Is a seminary education really necessary today? This question arises more than you might think. “We live in a world with Google. Do you really need a seminary?” “The most successful pastors I know didn’t attend seminary. Why do I need it?” These are just a couple of the reasons offered against seminary education that I’ve heard over the years.
Even with so much in flux in the world of higher education, I believe there are several critical reasons why seminary education, particularly a Winebrenner Seminary education, is so vitally important in our world today.
The need to be grounded in God’s Word.
In the Churches of God, General Conference, we believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible authority, the Word of God, our only rule of faith and practice. There’s an enormous need to be grounded in God’s Word. Developing a deep love and understanding of God’s Word is a non-negotiable for anyone who wants to serve well. Developing the skills necessary to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) are essential to effective, Gospel-centered ministry in a pluralistic, post-Christian society like our own.
The need to develop the skills to think theologically.
Those who desire to serve Jesus must enhance their ability to think theologically. What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what are the implications of His Good News? What is the reality of the kingdom of God? What does it mean to be created in the image of God? Some of the greatest challenges of our day are theological challenges and require theological thinking. The ability to think theologically helps one avoid the pitfalls of simplistic or trite responses to the complex questions and challenges that we face today.
The need to develop the skills to think well.
If you haven’t noticed, our world isn’t getting easier. The problems are more complex. The questions are more challenging. We’re living in an age that requires some of our best thinking as followers of Jesus Christ. Good thinking doesn’t come naturally as we prefer the easier route and we live in a society that numbs our ability to think well with countless entertainment options and other distractions. One of the often overlooked benefits of a seminary education is the forced discipline of rigorous thinking on matters that you’d typically otherwise ignore.
The need to be formed in the image of Jesus Christ.
Our greatest need as followers of Jesus is our need to be formed in His image and likeness. Do you feel like Jesus feels? Do you have the mind of Christ? Do you live like Jesus lived? In our broken and fallen humanity, everything in us works against this. One of the things I appreciate most about Winebrenner Theological Seminary is that it is filled with people who are passionate about their relationship with Jesus. At Winebrenner Seminary, the educational process will include the acquisition of knowledge and the development of skills, but it will be more than that too as it is built upon a passionate conviction to see men and women developed in the image of Jesus Christ.
by Pastor Lance Finley
Executive Director, Churches of God, General Conference