I attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2002-2006. By the grace of God, I graduated with an M.Div.
I've asked myself lately: If I could go back in time, would I attend seminary all over again?
At some level this is a pointless question; what is done is done. However, as I think about what I now believe about the church in general, I begin to wonder about seminaries.
As I think about my time at SEBTS, I can recall both the good and the not so good.
We made wonderful friends
We were confronted with the need for worldwide missions
We went on a mission trip to India
I learned a lot more of the bible
I spent time with excellent professors
I was exposed to/learned some of the original languages
NOT SO GOOD
It is extremely difficult on the family
I did not see my family much for four years
We had to move away from family and church family
Once I graduated, I became "an expert"
My biggest struggle with seminary has less to do with my own personal experience and more to do with the church in general. God's plan for His church is that we all serve Him as priests. No special clergy class exists. The problem with seminaries is that their very existence fosters the clergy/laity divide. Most seminary graduates strive to become salaried pastors in a local church. The reality is that salaried pastors are viewed (whether they see themselves this way or not) as different. They are the clergy.
As I reflect on why I went to seminary in the first place, I see a big mistake. I moved my family to SEBTS with the intent of learning a lot so that I could become a professional pastor. This I regret. While at SEBTS, things obviously changed for us. We ended up going overseas as missionaries, which I have chronicled in other blog posts.
I wish I had gone to seminary with other intentions. What might these have been? Simply this: to grow closer to the Lord and be equipped for whatever He would have me do. I think I morphed in this direction during my four years at SEBTS. Maybe that is simply part of the process of being at seminary.
Part of me wishes that seminaries didn't exist at all because of lack of need. If churches were doing all they could to work together to teach what needs to be taught, seminaries would go the way of the DoDo. I've heard of some churches teaching, for example, Hebrew and/or Greek. This is awesome.
In the end, would I do it all over again? Would I attend seminary? I think I would. However, this is of course all based on a sense that God would have me go there. I'd hope that my initial intentions would be different - simply to grow, learn, and be equipped.
Seminary is a difficult thing to make a black-and-white judgment call about. While I believe seminaries do much good, at the same time I struggle greatly with what seminaries produce: many professional pastors-to-be.
I'm muddled when it comes to seminaries. I believe God does intend for some of us to attend seminary. At the same time, I believe God would like to see His church do more at the local level so that seminary is not so needed/important.
We can be thankful that numerous good seminaries still exist in this country and abroad. For example, any of the Southern Baptist seminaries are solid (I'm partial to SEBTS and SBTS). Click here, here, here, and here for other possibilities.
Seminary is a challenging mixed-bag. It has a lot of "ups and downs." It can be good. It can be bad. Overall, you really will (trite though this may sound) get out of it what you put into it.
I'd go again. I'd just hope that I'd have different expectations and goals.