Well folks, I’ve tried seminary for a year now, gotten a decent amount of credit hours under my belt, and worked to find my place around here. But I’ve decided to throw in the towel.
Why? Because seminary ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I came to seminary with a vision for serving the church, the people of God. I came because I felt that I should spend a few years in intense study as I pursued the Lord. I came to find like-minded people with whom I might one day partner in ministry.
And when I came to seminary, I was quite optimistic. Now, I knew it wouldn’t be perfect, but I wanted to see the best in it at every turn. I’ve attempted to give everything the benefit of the doubt, even things that I disagree with. I’ve tried not to let the stench of tribalism bother me, to overlook the lingering patriotism, to engage in what I thought were worthwhile debates, and to rationalize away any seemingly surface level religion in brothers that I’ve met.
But the Lord is reminding me of reality; some things genuinely get under my skin here.
To be fair, not everyone at my seminary is a tribal Baptist, and not all are so comfortable with the (quasi-?) worship of America that has slipped into our churches (and incidentally remains in the newest Baptist Hymnal, released last year: “America the Beautiful,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and even “O Canada”). And I should also say that I am very thankful for the few real friendships that the Lord has given us here.
Yet, for all the good, I’ve decided to quit. I just don’t have the time. The Lord has convinced me that ministry can’t wait until I “finish my studies” (i.e., get that paper that says I earned a few letters after my name).
I’m quitting seminary because my ministry started twelve years ago when I began to follow Jesus. “The appointed time has grown very short” (1 Cor 7:29), “night is coming” (Jn 9:4), and there is no time to put ministry on pause. The Lord did not put me here to wander around arguing with sharpening fellow seminarians.
So I’ve decided to quit seminary, and here’s what that will mean:
- No more arguing over minute theological points. Deciding my opinion on such points, I will do, for “each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom 14:5), but wasting time discussing them when I could be encouraging or serving, I’ll quit.
- No more attempts at networking; I’ll trust the Lord to provide what support and partnership is needed along the way (and I’m bad at it anyway). This, of course, does not mean that friendships will cease.
- No more pretending I’m okay with things I’m not. Some things at seminary make me angry. I’ll attempt to “be angry and . . . not sin” rather than being angry and pretending I am not (Eph 4:26). Perhaps that’s the next step towards letting “all . . . anger . . . be put away from [me]” (Eph 4:31). Hopefully this will result in less latent bitterness and more genuine fellowship.
- I’ll stay enrolled and continue to take classes, still attempting the best grades, but not for their sake or the sake of the resultant (mildly) expensive piece of paper. I’ve learned much that is useful and hope to continue to; I’ll work for that.
- No more holding back in fear of offending people or shocking them with my thoughts. While restraint can be good, in my case most people who know me tell me it’s way over the top. I’ll pray to be more bold and follow Jim Elliot in trying to live to the hilt by being more courageous in my speech and worrying less about the approval of men and about that of God.
- Spending more time with coworkers, neighbors, and friends who don’t believe in Jesus in an effort to serve and love them, both physically in whatever way they need and spiritually by sharing the gospel and my own life with them.
To all who may be considering seminary out there, and to all of my brothers and sisters who are currently enrolled: seminary is a waste of time.
Yes, it is good to learn from excellent, godly teachers and to work hard to complete a carefully and prayerfully devised curriculum. But don’t go to seminary; stay in ministry.
While I’m thinking about it, even if you have no connection to seminary but are a follower of Jesus, you should quit your job for the ministry, too, if you haven’t already. I mean, stay there and work hard, but don’t let it be your job. Every Christian is called to be a full-time missionary (Matt 28:19-20; Acts).
If you have or will quit your “job,” too, please pray for me to live out my decision, and share your experience in the comments.
Update: To be more clear, I plan to stay in school seminary, and I love what I’m learning; I’m just done with being caught up in the seminary ethos rather than out in the real world loving and serving people. I want to be doing ministry even as I continue school, rather than mentally separating the two and generally postponing the former.
* Update to the update: I’m not really quitting seminary, just “seminary,” that is, the mindset that ministry is separate from seminary. Learning here has been edifying; my decision is to no longer allow “seminary” to distract me from serving and learning more about the Lord.
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