Is formal theological education good or bad? PART 2


I have always had difficulty when academic institutions acknowledge that they are not a local church (no church polity, no church discipline, etc. ) yet claim to be accomplishing a task that only the church is given the authority to do; namely, the work of preparing the saints for the work of the ministry. As I understand it, the Church is the only institution that is given the authority to prepare the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). However, it is difficult to undergo the necessary theological studies in a local church context. As a result of this, there have been some attempts to integrate rigorous theological study done at a seminary, with practical apprenticeship done at a local church. Almost all of these experiments fail to properly integrate the two. These programs often end up lacking a genuine apprenticeship or fail to offer a theological education that is academically rigorous.  However, there are a few churches/schools/apprenticeships that have made significant contributions to the reform of ministerial training.  Here are three: 

1.  Bethlehem Seminary ( is currently the only Seminary of its kind because both the apprenticeship and the theological study are governed by a local church, in which they can be properly integrated.  The new M.Div. program is a 4 year commitment and involves rigorous theological studies, including extensive Greek and Hebrew studies.  Bethlehem Seminary will only accept 12-14 M.Div “apprentices” every year into their program.  Each of these students is mentored by a Pastor and progressively becomes more involved in ministry at the local Church level throughout the 4 years of the program. 

2.  Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College ( is a one year program, ranges from 15-25 students at a time, and is restricted to those who are commited to ministering within the Sovereign Grace network of churches.  It is only one year, and because of this, it is not academically as rigorous as a typical seminary.  It does include a limited amount of Greek study and there is a special focus on the spiritual life of the potential pastor.  The goal of this Pastor’s college is not only to impart a general theological framework and practical study skills, but to give opportunity for hands on ministry within a local church context and to promote growth in Christ like character.  This is a great opportunity for those who can fit into the ministry ethos of Sovereign Grace, and are in a season of life where a 3 or 4 year seminary commitment is not reasonable. 

3.  Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church has an internship ( is 5 months long, and is for those who sense a call to the pastorate.  It is not intended to be a seminary replacement, but rather to compliment a seminary education with an internship experience.  Throughout the program, an intern writes about 100 papers and reads over 5000 pages of text.  The 6 interns attend elders meetings, are involved in ministry at the local church, and spend weekly time with one of the elders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  If you are currently are planning to attend a run-of-the-mill seminary, or have already attended one, I would highly recommend taking a look into this program as a supplement to those studies.

This might be a good time to pitch an interactive web forum we attempted to launch some time ago, and are hoping to resurrect.  It is our desire that it would be an effective tool for those seeking to be trained for the ministry.  Write anything you know about a school, post questions about a school you are considering, add a school to the discussion.  Our goal is that it would be a place where potential students can see what is available for those looking to train for the ministry, and can have an idea of what is really being taught at various institutions.





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2 Responses to “Is formal theological education good or bad? PART 2”

  1. Julius Says:

    For what it is worth, and without getting into a protracted defense of formal theological training generally (or specifically at the institution I attend), Duke Divinity offers a number of interesting practical ministries alongside the classroom. Here are a couple of links but more could info could be sought out:


  2. Vince Olaer Says:

    well, I think there is really nothing wrong in having an education in seminaries and Bible Schools. The authority is not even an issue in my personal opinion. Paul and all others did not even train in seminaries nor in what we call rigorous mentorship per se. But they are involved deeply in the ministry while they are with their leaders (correct me if I’m wrong, nowhere in the Bible that you can see that they undergo rigorous training and instructions theologically). But of course, they have experienced what it is to be a servant of God.

    This I think is what is lacking to most of the seminaries around the world. The lack of “hands on training”. Professors in seminaries are not even allowed to handle a church. Why is that? Because their attention and work will be divided?

    Guess what, these Doctor professors teach evangelism, but they themselves stopped going out to evangelize. I would say that most seminaries lacks one thing, that is training their disciples by not becoming a good example.

    Again, the issue is not on the authority. All of us where given the authority to train. Matthew 28:19-20 is very clear that all of us will go and make disciple of all nations, all of us who do that will baptize Christ’s disciple, and we will teach them to obey everything God commanded us.

    I do hope you got my point. God bless.

    BTW, I really admire this blog. I have seen these blog around 5 times while surfing on on Christian blogs in different times. God bless and may God allow you to make more disciples.

    If it is ok, please include me in your links: and

    Hope we can build together (with God’s anointing and help) a Christian community that really obeys.

    Thank you and God bless.


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