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The Flipsides of Seminary

SeminarySpeaking as a person who has some seminary education both behind me and ahead of me (Certificate in Urban Ministries, Master of Arts in Educational Ministries, and currently working on a Master of Divinity), I’ve observed some positives as well as some negatives regarding seminary education (not necessarily in this order)

Myths

1. Every Christian leader or aspiring leader should attend

2. It prepares individuals for ministry in a church context or otherwise

3. It qualifies one for pastoral positions within local congregations

4. All who attend have a general knowledge of the Bible and a deep enough level of maturity

Upside

1. You can meet and connect with some great ministry leaders

2. You can also meet some examples of leaders who behave in ways that you learn not to emulate

3. It can help you think more deeply and even dismantle some theological practices that you once held so dear but need to let go of

4. It can humble you as you become aware of how little you actually know/still have to learn

5. You can move from a place of being shallow to a place of greater depth as you preach, teach, care for people, etc rather than just repeat tired cliques and ‘churchy’ language and responses that you used to.

6. It provides the opportunity to consider and reconsider your “call” to ministry and define it more clearly

Downside

1. It can lead you to a place where God is no longer central in your life and ministry practice and beginning to rely on oneself rather than Holy Spirit power

2. It can lead to arrogance – believing that you are smarter and even more spiritual than those who have not been

3. You can study and learn church history and ignore current culture and eventually become irrelevant in your effort to do ministry

4. There exist contexts where your voice will be disregarded as that which is not credible or worthy of paying attention to without a seminary degree/theological training.

5. Moving to a place where you are reading so many books about the Bible and about God that you treat the Bible and God (by your actions) as though neither are essential for the life you live or the ministry you hope to do.

6. You can loose sight of the practical ministry practices that you possessed prior to going to seminary and begin clinging to theories that would never work/be effective in practice.

7. Concepts and teaching methodologies are not usually relevant to a diversity of cultures/ethnicities – can be very euro-centric at times (depending upon where you attend)

That’s just to name a few, are there others that I have missed?

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The Diversity Delusion

The topic of diversity is one that many find intriguing, others are passionate about it, and still others are apathetic regarding the subject of diversity. Certainly the topic of diversity holds a variety of meanings for different people, but since the setting I am most familiar with are church or religious environments, I approach the topic with that as a backdrop.

I have discovered that to say that you as an organization or a church are “diverse” or “multicultural,” along with other descriptive terms is on some level trendy and it can even draw individuals to a place or group. However I find that with many Christian groups, whether it be churches, universities or otherwise, it can end up being only that which is on paper or on a computer screen. Some even go as far as to display photo stock pics of diverse groups of people as though it were a reflection of the realities of their group.This is not limited to groups/organizations – every group is made up of “individuals.” The actions of individuals also have bearing on what takes place in the area of diversity. I find that we all at some point can suffer from a disease I call the “Diversity Delusion.” Here are some of the symptoms:

1. All of your friends (whether real or via social media) “look” just like you. The only people you have deep conversations with or friendships with are of the same race, class, etc that you are

2. Failing to notice dominance of one cultural group or be aware of who is culturally missing and never wondering why.

3. The books on your shelf are all written by authors of one dominant group or cultural perspective.

4. With the exception of maybe one or two or less, the people you listen to and learn from are all people of your specific race, culture, social and economic status.

5. Because you are familiar with certain cultural stereotypes, you assume that you know a particular culture.

6. You precede your references to people of a culture different from yours by adding a race description – “African American man,” “Asian woman,” instead of simply saying a woman or man.

Awareness of the symptoms can be remedied by choosing different actions from this day forward. During my attendance at an event titled “Experimenting with Diversity:Using the College as a Laboratory by Marvin Worthy, he mentioned that “Not everything you face will be changed, but nothing will ever change unless you face it.” I don’t believe that lack of opportunity to embrace diversity and learn not only about, but from others is the problem. I believe that the problem is that we fail to extend ourselves beyond what makes us comfortable…