Tag Archives: higher education

The Pitfalls of Seminary Education

The Ivory Tower

Dan Bouchelle – Executive Director of Missions Resource Network – has written a thought-provoking series of articles on the pitfalls of seminary education as it pertains to leading evangelistically effective ministries and churches.

I invite you to check them out for yourself (thank you to Cary McCall for the heads up on these):

Here are a couple of excerpts:

There is no such thing as education without socialization. School is a community that shapes people. When a person leaves the regular church in the world environment (which is already far removed from the world) and enters the academy he or she does not just acquire information and skills but also a new community which alters a person profoundly.

In the academy, what counts, what gets you affirmation and feeds your ego, is not what will help you relate to people in the church or the world. Impressing your professors and your fellow students with your ability to use technical language and demonstrate skills with ancient languages becomes increasingly important to you. Being able to show in subtle ways that you are conversant with the writings of leading scholars and theologians of the last several centuries is a matter of status and self-esteem. Graduate theological study creates a sense of self and values that don’t fit the daily realities of the church and certainly do not fit the intersection of gospel and culture. Being able to talk in ways that make you fit-in with the academy will make you less relevant to people on the street and make your preaching seem esoteric and harder to comprehend by the unchurched or those far from God.


… seminaries do not typically produce prophets, visionaries, evangelists, or leaders of movements. They may produce an occasional church leader who will lead a church to do its version of church so well that this church gains a huge market share of the people who are in its fellowship. But they will not likely produce a true evangelist or church planter much less a movement leader.

This is all well and good when times are stable and churches are well positioned to serve their culture. That day is not today. Seminaries like to think they are the R & D department of the church. They are not. The R & D department is out among the people–among the radicals who have left formal church to take the gospel to the streets and rethink church entirely after the formalized religious structures have grown out of touch with the culture. While the seminary usually wants to discount such people as irresponsible, rough, and unrefined, the future of the church lies in the streets and not the ivory tower.

Dan is not anti-education as he plainly says in his final post – he simply wishes to point out that formalized seminary education/Bible college has a down side, and he’s right.

The results of my own research done through Campus Ministry United found that the Church of Christ campus ministries typically reaching the least amount of students year to year were led by those with the highest theological education, while those reaching the most were led by ministers often with the least theological education.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go study. I’m in seminary, and class starts soon. 🙂

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