Do you think your faith could be where it is now if you hadn’t gone through seminary? What do you think of serving in either the church or the missions fields without attending a seminary school?
Near the end of my seminary studies, I wrote a blog post about my entire experience plus wisdom for students here. Read it whenever you like.
One thing seminary does is it will expose your strengths and weaknesses. I hear plenty of pastors say, “Seminary will destroy your faith and make you resent God” — but that’s impossible. No one makes anyone do anything: your environment only exposes who you really are. Same with the car who cuts you off, the friend who betrays you, the dude who holds you at gunpoint, the seminary that pressures you. All of it reveals what’s already inside.
That’s why some seminarians come out with huge Bible-heads all puffed up from learning Greek, or some will have a dried up faith when they learn about Creationism, the Old Testament genocides, and how the Bible was made, as if they finally get to say, “This is what we believe?” No one did that to them.
So be ready for the most rigorous refinement of your intellect in the context of your faith. If you’re humble and teachable along the way, you’ll love it. If your expectations are otherwise, it’s a minefield.
I came in expecting seminary to be exactly what I needed for ministry, so I began to idolize what seminary taught instead of thinking for myself. So I came out like a clone of neo-conservative, right-wing, super-exegetical values instead of allowing God to use my personality. I called it “obedience to authority” instead of idolatry. Seminary is a shaping tool and nothing more. Don’t let it crush you into something you’re not.
As for church or missions minus seminary, I believe anyone can do these things without a formal “religious” education. No one should wait for that. I’ve personally known some great pastors and missionaries who have never stepped foot in a seminary (plus there’s Billy Graham, Matt Chandler, and Jesus). They still studied hard. But I also believe if you can go to seminary, you should go. Sometimes I hear, “I don’t need seminary to do this,” which already shows either laziness or pride.
It really depends on how God presents the opportunities, and less dependent on whether we think one can be done without the other. Ministry opens? Do it. Seminary opportunity? Do it. Both open? Do both. Be prepared either way.