Those of you who were interested in my blog about whether or not you should go into ministry might be interested in Scot’s words of advice.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    2 replies to "Thinking About Seminary? Scot Mcknight Chimes In"

    • Matthew

      Hey there,

      I don’t usually reply to blogs, heck… this is the only one I read so I should really say… “I don’t usually reply on this blog” but I came across this topic and would like to share my perspective as well.

      I would like to begin by saying that if you would like to be an actual pastor of an actual church someday, then a seminary education + significant concurrent ministry involvement would probably be an ideal situation… but the ideal is not always possible, and God moves in mysterious ways at times.

      When I think about a physicians training, or the training of the first disciples the word that comes to my mind is “apprenticeship”, and I think that when it’s functioning at its best, a seminary can and does provide this “apprenticeship” type of educational model, however, I think it could also be accomplished in other ways.

      I would feel very comfortable having someone operate on me who served as an apprentice for several years, who actually got his or her hands dirty learning how to do the work, and learning the “why’s” along with the how’s as the needs presented themselves.

      I think we need to be careful with our words when we’re talking about things like “formal” education or “credentials” and just make sure that we’re comparing apples with apples for the most part and that no matter what words we’re using, we’re really expressing a commitment to “quality” ministry training and preparation on multiple fronts.

      When we’re talking about this kind of training I think we also need to keep the goal in mind and remember that different people will need a different level of understanding in various areas to faithfully live out God’s calling upon their lives – and sometimes a seminary education will enable them to do that most effectively and sometimes it won’t (this obviously depends on the seminary as well as I’m sure not all seminaries are created equal).

      Of course my experience influences everything I say, and as you may have already deduced, I am a full-time minister of the gospel who has never had seminary training.

      I grew up a very intellectual and academic kid graduating 1st in my class of about 500 students with a perfect 4.0 GPA, scoring in the 96th percentile on my ACT’s, and with about a semester of college credit under my belt by the end of my senior year. I had applied to several schools including U of M and Harvard and my plan was to get a great education and make tons of money as a doctor (oddly enough given the illustrations).

      However, as I was working as a pharmacy tech during my senior year (HS), I met a Christian who challenged me to read the Bible before I totally dismissed Christianity. And so I did, I started in Genesis and read it from cover to cover twice in the matter of a few months, receiving Christ near the end of my second reading. That changed everything!

      Through much prayer I felt the Lord clearly calling me to a much less prestigious college in the middle of Michigan. I conceded and went even though it really didn’t make sense to me. I wasn’t even sure I should go to college, but all the godly counsel in my life at this point encouraged me to do so, and so I did.

      It was in my first week of school that I providentially ended up serving at a new church plant that would become my church home.

      I ended up finishing my freshmen year of college with another 4.0 GPA and was actually preparing to transfer to Liberty University to pursue Biblical Studies. I had already been accepted into their Honors program and had various scholarships. I was working in my father’s plant over that summer break, memorizing the Sermon on the Mount, while pushing boards through a punch press, when God stopped me in my tracks and asked me to reconsider what I was doing and why I was going to pursue a Bible College and Seminary? In the end, it became clear that God was “calling” me back to my church in the middle of Michigan to serve there in whatever capacity was needed and to learn from my seminary-trained pastor everything I could about how to serve God as a minister of the Gospel. I decided to follow this leading… and that changed everything!

      I called my pastor and asked him if he’d be willing to take me under his wing and teach me everything he could and I told him I would be willing to serve in whatever way was needed – that was in 1998-99 and I had been a Christian for a little over a year or so.

      I moved back and picked up 3-4 different part-time jobs which I worked to pay rent and so I could give financially to our feldgling ministry – I read for a blind guy, stripped and waxed floors, and was a cook/delivery boy for KFC, amongst a few other odd jobs. At the same time I started doing the church’s accounting, learned how to make videos, develop a web page, run sound, and just about anything else you can think of – which now includes counseling, student ministries, and teaching on occasion. I served in this capacity for a year or two and then came on part time paid staff in 2000 and full-time paid staff shortly thereafter – so I’m approaching a decade of ministry in the same church this coming year (I started serving in 1998).

      I never did end up going back to school, either secular or otherwise. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it and prayed about it on several occasions, but I’ve never felt the Lord leading that way. I also got married in 2002, had my first son on my 1 year wedding anniversary, and now have a four-year-old son, a two-year-old daughter, and a 7-month old little baby boy – and that does tend to make things complicated.

      Don’t get me wrong, I would love to go back to school. In particular, I would really like to gain a fuller grasp of the original languages. I’ve been working through Mounce’s Basics for a while now, but I’ve never been able to get all the way through with all the practical demands of ministry and a family – though I believe I will, and that at the right time, the Lord will give me the opportunity to focus a bit more on strengthening my official Biblical/ministry education. For right now though, I am very grateful for Mike and Rhome and the resources of RMM and the various authors (Grudem and others) they recommend. What a blessing.

      I say all this to say that any decision to go into vocational ministry should be a matter of intense prayer (and perhaps even fasting) and should be made in the context of a community of other believers who know you well and who will also pray with you. Each situation is different and the most important thing is to be faithful to what you feel the Lord is asking you to do (a tricky thing to determine with certainty at times). If you are faithful to the leadings of the Holy Spirit you will do well no matter what your “credentials” or “training” and this is just as true for regular volunteers and lay-ministers as it is for “pastors”.

      However, once again, I feel like I should say that seminary + significant ministry involvement would probably be ideal in most circumstances so you need to seriously consider that, but at the same time don’t let yourself be limited by that equation either.

      And if anyone would like to offer me an honorary doctorate (can you get that for typing long blogs?) somewhere down the line that would be sweet too. Until then I’ll keep studying and applying my Bible, ministering in my church, plugging away with Mounce and others (RMM) while I wait and listen for Lord’s leading regarding any further “formal” education.


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