Does having more credibility make it worth the *time* it takes to earn a degree in Theology, despite that *time* is so short according to prophecy?
This is a really great question, and I think it depends on what the Lord is telling you to do. When I was at the end of my Bible college years, God challenged me to go to the seminary and I didn’t want to because I wanted to get out there and preach the gospel.
I felt that my Bible college education had prepared me to pastor a church and preach the word. So I thought I was equipped well enough to get out there and get started. I also felt that spending two or three more years in education wasn’t as important as getting into the field.
But at the same time, I’ve always liked to be in class and part of an education system. I’ve always been a student of the Word and enjoyed learning tremendously. So seminary would fit. I decided that I would make a deal with God.
I was in my senior year in my last semester, so I decided to go to the seminary and take one course to see if I really did like it and if I really thought it would add something to my ability to be the best pastor I could possibly be.
By the way, never make a deal with God. You will probably end up doing what he wanted you to do or told you to do in the first place. So I went to that one class, New Testament Theology, for one semester.
We didn’t actually have a New Testament theology course at my Bible college. We only had systematic theology courses. So I wondered how this would help me make a decision. I walked into class the first day and this professor walked in, sat down, and told us we were going to read through the New Testament this semester and get an idea of how each Bible writer was telling us something different about God, Jesus, and other themes in the New Testament.
It was my first biblical theology type courts. He said we could use whatever translation we like of the Bible as we did the class. He opened up and began reading from Matthew, the very first verse. It was only a few minutes into his reading that one of the students raised their hand.
This student asked the professor, “Professor, what Bible version are you using?” To which he responded, “I’m using the Benny Aker translation,” and held up a Greek New Testament. The professor was sight reading from the original language of the New Testament!
At the time, I had three years of Greek under my belt in my undergrad and my jaw dropped. You have no idea how many years of experience it takes to be able to sight read from the Greek text. And so flawlessly!
And that was the beginning of one of the most fruitful three years of my life. How my education helped me, spending that extra time, is that it’s super prepared me for ministry. My undergrad gave me all of the nuts and bolts, my seminary experience took the nuts and bolts and arranged them into a finely tuned machine.
So for me, I found out that when God speaks to me and tells me what to do, I don’t even need to argue. I ended up in the seminary for about two and a half years and got my three year Masters of Divinity. It has helped me to be a deeper teacher and a stronger preacher.
But as I said in the beginning, the quest for higher education in Christianity really depends on each person. It’s not a decision anyone but the Lord can make for you. I have found my seminary experience to add to a boundless thirst for knowledge of God’s Word.
Bible college gave me all of the tools and understanding that I didn’t have growing up in the church. It’s not that I didn’t learn in church, or know what I was doing or how to study the Bible. The Bible college helped me to understand what I was doing and to give it a name and a process.
When I got to seminary, it put all the building blocks in the right place so that I would be most effective in my ministry as a pastor and teacher. In my personal experience, many of the people that came out of my Bible college were either very challenged in ministry, some of them left the ministry, and others are doing great today.
That can happen anywhere and in any Bible college/seminary. I found higher education very helpful in my case. Because I enjoy education, it was one of the ways that I could even better prepare to minister for the Lord.
One other thing I would like to touch on from your question. I didn’t go to seminary or even Bible college with the purpose of gaining credibility. I believe that is a byproduct of getting any kind of education in Christian service.
My goal in going to Bible college, and later seminary, was to be as fully prepared and effective in ministry as I could possibly be. I saw education as a way of helping me to become better at ministering for the Lord.
Consider that you want to go to higher education as a spiritual discipline, a desire to be more effective in ministry. Credibility also comes with it, but it should not be your only focus.
So all I can do is tell you about my experience and tell you that deciding on your education level is as personal to you and the Lord as everything else in your life. I know higher education rarely hurts a person or a person’s ministry. This is my experience.
The very best advice I can give you is to pray, seek the Lord, and see if it fits with your personality and aptitude. Don’t be afraid of higher education. If that is what God is telling you to do, do it. But if you are prepared to be a minister of Christ, perhaps higher education will present itself to you later on in life as well.