pop theology

It's a little known fact among many people that I almost went to seminary. It's also a little known fact among many people that I even exist, but that's another post.

Kristy and I, freshly married, had big plans to move to Fort Worth, TX and attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. We had housing picked out, a deposit put down, and many conversations with the orientation staff. We even visited the campus and went on a job interview in a nearby town. But, simply put, this was not God's will.

Seminary sort of fell off the radar for a while until I started thinking about planting a church. Getting a sampling at Fellowship Bible Church of Northwest Arkansas, I felt even more that seminary was unnecessary, just a degree to hang on a wall.

I'm still unsure about my seminarial future, but one observation I've been able to make after over 10 years in ministry without "formal training" is that I'm glad I didn't go there right out of college.

Here's why:

I'm actually earning my theology through a wrestling process with God. If I'd gone to seminary at 23, with very little life-knowledge, I would have been forced to wrestle with God on issues, but in a different way. I would have always had the luxury of knowing people with the answers [the professors] to my questions. And really, they wouldn't have been my questions at all, just the ones I'm supposed to ask.

I am in no way knocking theological training.

I am knocking theological training before significant life experience. Seminary training is best coupled with a few years in ministry to allow the questions to develop on their own.

Take my brother for instance, I'm sure he would testify to the same thing. He's 30, has been in seminary for a little over a year, and enjoys it in a way that I'm sure he couldn't have when he was younger.

To all you would-be seminarians out there: If you're just out of college and thinking about going to seminary, wait. If you're already in seminary and wet behind the ears, take a semester off to live with the poor. Hey, if it worked in Batman Begins for Bruce Wayne, I'm sure it could work for you!


Kent said...

I must agree with my brother. Life experience has prepared for me for my seminary experience. I've wrestled through most of what is being taught to me now. None of it really comes as a shock. I learn a little something here and there, and definitely see the difference between the seasoned students and the kermit students (ya know, because they're green).

Sandy Mc said...

Drew, this is something Roy and I have had passionate feelings about...in definate agreement with you. One of the practices related to this that Roy and I are *concerned* with is the use of "interns" in the ministry of the church. In observing this practice, we have noted that it might be that churches are influencing young people who have real hearts for Christ to "learn" to be paid ministry professionals when they are at that young influential stage you noted.

There is a cry coming from those in international missions: "where are those God is calling to serve?" Could it be *some* of the young missionaries canidates are choosing instead to "go into ministry" as a vocation here in America? It is Roy's and my perception that in their earnest desire to serve the Lord with their lives young people may be making choices about how that "looks" without really exploring the special person God made them to be.

An example I saw was the blog of a kid I happened onto when looking for "guitar" links. He *was* an engineering major (great vocation to prepare to go to a lot of closed countries...also a vocation that God does not gift everyone to do) but after a summer internship at his church while home over the summer between his Frosh and Soph years, he switched to a ministry major at a Christian college. Of course I cannot say God did not call him to this change, and I also must assume he made the change after prayerful cinsideration. However, I also know from my life and from observing my own grown kids and their friends, that there trusted and respected (well-meaning)adults can have a lot of influence in these decisions.

Is their choice to serve in the church a "good" one, yes...is it the one God wants, maybe...does it do as much to push a person out of their comfort zone to be challenged to rely on God for everything about their life and ministry, probably not.

BGR said...

HEy Drew! It was good to see you the other day! Good post and quality stuff. I understand the life experience angle but was wondering if you had a biblical basis for it?

I'm kind of new to Jewish History but Rob Bell up at Mars Hill has stoked my interest in it with his teachings on the O.T. Did you know that the average jewish boy had the first five books of the O.T. memorized by age 10 ? Ever noticed how when Jesus quotes a verse, everyone seems to know exactly what he is talking about in the Bible? Its because from an EARLY age..it was becoming a PART of them. They had to memorize because a whole village might own one text of scripture ( and no, it wasn't a Gideon Bible : ). THe printing press wouldn't come for another 1400 years!

At age 10, the kids that showed promise went to Bet Talmud ( "house of learning") where they the learned the REST of the "story" (if you will) by age 13. The ENTIRE O.T. .........Genesis thru Malachi. 39 books! MEMORIZED! Age 13! Wow.

At this point 14-15 yrs old, most went on to learn the family trade...but a few applied to learn under a rabbi, to be his talmidim (disciples). THe goal wasn't to know what the rabbi taught but to BE just like the Rabbi. Interestingly..the Rabbis particular set of beliefs were called his "yoke". One Rabbi said his yoke was easy...

But now I'm rambling...sorry. My point is ...and it could just be semantics ( i.e. what is "theological training") that maybe our problem is not too little life experienced before we know ( and I mean KNOW) the Bible but rather too little of:The Way, The Truth, and The Life". In the end it ends up being "My Way, My Truth, and My Life". Experience tends to be subjective but the Word is absolute truth...something God has to continually remind me of. I'm afraid that mine is a generation that want to FEEL our God but not necessarily KNOW Him.

Good to meet you on the path bro. Keep it real! : )

Drew Caperton said...

Hey BGR,

What if feeling and knowing are the same thing? I certainly agree that God's Word is truth, but much of what our generation is going through right now is probably a reaction to many, many years of knowing without feeling.

Not trying to condone what's happening necessarily, but in order to not fall in either ditch, we must know and feel Creator God.

Sandy Mc said...

I love that description of the boys learning the OT in that way. Could it be that was the OT *version* of becoming what God gifted you to be? I mean like maybe the boys who dropped off into the "learn the family business track" were not actualy dropouts but actually they were right in line with what God planned for them to do with their lives?

Also, because the Jews of the OT lived under the law, theoretically the Rabbi's were truely choosen by God as men to model after. I DO believe that God calls people today into leadership in churches but I believe under Christ we should model ourselves strictly after him as we learn and grow in our knowledge and wisdom.

So, maybe I am *agreeing*...but my fear is that there are too many church leaders who teach or infer they have the answers. Perhaps, today's culture of wanting to "feel" God is a reaction to the falseness of leaders who lead under "my way, my Truth, and My Life"

jerry said...

im not against training to learn scripture or learning it at a young age, but remember many people as you say "knew" the scriptures, yet did not recognize God when he was standing right in front of them. in fact he had to remind them, when he said, "you search the scriptures up and down searching for life, yet you miss the forest for the trees, they were talking about me!" they "knew" the scriptures of the bible, and it had hardened their hearts.....

beth hintze said...

I find your title ironic because, for the most part I have found that non-educated ministers are those that are more likely to fall into the trap of pop theology or folk theology, at best. Last year I considered a position working with two youth ministers at a large-ish church in North Louisiana. The job description was right up my alley, but listening to them made me cringe. Neither had any Seminary training and they were both so busy talking about Saddleback this or Purpose-Driven that that they weren't interested in stopping to figure out what their kids needed. I realized that, while my Seminary degree is indeed a piece of paper on the wall, the experience I had there has made me grow in ways that I never thought I could. Yes, I had those professors who had all of those answers, but they forced me to ask questions that I would have never thought to ask on my own.

With any ministry or ministerial education, the goal is to strike a balance. Life experience is no better or worse than seminary education. I've known brilliant--and not so brilliant--ministers on both sides of that fence. Ultimately, the question is where is God leading YOU?

Drew Caperton said...

Beth, here's something to consider:

"those professors ... forced me to ask questions that I would have never thought to ask on my own."

I don't believe you can make that statement because you don't know what questions you would have thought to ask on your own. And even if they did force you to ask questions you would have never thought of, what good did they do you for leading a ministry?

I believe being in the field allows you to get a feel for what is important and what is not. In other words, you get to know the questions first and then go to seminary for some answers.

It's not seminary or no-seminary, or even brilliant or dumb, it's timing. Essentially, it's the effectiveness of the ministerial training.

BGR said...

I love that picture with your hands on you sons head Drew! Who took it? Sorry its take me so long to get back...rough week at school. Good post! Good discussion. You all stretch me and I thank you! Its always awesome to meet another hiker on this trail. This discussion got me thinking ( I know, a dangerous endeavor but I will try to avoid hurting myself!)...it seems that if we make the choices "seminary or experience first" we kind of cut God out of the picture. It starts to become some kind of "rule" i.e. "do this ..and this will happen."

I was challenged by the O.C. ( oswald chambers) the other day when he wrote that the common sense life is the enemy of the supernatural life. People in the Bible rarely approached God the same way twice. Moses didn't do seminars on how "you too can have a burning bush experience!" : ) What should be a vibrant walk with GOd becomes a Christianity of tips and techniques. Jerry made a good point...its not just about what you know. I agree that seminary isn't always the best choice...I know people who "burned out" spiritually while there. I also know just as many who crashed and burned chasing experiences. Just love Jesus and see where that takes you...

Sandy made a good point about people who claim to have all the answers. THe danger there is that if we have ALL the answers..no one else can. This is why so many kids leave the faith when they go to college. They hear a teacher present truth and feel that they have to choose between the"church's" truth or the worlds truth. Truth is a Person ( so is LOVE) and kids need to know that their faith is big enough to accept any truth, anywhere, without compromising their faith. Everyone the world over experiences God on some level...scripture is clear on this. THey just don't recognize the Source...our kids should. WOw..that was a bit of a ramble..

Appreciate the ministry you are doing Drew...keep it up!