C. Michael Patton over at Parchment and Pen (one of my favorite blogs), recently offered some thoughts on entering ministry. He made a statement that has always seemed like common sense to me, but that I know many people find objectionable:
If possible, go to a secular university for undergrad and an Evangelical seminary for your masters. You need exposure to both.
I’ve long been mystified that as a matter of course we isolate prospective ministers from their culture for 4 years (more if they go to seminary afterwards). Surely there’s a case to be made for taking our prospective young ministers and forcing them to solidify their own faith and also minister to their peers in a secular setting. Let them prove that they can be both faithful and fruitful before they invest time and money in education that is useless outside of ministry.
I’m sure a Bible college is the ideal route for some people, but it seems to me that we should highlight secular schools as a viable option. It’s certainly borne good fruit for the Pentecostal movement and the impact in the larger evangelical world is even more impressive (Tim Keller, anyone?).
I suppose the most common objection is that secular colleges are harmful to faith, but that’s just not true. And even if it was, I don’t think it would matter that much. If someone who is planning to enter ministry can’t handle Intro to Sociology or the campus beerfest, then I really don’t want them preaching the gospel. They’re a time bomb waiting to explode and take others with them.
But someone who can thrive spiritually at a secular university and make a difference for Christ on campus… give that person a robust theological education and then turn them loose in the pulpit!