Joe Thorn, of the aptly named joethorn.net, has an interesting post about what I would call the nuts and bolts of the ministry discernment process. His list of considerations includes:
- Go to a liberal arts college.
- Get the best theological and ministry training possible.
- Check with your wife.
- Check with your church.
- Determine your calling.
- Talk to pastors you respect.
- Read. A lot.
- Get real.
I’d like to specifically address #2: “Go to a liberal arts college.” Here’s what Joe says:
If you are young and thinking Bible College vs the University, I’d encourage you to get your undergraduate degree at a liberal arts college – especially if you plan on attending seminary afterward. Pursue a degree in something that will assist you in the ministry. This can be anything from history, to art, to journalism. I say this as a guy who went to Bible College and enjoyed his time there. It was not the wrong decision, but there is a lot of repeat if you go from Bible College to seminary. I believe the university route can provide a more well rounded education.
I think there’s quite a bit of wisdom in this. In my own experience it’s true. I studied the New Testament with a historical perspective while at the University of Texas. When I went to Harvard, I ended up doing the same thing. There was a lot of overlap. Had I studied something slightly different at UT, then my time at Harvard would have been more difficult, but it also might have been more rewarding.
Now, in the end, I think I did all right. I have an intense background in the history of Christianity and Judaism from 250 BC(E) to 300 AD/CE [I wish not to get into a debate over anno domini and “common era” at this time…though that may be fodder for a future post]. As I’ve conducted Bible studies here in Houston, I’ve found that most people really appreciate that historical context. However, I might have been able to conduct a more well-rounded study if my focus at UT had been theology, or history of religion in the United States or something like that.
While Joe’s post is targeted directly at pastors-to-be, I see no reason why most of those suggestions wouldn’t pertain to most anyone interested in pursuing a career that requires a graduate degree.
Thanks, Joe. And thanks to Sherman Haywood Cox II over at soulpreaching.com for pointing me to Joe’s blog.