Evangelical orb. Because of their past association as a Fundamentalist school, they may not have that much credibility in broader Evangelicalism.

Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas TX - I don't know enough about them theologically to really make that kind of commitment.

Knox Theological Seminary, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. - Only 2/3rds can be earned online. They have a partnership with Logos Bible software and that's all I know about them.

Seminaries Near Me:
Masters Seminary, Sun Valley CA - I would love to go there, but it's too far away and they don't have an online or hybrid program to make it possible. John MacArthur is old fashioned like that.

Golden Gate Baptist Seminary, Mill Valley, CA - They cost about as much as Southern because they are an SBC school. They seem to have an Ed Stetzer-style of missional philosophy. I'd have to drive all the way past the Golden Gate Bridge for classes in the worst of Bay Area traffic.

Western Seminary, Santa Clara, CA -  They used to be a Conservative Baptist Association school that has become non-denominational. Their theological approach is to give you the tools and help you come to your own conclusions. They have an extension campus here in the Bay Area (main campus is in Portland, OR) only about 20 minutes drive from where I live. Ironically, they are a stones throw away from GSBC too. Of course, I wasn't surprised that they had never heard of them. :)

Choices, choices...what should I do? Right now, I'm leaning toward BBS if I chose to go the online route. It's the most affordable and most accessible.  Although, if I could get some student aid, I'd prefer Southern because I have already appreciated the leadership of Al Mohler. If I decide to go to seminary on campus, I'm leaning toward Western Seminary for several reasons: Being Non-Denominational may open new opportunities in the future and their theological approach fits well with my personality. Don't shove your philosophy down my throat...give me the tools and let me wrestle with it. That appeals to me. Then, I can't help but be drawn by the closeness in vicinity. The price is a little high, but it's not much more than any other accredited seminary.

Is there anyone out there who could recommend another idea?

8 comments:

Jason D. said...

Considered Midwest Center for Theological Studies? or Reformed Baptist Seminary,... both offer online stuff, but don't know if they offer MDiv

Reforming Baptist said...

Thanks for the suggestions Jason. I had never heard of MCTS, but I'll check them out. I know a couple guys working at RBS in Sacramento.

Neither of these are accredited, but that doesn't mean they're not excellent schools.

Josh Wroten said...

Having taken both traditional and online classes...I highly recommend traditional classes. Also IMO don't focus on elective classes and/or adjunct profs, instead look at their core NT and OT profs. Then focus on learning the bible not how to do ministry...I wish I hadn't had to learn this by experience.

Matt McPhillips said...

I am 42 and started taking classes when I was 41. I attend Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary about an hour away. I knew with all the demands of ministry there would always be something coming up that would delay my online work, therefore I choose the drive. I have done both approaches and seem to get more from traditional because of the interaction in class. Some of the side bars are helpful and fun.

William Dudding said...

Being that GSBC is unaccredited and their academic integrity is untrustworthy, I have to take the GRE test to get into Western Seminary.

I bought a guide for the test and felt immediately overwhelmed. I keep kicking myself for having been a dumb, brain-washed youth who chose to go that college. It must be the worst decision of my life up to this point.

titus21415 said...

Check out Maranatha Baptist Seminary (http://www.mbbc.edu/seminary/). They are regionally accredited and offer an MA in English Bible completely online. Their MDiv is also completely online, but it is not advertised as such yet. They are scholarly and very good. Cheaper than most options. Worth checking out.

Jim Peet said...

My 2¢ on accreditation:

At the undergraduate level regional accreditation is really important.

At the graduate level for non-ministry vocations: accreditation is essential

At the graduate level for ministry vocation - accreditation is not so important unless one desires a PhD.

In my view accreditation adds a lot of financial overhead to the cost of education (that's why BJU skips it)

Anonymous said...

You should consider Piedmont International University in North Carolina. They have a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies (M. Div equivalent) that can be earned online that is 72 semester hours instead of 90. It is TRACS accredited. You should also consider the scholarship options there. Congregation support is also a plus.