How and Where I Ended Up in Seminary

During my last few semesters at Piedmont International University, I started to think about seminary. I thought, “Do I even want to spend a few more years in school? Or, if I do attend seminary, do I want to work on a M. Div. or shorter Master’s program?” Eventually, after a lot of thought, prayer, and wise counsel I decided to attend Liberty Baptist Theological Baptist Seminary and decided to work on a Master’s of Arts in Religion with a specialization in Christian Leadership online. I wanted to take a few moments and explain how I decided the seminary track I am on and hopefully help you if your on the fence about seminary. Before I share my thoughts, I want to make one thing clear. I do not believe the way I am doing seminary is the only way to go about doing seminary work. There are many options and ways to go about it, but here is why I chose what I am doing.

Master’s of Arts in Religion. As much as I respect the M. Div. program and the practical, pastoral education it gives you, I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend that many more years in school and if seminary was even going to be a good fit for me. So I decided to start a MAR that is somewhat smaller than the M. Div. If you want a good, professional seminary degree that is not an M. Div., go for the MAR. One of the reasons I chose this route is because at most school’s the MAR can roll into an M. Div. that you can finish in another year or two. The MAR is a great degree because it allows you to continue in seminary if you’re financially and willing to do so.

Christian Leadership. Like the M. Div., when you take the MAR, you get to choose a particular specialization. I decided to specialize in Christian Leadership because I believe leadership is an extremely important part of church ministry that we do not focus on a lot. If you’re planning on being in local church ministry in a pastoral role you need to focus on leadership. Our churches need people who are trained leaders. Even if you’re not going into church ministry, leadership is an important aspect in business and family. I am going into full-time student ministry. Part of having an effective student ministry is building a team of leaders to help you serve students. Studying leadership in seminary is helping me become a better team builder, how to handle conflict in leadership, and how to be the right kind of leader in a local church.

Liberty Theological Baptist Seminary. There are so many good seminaries and graduate schools to choose from these days. I decided to go with Liberty for a few reasons. First, I love the legacy of Jerry Falwell and what he did with Liberty University. I respect the school and what the school has and continues to stand for. Second, they are extremely well-known. I went to a relatively unknown school for my undergrad. I wanted to go somewhere more well-known for seminary. I know we shouldn’t judge people by where they went to seminary, but a lot of churches will look for candidates that are from particular schools or schools that are more popular. Third, I went with Liberty because of their great online education.

Online. If you enjoy the classroom setting and learning in person from a professor, than make sure you attend a seminary on campus. Online education is not for everyone. If you can learn well and stay motivated by online work, than look into doing seminary online. Doing seminary online through Liberty is the most affordable seminary you will find. I went with online for two main reasons. First, it was cheaper and I didn’t want to spend too much on seminary. Second, I wanted to get into full-time ministry. If you want to jump straight into full-time ministry after undergrad, than do seminary online. It allows you to work on your education while doing what you love, ministry!

Seminary is not a walk in the park. I am only a few classes into my seminary degree, but I can already tell it’s not a repeat of your undergrad years. If you’re a first year student in seminary like me, I found this article that includes 10 tips for surviving your first year of seminary. If you can afford it and feel like it’s God’s will, pursue seminary. It’s something that will greatly help your future in ministry.

I originally wrote this post for The Baptist Resource blog. The Baptist Resource is a great website ran by Greg Moore, an adjunct professor of religion and church history and a former college registrar. The Baptist Resource is a great site that provides practical advice and information on college/seminary education.

Why I Am Studying Leadership in Seminary

In a few weeks I will start my first set of seminary classes with Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. I will be working on a Master’s of Art in Religion with a specialization in Christian Leadership. As I was praying and planning for seminary I knew I wanted to pursue a Master’s of Arts in Religion degree, but was not sure what I wanted to specialize in. Liberty allows you to choose a specific specialization when you take the Master’s of Arts in Religion. With so many to choose from I was torn between discipleship and leadership because I know they both will be important in life-long ministry. My undergrad youth professor, Shean Phillps, took the discipleship classes at Liberty and implemented several of the books and things in our undergrad youth classes. Because of this I decided to go with the specialization in leadership.

A few weeks ago I was playing golf with some of my friends and my friend Mark asked my why I decided to specialize in Christian leadership in seminary. A few others have asked me the same thing so I decided to share the two main reasons I feel God has directed me to specialize in Christian leadership in seminary.

Everything rises and falls in leadership. I have heard this saying many times and believe it is extremely true. I believe that a successful ministry can always be traced back to good leadership. Show me a growing, dynamic church and I will show you a good leader. Show me a growing, dynamic student ministry and I will show you a good leader. The church today is in need of well-trained, wise, and Biblical leaders! Most ministries fall apart because of poor leadership. I have also heard it said that if you want to measure the spiritual temperature of a church or a student ministry than measure the spiritual temperature of its leaders. The spiritual temperature of the leaders will dictate the spiritual temperature of the people under them.

I believe God has gifted me and equipped me to work in a large church setting. I am encouraged by mega-churches who are doing it right and hope one day I can serve in a large church. One of my mentors, Brian Baker, has pointed out this gifting and equipping in my life as well. I doubt I will land a ministry job in a large church at first since I’m fresh out of college, but believe I will one day in the future. In larger church, leadership is huge! That is one reason I am specializing in Christian leadership. When you lead a ministry, for example a student ministry since that is what I am pursuing, you spend more time training and building a leadership team rather than you alone focusing on the students. In the book The Greenhouse Project, Ric Garland, the director of Word of Life Local Church Ministry, says that one person can only effectively disciple five to six people. In a large church, a student pastor cannot disciple each student. He must train leaders and build a leadership team to carrying out his passion and desire for student ministry.

You are a leader everywhere. John Maxwell says leadership is influence. Wherever you effectively influence people, you are a leader. I know God has called me to be a leader in the local church, but also know God has called me to be a leader to my wife, children, and anything else He decides to put me over. I believe my study of Christian leadership in seminary will help me be a Godly, Biblical leader inside and outside the local church. In a culture where leaders are falling left and right due to immorality and lack of character, we need good leaders. The church needs them. The world needs them. Our culture desperately needs them!

These are two of the main reasons I feel like God has directed me to specialize in Christian leadership in seminary. At the end of this degree I have the option of rolling it into a M.Div. (Master’s of Divinity) and getting that degree as well. I am not sure if I will do this because I’m not sure what my life will look like in a few years. Either way, I am grateful for the undergrad education God has allowed me to receive and privileged to be able to work on a Master’s for the next few years.

Recommended Leadership Resources

I decided to add a new category of blogs called “Leadership.” I have a deep desire to become a better leader and I believe the church is in desperate need of good Biblical leaders. I am actually starting a master’s degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary this January in the area of Christian leadership. You don’t have to pursue a degree to become a better leader, but you do have to take the time to learn and studying the idea of leadership. I wanted to share three leadership resources that have helped me in the area of leadership and I believe they can help you too.

The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. This by far is one of the best leadership podcast I have ever listened to. They update it about once every few weeks and every podcast is extremely helpful in the area of leadership. What is really good about this leadership podcast is that it does not focus only on local church leadership. Many leadership podcasts deal with leadership within the church, but this one does not. We need good Christian leadership in “secular” circles and workplaces as much as we need them in the church. If you are a Christian and are in leadership in a “secular” circle I would highly recommend this podcast for you. You can go here to download this podcast.

Perry Noble Leadership Podcast. For some of you the moment you read the name “Perry Noble” you already shot this resource down. I understand Perry Noble and Newspring Church has done some things many of you would not, but that does not mean God is not using Perry Noble and his church to advance God’s kingdom. We can learn something from everybody, even people who use different methods than we do. Please don’t turn this great resource down because you don’t agree with Perry Noble. I have been listening to this podcast every month when they update it and every time God uses it to teach me more about Biblical leadership. This podcast focuses more on leadership within the local church so I highly recommend this podcast to anyone in local church leadership. Out of all the three resources I am sharing in this blog, this is the top one for me. You can download this podcast here.

Minute with Maxwell. I came across this leadership resource a few days ago and so far it has been extremely beneficial. This resources is a daily e-mail that contains a one-minute video of John Maxwell sharing a leadership principle with you. I subscribe about five days ago and so far every “Minute with Maxwell” has been very helpful. This is a great source for leaders both within the local church and outside the local church. The fact that this is a John Maxwell resource should be enough for you to jump on it! You can go here to subscribe and start to receive your daily “Minute with Maxwell.”

I recommend that you at least start using one of these resources to help you become a better leader. Our churches, our world, and our families need good, BIblical leaders. God has and will use these resources to help us become those Biblical leaders this world needs.

Lessons Learned From a Semester of Good Grades

It’s finally Christmas break. And as I sit here watching Sports Center after sleeping in till noon I’m thinking back over my semester. After spending the summer working as a counselor at Skyview Ranch in Millersburg, Ohio I came back to Piedmont Baptist College for my last year with the focus to do well and make good grades in all my classes. With a renewed focused and much self-discipline thanks to my training at Skyview I did awesome this past semester in my classes. My final grades come out to be three A’s and four B’s! The biggest thing I did this semester that helped me is I got ahead. I knocked out all my collateral reading in the first two months and anything that I could do early I did. That helped me a ton and it showed in the last few weeks of school when everyone was rushing around trying to get their collateral reading and projects in, but I already had them done. With that being said, there are a few lessons I learned from my grades this semester.

My grades are a way to worship God. Throughout the semester I have prayed that my grades would be worship to God. That in itself is enough to push you to do well because you wouldn’t want to worship God by poor grades. I think all of us as believers struggle with letting God be in our every aspect of life. We tend to keep God the center of our devotional time or prayer time, but we struggle to make God the center of things like our job, relationships, and even our grades. This is sad because God wants to be the center of our entire life, that means everything! I am constantly reminded of this verse:

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

If we want to obey the Word of God, we must come to the truth of this verse. We have to do all things to glorify God and that means even grades. That is a huge lesson I learned this semester, that even in my grades I can worship God!

My grades are a reflection of my spiritual condition. Back in high school, my Bible teacher, Doug Hull, told us a story about a young man who started living for God, but he was a poor student and his grades showed it. Once he started living for God he saw his grades go up and do much better. Since high school that story has stuck with me and I saw it in action this semester in my life. When I look back over my college career, when my spiritual life was struggling my grades where struggling as well, but when I was do good spiritually my grades were good too. It’s an exact mirror of each other, our grades will reflect how we are doing spiritually! For college students this is something we all must learn. I learned this semester that I must make my spiritual life a priority and much come before everything. When I did that and practiced that this semester everything else fell into place and my grades showed it.

My grades determine my future. When I say future I mean academic future. If you know me pretty well you know I am thinking about continuing my education after I finish my undergrad. I am still looking into graduate schools and Seminary, but two are standing out right now which are Baptist Bible College Graduate School and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Most seminaries and graduate school require you to have a 3.0 GPA coming out if undergraduate just to be accepted into their school. So with that in mind it is important to make good grades in college if you want to continue your education. This is something I want to do so I need to keep doing well in my grades now.

These are just a few lessons I learned this semester and hope they might be an encouragement to you. I say none of this to be prideful, but to give glory to God. If it was not for God’s direction, strength, and power I could not have done this well, but I did and all the credit goes to Him!