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.

Blog Changes for 2012

About three years ago I started this blog because one of my college professors told us we had to. We had to post a few thing on it for a grade. At first, I hated it! I would post something only when I had to. It wasn’t until this past year that I really started to enjoy it and blog consistently. This past year I saw my writing on my blog get better, saw more traffic on my blog, and was able to share my thoughts on important matters. As I go into the new year, I changed a few things about my blog that I hope will make it even better.

URL Change. Yep, that’s right! This blog’s URL is now www.austinmccann.com. I wanted to make this change so my blog was not seen as just “another WordPress blog.” I hope by having my own URL it makes my blog look  a little more credible. If you are a big blogger and have no changed your URL to something more of your own, you should! It is cheap and worth it!

More focused writing. This past year I blogged about a lot of different stuff. I enjoyed blogging about different subjects, but I want to blog more this coming year with a focus. The tag line at the top of my blog use to say “Where Ministry and Life Meet.” That tag line truly was a good statement of what my blog was. It is now changed to “Thoughts on Student Ministry, Pastoral Ministry, and Leadership.” Ninety percent of what I blog about will now be under one of those three categories. The reason I am blogging mostly about those three things is because that is where my heart and training is. God has called me into pastoral ministry, specially student ministry, and has given me a heart for Biblical leadership. Also, all my educational training is in these three areas. I studied student ministry and pastoral ministry in undergrad at Piedmont International University (formerly Piedmont Baptist College) and now studying Christian leadership in seminary.

More blogging at other places. One thing I am doing differently this year is blogging for other blogs. I have contributed a few posts already to YouthMin.org and hope to continue to contribute posts to that site. Also, I am now a contributor for Youth Ministry 360’s blog. I will still be blogging here, but will be blogging for them as well. The blogs I write for them will go on their site first then will be posted here on my own blog. I hope this allows me to connect with other church leaders as well as get my voice out there as God opens doors for me.

Less pride. I must confess that my blogging this past year, especially in the past few months, has caused me to be prideful. When I started seeing my views go up and started seeing more traffic on my blog it caused some pride. Also, I was getting jealous of other blogs that were getting more views than mine. This led me to spending way too much time thinking about what I should blog about next rather than blogging about what God is doing in my life and ministry. I pray that as I go into the new year I will blog with humility knowing that God has given me this blog to make His name known not mine. In my blogging, He must increase and I must decrease.

I hope my blogs have been helpful to you and I hope they will continue to be helpful to you this coming year. If you are in ministry, I hope my blogs will give you practical advice you can use and share with others.

Pastoral Internship in Review

As of last Friday I “officially” finished my pastoral internship at Weymouth Community Church. This internship was the last thing I had to do to complete my degree from Piedmont Baptist College (soon to be Piedmont International University). As many of you know this was the second of two internships I had to complete for school. I did a youth ministry internship this past summer (you can read all about that internship in another post) and then came to Medina, OH to do this internship which was a pastoral internship. I wanted to take some time and share with you what I have done and learned during this pastoral internship.

I was able to do some much during this internship that it is hard to even recall so I will hit the highlights. First, I was able to attend a few days of meetings at Life Action Revival Ministries headquarters in Michigan along with the lead pastor Dan Jarvis. Dan and Life Action are launching a nation wide movement that is a call for revival called OneCry. I was able to meet other pastors and church leaders from across the country and help them organize this movement. Second, I have had the opportunity to preach several times. I preached three times in the local jail, a few times in some local retirement homes, and several times in Sunday morning services here at Weymouth as well as at the south campus. You can listen to two of the sermons I preached here by going to my “preaching” page here on my blog. By far preaching has been my favorite thing from this internship and it has helped me become a better preacher of God’s Word. Third, I have been leading a Wednesday night teen guys Bible study. We started doing a study called Habits which deals with spiritual disciplines and now we are going to start walking through a few key chapters in the Bible for the next few weeks. This has been a great opportunity for me to practice youth ministry while doing this pastoral internship. I was able to build good relationships with the guys and influence them for Christ. Fourth, I was able to go out visiting with the Care Pastor John Lurtz. This part of the internship has been the most rewarding thing because it allowed me to see that pastoral ministry is about people and building relationships with the people of your church. I was able to visit a man named Bill Mueller a few times who is dying of cancer. Bill is 80 years old and has served in pastoral ministry for 60 years! It was a privilege and an honor to sit with him and hear him talk about his years serving the Lord within the local church. This man has been faithful for so many years and it was an honor to spend time with him. Pray for him and his wife as he is coming to the end of his life. These are just a few of the many things I was able to do during this internship.

Now for the important part, what did I learn during this internship. With each internship I try to think back about the one major things I have learned. In my last internship I learned that you had to build relationships with people in order to teach them God’s Word better. You can about that here. I learned something similar in this internship as well. During this internship I learned this: ministry is about people. If a pastor spends all his time in the office and behind his computer he will miss the rewards of ministry which come from being with the people. I am not saying a pastor should neglect his time praying and studying God’s Word for preaching because that is his main responsibilities, but in order to lead the people you have to spend time with the people. I have learned this and pray that as I step out into full-time ministry God will help me remember ministry is about people.

You may be wondering what is next for me. I’m glad you asked! I am staying here at Weymouth as a pastoral intern until December 11th then will be headed back to NC for a few weeks for Christmas. By the way, I will be speaking at The Grove on December 14th so stop by and see me! I am completely done with my degree from PBC so I am able to start working full-time whenever God opens a door. I am using this time to make connects as well as send my resume out to as many churches as possible. Pray for me as I wait and trust God to give me my first full-time ministry job. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me and has supported me throughout this internship.

A Heart and Gift to Preach

This past Sunday I had the privilege to preach four times! I preached at the early service at the main campus of Weymouth Community Church and then at the 10:30am service at the south campus. Then during the afternoon I preached at two local retirements homes. It was a long, exhausting day of preaching, but the Lord gave me strength to preach His Word each time. It was last year, my junior year at Piedmont Baptist College (in January new name will be Piedmont International University. You can read my thoughts about that here) when the Lord started giving me more of a heart for preaching when I had the privilege to take Homiletics and Expository Preaching with Dr. Tim White. It was in those two classes that the Lord started giving me a greater desire to preach as well as equipping me to do it well.

Two things happened last year that showed me that God really has given me a heart and gift for preaching.

First, I got to preach my senior sermon in chapel at Piedmont. All the senior guys that take Homiletics are required to do this, but for me it was the hard work, preparation, and blessing I received out of it that helped me see my desire and gifting to preach. Click here to listen to the audio of that sermon.

Second, I was honored to received the Expository Preaching award my school gives out to one student each year. It was those two things that really showed me I have a desire and gifting to preach God’s Word. Since last year I have been given the opportunities to preach many times and everyday it seems like God’s gives me a greater passion and desire to preach. Myself and others have seen that God has given me a heart and a gift to preach God’s Word.

My Thoughts on PBC’s Name Change

Yesterday my school, Piedmont Baptist College, announced that they are changing their name to Piedmont International University. Because I am not on campus this year, because I am doing an internship in Ohio, I got the news through my friends tweet’s on Twitter. When I first saw the first few tweets I wasn’t really sure what to think, but the more I thought about the name change the more I really liked it. I like the name change for two reasons.

First, I am glad “Baptist” is not part of our school’s name anymore. Before anyone who is a Baptist reads this and get mad, let me explain that I do not have anything against Baptists. I grew up in a great Baptist church. I learned to love God and walk with Him in that church. I also got most of my ministry experience in that church and God used that church to call me into full-time ministry. With that being said, I do not hold to “Baptist” very tight. I am not a big fan of denominational titles and groups anyways, but if someone would to ask me if I am a Baptist or not I would say yes because I agree with most of the Baptist distinctions. If someone doesn’t ask me, than I will not even bring “Baptist” into the conversation because I do not see it as a “closed hand issue.” Also, getting “Baptist” out of our schools name can help some of us students who are not pursing a Baptist church for full-time ministry get a job. Since the beginning of summer I have been up North, PA and OH, doing internships to finish my degree. The moment you leave the “Bible belt” not many people have even heard of PBC and then when they hear “Baptist College” you lose a little bit of credibility. I am not saying that it is all about titles or about “looking good,” but it does help some of us who are pursing a ministry job outside the Baptist circle to be from a school that is a university.

Secondly, I am glad we are now a university. Honestly, I cannot understand why people would get mind we are moving to a university. I believe just that change will help our school grow numerically as well as in influence. If I was standing in a room with a university graduate than that university graduate would look more qualified professionally than I would because I came out of a Bible college. Being a university will help us as we because it will show that we are a legitimate school on the professional level. It is sad to say titles matter this much, but let’s be honest, people do look at titles. To help you understand the decision my school made here is a letter from the President:

Dear Friends of Piedmont,

Effective January 1, 2012, Piedmont Baptist College and Graduate School is planning to change its name to Piedmont International University. Acquiring university status is only the latest in Piedmont’s steady progression from our original name of Piedmont Bible Institute. The institute progressed to become a college (Piedmont Bible College for most of our history), and the college progressed to the point of adding a graduate school (eventually being called Piedmont Baptist College and Graduate School). Over the past decade Piedmont has doubled in enrollment, added a nice variety of new graduate and undergraduate degree programs (including a PhD in Bible), launched branch campuses in two other countries (one is still a teaching site), created an online Spanish version of our Master of Arts in Biblical Studies, developed a world class online school, and restructured Piedmont with four distinct academic schools.

1)    School of Bible (with undergrad and grad degrees available)

2)    School of Ministry (with undergrad and grad degrees available)

3)    School of Education (with undergrad and grad degrees available)

4)    School of Arts and Sciences (music and various general education classes)

All of this has propelled Piedmont into the exciting position where we can now obtain university status. The university label should also be less confusing to prospective students from other countries where “college” is synonymous with high school.

Speaking of other countries, Piedmont has historically placed high priority on missions and world evangelism. Scores of our graduates serve our Lord Jesus Christ in gospel ministry on every inhabited continent, and more and more nationals from around the world are enrolling via our world-class online school. Our graduates who desire to serve in Restricted Access Nations (where Christianity is illegal or missionaries are not allowed) and nationals who would enroll from those countries have repeatedly told us that any religious sounding name is detrimental to their efforts or even dangerous. Terms like “Baptist,” “Christian,” or “Biblical” are wonderful to us, but they are not very endearing to an immigration officer in some place like North Korea or Saudi Arabia.

Just today I spoke with the gentleman who gives oversight to our teaching site in Bangladesh. He was elated by the fact that he would no longer have to explain the term “college” to people who think it means high school, and he was very excited about not having to worry so much about having the government coming after him if they found out he was connected to a Baptist/Christian school. Piedmont International University won’t raise the red flags like a religious name might.

Although Piedmont International University does not sound religious, it is very important to our Board, Administration, Faculty, and Staff that everyone knows our passionate desire not to stray from our original mission of quality Bible teaching and effective ministry training. We will continue to require a Bible major for every person seeking a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline.

Piedmont’s theological foundation is more important than ever, and we have every intention of equipping our students to interact with a constantly shifting and pluralistic world by anchoring them with a literal, grammatical, contextual, historical hermeneutic for accurate Bible exegesis resulting in sound theology. In short, we will honor our Biblical heritage and Baptist distinctives while tenaciously contending for the faith.

With some of those ideas in mind, our governing Board of Trustees voted to approve our new name, Piedmont International University.

PIEDMONT – Because of our stellar history and rich heritage
INTERNATIONAL – Because of the all-nations priority of our mission* and vision**
UNIVERSITY – Because it represents more accurately what we are

Finally, please join us in prayer for Piedmont International University.

Because God Alone Matters,
Charles W. Petitt
President
Piedmont International University