Wednesday, February 19, 2014

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel

And it may not even be an oncoming train!

Those of you who know me know that I have been pursuing a graduate degree for the last several years.

The last 12 years, to be precise.

You see, being a Baptist minister is an interesting career field. First of all, it’s supposed to be a calling more than a career, but all ministers say that. Then many of us go to work and get paid for it. That’s part of the interesting aspect: few people blend all the stuff of life into one all-encompassing life quite the same way ministers do. We go to church at work and go to work at church; we entangle religion and employment, business and pleasure, faith and finance all in ways that are beautiful when it works. And a fat mess when it doesn’t.

Many religious groups require a minister to hold a basic level of education before they enter the ministry. Then, there is a higher level of mandatory training before one is “ordained,” usually a gateway process to being placed in responsibility for a church.

Baptists, though, have no formal requirements of this nature. True, there are some churches that have educational requirements, and many of our denominational boards have requirements. But the local church can call as pastor anyone they choose. (Save the spiritual Jesus Juke: yes, it should be whomever the Lord calls.)

So, I became a pastor with a college degree and no seminary training. Seminary is the basic professional school for ministry: lawyers have law school, doctors have med school, clowns have clown school. Ministers have seminary. The idea is that seminary is a graduate-level education, entered into by someone with a bachelor’s degree.

In seminary, you do in-depth academic study of the Bible. You study Christian History; Theology; Missions. You take courses in practical matters like church administration and sermon preparation. It’s a useful thing.

It’s just not mandatory.

So, while I started in ministry with a college degree that included Biblical studies, I needed the official education. In time, I came to be ordained, again without the education. I am the full-time pastor of a church, and have been for several years now.

Along the way, I have studied some, and taken some classes. The typical seminary degree should be completed in 3 to 4 years. I started in 2002.

Next week, I should finish my last final. My last paper gets turned in—tomorrow.

I have wanted to quit, and still kind of do. I’ll open up more of that later.

For now, I am coming up for air and realizing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it may not be a train after all. I may get through this. When I do, I’ll hopefully have a lot more brain power for other things.

Which means a better effort on writing both here and elsewhere, and hopefully being better at what I do when I don’t touch a keyboard. Thanks for sticking it ought through this far. It’s been a bumpy ride.


  1. Nice! Although don't clown school and seminary share certain, um, nuances?

  2. I would suggest the connection is nebulous.


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