Successful Seminarians

Somewhere I heard that most of today’s best-known pastors didn’t go to seminary. As I recall, this observation was brought up in the context of criticizing the very concept of graduate-level ministerial training. The implication was that the time spent learning about the Bible would have been better spent learning about marketing (or the internet or psychology or something practical).

This criticism didn’t have a lot of weight for me — I just knew seminary had been good for me and I continued to recommend it to any minister who loved learning.

But I realized this morning that the allegation was untrue. Not only have lots of the big-name pastors gone to seminary, I would say that the majority of those that we first think of are seminarians.

  • Andy Stanley — Dallas Theological Seminary
  • Craig Groeschel — Phillips Theological Seminary
  • Rob Bell — Fuller Theological Seminary
  • John Ortberg — Fuller Theological Seminary
  • John Piper — Fuller and the University of Munich (Ph.D.)
  • Tim Keller — Gordon Conwell and Westminster Theological Seminary (Ph.D.)
  • Rick Warren — Fuller Theological Seminary

There are several who haven’t. Bill Hybels hasn’t gone to seminary, for example. I don’t think Ed Young, Jr. has, either. Joel Osteen hasn’t. Mark Driscoll is, I believe, finishing up a seminary degree right now.

But from what I can tell the majority of nationally-known Christian pastors have gone to seminary.

I’m not saying that going to seminary will guarantee you a numerically fruitful ministry — but I can guarantee you that it won’t prevent you from building a numerically fruitful ministry, either. And you’ll be a better person for having gone.

In an age when seminary gets a lot of knocks, I thought that was worth sharing.

5 thoughts on “Successful Seminarians”

  1. Having been to seminary myself I have to say that seminary is not a bad place to go, but one of the problems lies in that churches should be discipling and equipping their body in a manner that seminary doesn’t feel like a huge leap, it should instead, be one of many ministry growth options. I’m in the process of taking a small group of believers through many of the entry level subjects I took in seminary so that they’re theologically grounded. Seminary may just be an option for some of the folks in the group.

  2. Here in Austin, billionaire Michael Dell is well-known for having dropped out of UT after starting his fledgling computer company from his dorm room. That’s a lot like the Bill Hybels story. I spent my freshman year in the same dorm that Dell did. Somehow I doubt I would have ended up better off if I dropped out. We all like to celebrate the Abe Lincoln, “self-educated man” stories. They’re inspiring, but they generally make for lousy models.

  3. For every Michael Dell or Bill Gates, there is a Warren Buffet (Master’s in Econ from columbia). More important, for every Michael Dell, there are a million Earnest Skillmans. Never heard of Earnest? I’m not surprised. He went to my high school and dropped out of college after one semester.

    The same principles apply. Exceptions don’t make the rule. Seminary is a plus.

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