What Good Is Seminary?

What good is seminary?

As a devout Christian, after graduating with my Master’s Degree in Christian Studies from a theological seminary (and by the grace of God with a 4.0 GPA), I feel I am adequately equipped to answer this question.

Some believe that seminary is where to go if one wants to become a “professional Christian”. They believe that to go to the next level of belief and faith in God, that one should go to theological seminary or to bible college. They believe that one cannot know all there is to know about God, the church, and the Holy Bible without going to seminary.

The university from which I matriculated had four levels of seminary. There was an Associates, Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate program. Some might feel that until one attains the highest level of seminary that one is not a good enough, or well-equipped for ministry Christian. I will tell my opinion about that towards the end of this blog post after I tell a few benefits that come from attending seminary.

For starters, if you hope to be a bible teacher one day, it helps to be taught by others who have spent a lifetime of studying the Bible. Some people spend their entire adult life studying the Old Testament or the New Testament or even just one book of the Bible. Therefore, if you want to teach others about the Bible at your church, it would prove beneficial to be taught by this particular person.

Some people feel as if Bible study is unnecessary. They feel that the Holy Spirit Himself can teach them all they need to know about the Bible. That is true. The Holy Spirit can teach you whatever God wants you to know. But the reality is that because of our strong traditions that come from our church or denomination or family, we will always FILTER God’s truth through mankind’s teaching. And much of that teaching might be faulty. It is hard to drink purified water through a dirty glass. Sometimes, seminary can clean the glass so that you can rightfully receive what God is telling you about the Bible.

For example, many Christian partake of the Daniel Diet. This is the diet that we read about in the book of Daniel wherein Daniel only ate particular foods and did not eat the Babylonian food that was offered to him. Today, for ten days many Christians will refrain from eating meat and sweets as a way to get closer to God. BUT seminary can teach you that many of the foods we eat in America were not even around in Babylon, so if we were hoping to eat just like Daniel, then would not be doing exactly as he did. Also, Daniel’s purpose for eating those particular foods was not to get closer to God, but rather it was to avoid eating the unclean food being offered to him by the Babylonians. The Israelites only ate Kosher clean food, and because Daniel was a Hebrew, he could not in good conscience eat their food. And Daniel did not only eat the right food for 10 days as we do, but he ate that way his entire life. But because we are not Hebrews in Babylonian exile, we should not feel bad that we cannot do the Daniel Diet as Daniel did because we should only be trying to grasp the principle of the matter which is to hold fast to one’s convictions even under dire circumstances. These are things one might only learn in seminary. Do you see how your information determines your actions?

Another important function of seminary is when one is confronted with false doctrine. My seminary professor of Church History 1 taught us many of the false doctrines/heresies that were condemned in Councils by the Orthodox church in the first few centuries of church history. So when a friend invites me to their church or tries to convince me to believe in some false doctrine, I can automatically dismiss it because I know it as being closely related to a condemned teaching that has returned in the last one hundred years or so to deceive others. Theological seminary can be helpful in recognizing and rejecting false teaching.

I have also found theological seminary to be very helpful in me worshipping God in TRUTH. Believe it or not, but your theology will affect your praise and worship. For example, if you think of God as some cosmic Joe Jackson who is scrutinizing your performance waiting with a celestial whip with which to cast you into hell at the slightest mistake you make, it will greatly impact your relationship with Him. If you think of God as the deists who believe that God simply created all humanity and then left it alone to its own devices without any interference, then it will greatly impact your prayer life. But if you know God’s true character which is a Heavenly Father who loves you unconditionally and who chastises those whom He loves as sons, then you will have a better relationship with Him and therefore worship Him in truth. Seminary has theology classes that teach you accurately about God and His nature.

One last thing I’ll mention about the importance of seminary is that it tells you not simply WHAT the Bible says but HOW to read the Bible. We know that many a cult is begun by one charismatic leader telling an ignorant congregation EXACTLY what to think and believe. But this is uncommon in seminary. I attended a seminary that had students and teachers of different denominational backgrounds, and we were not always told WHAT to believe, but we were told HOW to read the Bible. The problem with the 33,000 – 38,000 Christian denominations is that most of them attempt to tell their members WHAT to believe. And doubtless they are being told what to believe by one imperfect human being. So whatever that one imperfect person teaches them is now believed by them and taught to their children. If the originator of the teaching was wrong, then everyone who believes everything he says is wrong too. And that is how cults get started. For example, one might teach their congregation that women must wear stockings and closed-toe shoes. Even though this is not in the Bible, it will be passed down to all generations as the truth. However, it is not true, but merely tradition and preference. Seminary will help one to see whether or not a tradition is actually and accurately based on a Bible verse or principle.

The Bible tells us to RIGHTLY divide the word of truth. It does not tell us to blindly swallow whatever we are told. And seminary has taught me that. I have learned to prayerfully read the Scriptures with illumination from the Holy Spirit; I have long ago ceased to accept everything I am told even though I know the Bible says the opposite or otherwise. Seminary has not made me a better Christian or a more godly person, but it has cleared my mind of the traditions of men that are not rooted in the Bible so that I might be more clearly influenced by the truth of God. If nothing else, seminary can serve as type of detox for tradition clutter.

What Joseph Can Teach Us About Godly Leadership

thIt has been said that everyone is a leader. Whether they lead well or lead poorly, everyone is a leader whether they admit it or not – whether they are consenting or not. Joseph was no exception. As the baby boy of large family, he was what we might consider “spoiled”. He was favored by his earthly father, but little did he know, he was also favored by his heavenly Father. His earthly father favored him with a coat of many colors, but his heavenly Father favored him with VISION. God blessed Joseph with a positive view of the future that unbeknownst to Joseph was full of purpose. This is how it is with all godly leaders. They are given a vision of the future that shows the future as looking better than it looks like now. If Joseph’s family was already bowing to him before the dream, he would have no need for a vision of it in the future.

In Genesis 37:4, we see that but favor brings hatred. Leaders much accept that being favored by God to carry out something in the world will bring hatred from someone. However, we must keep our eyes on the future and not let the meantime discourage us. When God gives us a vision of the end, He does not inform us about the in-between time. He does not typically give leaders a vision of the journey when He gives leaders a vision of destination. I believe that there is a good reason for this. I believe that if God were to show all leaders a glimpse of the hardships they would face along the way to their actualized vision then most people would be afraid to get out of bed in the morning. If God had shown Joseph the family betrayal, the enslavement, and the wrongful imprisonment, he might have disposed of the variegated coat and the vision!

Another important thing I glean from Joseph’s story of leadership is that his vision was bigger than him and his family. He thought he would simply see the day when his brothers and parents bowed down to him. He more than likely did not see his family doing this begrudgingly. He more than likely did not see this happening in Egypt. He more than likely did not see himself having to wait for over a decade to see this happening. And that is how it goes with many godly visions. As a leader, you will not always see HOW it will happen. And even when you have an idea of how it will happen, it will more than likely STILL not happen that way.

In Genesis 37:5, we see that one of the hardships one might face before they see the actualization of their vision is being misunderstood by those closest to you. Upon telling a family member, a close friend, or a church member the vision God has shown you, you expect them to be happy with you. You expect them to support you. However, perhaps because of jealousy of your purpose in God, they might reject you in order to reject your dream. However, a leader will not give up on the dream just to keep close connections. A godly leader will keep believing in the divine dream coming to pass.

In Genesis 37:8, Joseph’s brothers tried to make him second guess the validity of his dream by questioning his dream. Little did they know, this was not a dream or vision that Joseph concocted for himself out of self-centeredness. It was a divine dream supernaturally downloaded to him by God. As a leader, some people will resent you instead of the God who gave you the vision. They think the dream is about you, but it’s bigger than you and actually includes a huge blessing for them. Nevertheless, do like Joseph and communicate your vision. Whether people like what you are telling them or not, they will still be instrumental in bringing your vision to pass!

In Genesis 37:10, perhaps Joseph’s father was upset with Joseph because he felt that he was the one with the calling from God. He did not have enough foresight to see that God was still bringing to pass the vision He gave to Israel (Jacob) through a vision He gave to Joseph! Leaders have to accept the fact that the people they are leading will not understand that when they support your divine vision that they are supporting their own divine vision. Leaders are to be servants, not self-serving. If people see their leaders as self-serving, they will likely resent them and make them feel guilty about being purposed. After the way that Israel responded to Joseph’s dream, Joseph might have felt some false guilt about knowing that his parents would be bowing down to him.

In Genesis 37:11, the bible says that the vision haters still did not forget the dreamer’s dream. The people a leader communicates his or her dream to may claim not to like, support, or believe it, but they’ll not forget it because they play a part in it!

In Genesis 37:18-20, we see that lack of support can eventually lead to attempts of sabotage. Something that leaders must accept is that some of the people who are to bring the dream to pass with you will conspire to undermine the dream. If a pastor is trying to do something different with his church based on a vision God gave him, there might be a faction on the deacon board that subverts his attempts. If a wife is trying to fulfill a vision to go back to school to get a degree to help others after her kids have gone off to college, her insecure husband might try to sabotage her by making her feel like a bad wife. However, leaders must be “guardians of the vision” regardless of who the vision upsets. This vision is not about the wants of you and your loved ones, but it’s about bringing to pass God’s purposes. Each vision a leader has just plays a small role in God’s great picture and kingdom story. Followers should not resent any vision that would bring God’s purposes to pass. To attempt to overthrow any of God’s visions to man is an attempt to overthrow God’s purposes. Any attempt to resist God would be dangerous and done in vain.

Genesis 37:4 – Favor = Hated

5 – Had a divine vision that he communicated that caused others beneath him or without the dream to hate him and resent the vision

8 – Others will question the vision and try to cause you to second guess it. Once again, those who are not the leader will hate you the more for your vision and your break down of it

10 – Others who think they have a bigger purpose than you will also cause you to second guess the dream and to feel false guilt about it

11 – The haters will never forget your dream even though they claim not to believe in it!

18-20 – The haters will try to kill the vision by killing you! All they see when they see you is someone with divine vision who makes them upset because they have none. (Why are the mad at you and not at the God who chose you without your permission?)

When trying to sell you dream to doubters, it is important to have a person of influence to persuade others to support your dream. However, in Joseph’s case, we see that in Genesis 37:21-22, he just needed one person of influence to dissuade others from killing him (and as a result of that from killing his vision). Even though Big Brother Reuben did not support the dream, he supported Joseph. It has been said that you must buy into the leader before you buy into their vision. Reuben loved his baby brother and so he would not let him die regardless of his vision.

Leaders need people to help sell their dream. Even Jesus used the woman at the well to publicize Him. Leaders need not think that they can pull people in on their own merit. Just because a leader has vision does not mean that he has influence. Joseph had no influence when it came to his vision. However, Reuben as the first-born, had the most influence and respect of all the brothers. He was a God-send that was used to preserve Joseph’s life in the hand of his haters.

One reason people try to undermine leaders is because that vision’s leader may make them feel insecure or inferior. Seeing God use someone who is weaker or younger than you may cause you to resent your life. Leaders must not fuel those fears by flaunting their perceived “superiority” or their favor in the eyes of those they serve. I find it distasteful for a pastor of a very poor congregation to flaunt new suits and expensive vehicles. Perhaps Joseph’s brothers disliked how he pranced around in his multi-colored coat which served as a constant reminder that he was more loved by their father. (In verse 23, it is interesting that before his brothers threw him into the pit, they made sure to tear away his coat as if they could not stand to have him wearing it even if he were to die.)

However, we must not forget God’s sovereignty. Joseph HAD to go to Egypt to fulfill God’s vision. So whether or not he was favored by Israel, whether or not he had a pretty coat, whether or not he had such a dream, God’s sovereignty would have made sure he made it to Egypt. Sure God could have gotten Joseph there a less painful way, but this is the way God chose to do it. Genesis 37:25-28 shows that God, in His omniscience and sovereignty, moves traffic and hearts just in time to keep you on schedule to fulfill the vision. Nothing and no one can disrupt the plans of God. Leaders must not become bitter when their haters are used according to God’s sovereignty. They were just instruments. Leaders must not become arrogant when they are used according to God’s sovereignty. They too are just instruments.

21-22 – But God will raise up someone that will prevent your demise – thus the dream’s demise (thus their insecurity’s and inferiority’s demise). Someone will inadvertently support you (and thus your dream). You need people of influence to add credibility to your vision. Big brother Reuben saved his life (and the vision)!

23 – Your haters will pull off other unrelated things that made them jealous of you. Ex. They’ll try to get you fired and take your man!

25-28 – God will persuade your haters to do acts that move you in position to fulfill the vision!

Leaders must always remember that it is God who gave you the vision and favor to bring about His purposes. There are not exactly YOUR visions, but they are God’s visions. Because they are God’s visions, He will bless those who are carrying out His visions. We see in Genesis 39:2-5 and 23 that God is WITH the one with a vision. Philippians 1:6 lets us know that when God begins a good work or vision in a leader that He will bring it to completion. Favor and good success will follow God’s leaders who live lives to fulfill divine visions.

Something that is very important for leaders to remember is that they are to have a moral code by which they will govern their lives on their way to fulfilling their purpose. We see in Genesis 39:7-12, Joseph did not take advantage of a temptation to have sex with a married woman. Even though it cost him three years in jail, I am sure he did not regret turning her down. He was so ethical and grateful for his blessings that he could not fathom betraying those who blessed him. Sometimes leaders who lead righteous lives will suffer wrongfully for it. Godly leaders must resist the temptations that will doubtless come their way. Leaders are attractive to others because they have things that most people do not have. Many women go for a man with power, influence, position, authority, anointing, etc. They also may have more money with which to make poor decisions. A pastor has more opportunities to travel around the country without his wife which leads to more temptation for adultery. A pastor has more access to other people’s money which leads to more temptation for stealing. But leaders must NEVER give in to temptations which are simply Satan’s way to prevent God’s purposes from coming to pass. Don’t help the devil hurt God, leaders!

Leaders must decide early which principles will govern their life. Joseph’s principle was loyalty and gratitude. He was so loyal to God and Potiphar and he was so grateful for his blessings that he refused to sleep with this married woman. As a side note, it is important for leaders not to find themselves in situations where their “good can be evil spoken of”. Leaders should use wisdom and refrain from being alone with people other than family members so that lies will be unfounded. Because Joseph allowed himself to be alone with this woman, she had access to his clothes that she later used to get him into trouble. (Notice a theme with people taking Joseph’s clothes to undermine him?)

Chapter 40 of Genesis shows us that Joseph’s gift of prophetic dreams and interpretation of prophetic dreams was not just to be put on reserve for the destination. Joseph was also to use his gifts along the journey to assist. While imprisoned for righteousness sake, Joseph used his gift to bless two people, a baker and a cupbearer. This was pivotal to Joseph’s own dream being actualized.

Leaders must not be “grand” when they see they have a vision and purpose. Some leaders feel that once they are called that they are too above the little person. They may feel that if God has called them to be a megapastor that they are too big to accept small church invitations to speak. However, godly leaders must serve others regardless of how irrelevant they may seem to their bigger vision. Because Joseph was kind enough to serve (interpret) for these two men, one was able to bless him in turn in the future when the time was right. Leaders should never underestimate the small tasks they do. They all serve a purpose in the great scheme of things. You never know which of the acts that you chose to do will reap a greater harvest in the future. It’s not your job to determine who is irrelevant to your purpose. It is your job to serve others your gift and leave the rest up to God.

Chapter 41 of Genesis should comfort all misunderstood leaders. Someday, your vision and dreams will be understood and believed. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a great dream that has definitely come to pass. The actualization of your divine dream will be apparent to all the doubters. The dream will happen just the way God said it would in God’s timing. We see in Genesis 42:6 that God will not only move traffic and hearts but also climate and clouds to bring about His purposes.

Chapter 44 and 45 shows that Joseph still kept his morality in the face of those who doubted his dream and who tried to bring about his demise. God gave him understanding after so many years of uncertainty that his vision had come to pass. It’s hard to stay bitter when God makes everything better. Leaders should have a trust in God and a spiritual maturity that causes them to act Christ-like even when being mistreated for no good reason. Leaders should trust that haters are part of the process when someone is called of God. Leaders should understand that it is very difficult from secular-minded persons to understand a God-given dream. Joseph was able to see that this dream was not about him but about God and His purposes. Joseph was able to see his haters are divine assignments he was to bless and preserve. All things work together for the good of them who love God and are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Leaders must trust God’s sovereignty.

Genesis 45 has Joseph explain the vision more clearly to his brothers. Joseph realizes that God had a plan to preserve a remnant of people of Jacob so that they would not perish from hunger in the famine. Joseph said God “sent me before you to preserve life”. Joseph saw the bigger picture. A leader should be able to see the bigger picture and be able to explain this vision to his followers. It is difficult for followers to follow people to a place about which they have no idea. Godly leaders don’t try to make their followers feel bad for not understanding the dream. Joseph told them not to be distressed or angry with themselves for the poor choices they made concerning him. He was too busy being purposeful to be petty.

In Genesis 46:2 God explains to Israel that all along, He was trying to make a great nation out of Israel and his descendants. Israel might have been envious at first of Joseph’s dream, but he can now see that it was actually a way to advance him! Sometimes the people you lead can’t see that your dream is actually going to support their dream! When people get mad at their visionary pastor for raising yet more money for a larger church building, they may not be able to see that in that larger building, there will be a room set aside for them to begin their ministry. To subvert other anointed persons is to sabotage themselves! In Genesis 47:11, Joseph was able to give them the best land in Egypt. In Genesis 47:27, we see that Joseph’s family was greatly blessed because of him.

Lastly, we see that in Genesis 47:31 just as in Genesis 43:26 that the dream will come to pass after all. After all the betrayal. After all the tears. After all the heartache. After all the temptations. After all the lies. After all the jail time. After all the drought. After all the famine. The dream that God gives a leader will come to pass because God will see to it that it does!

Genesis 39:2-5, 23 – God is with the one with a vision

7-12 – Have values that will guide how you will live on your way to your destiny. There will be secular temptations trying to get you off track, but never give in!

Genesis 40 – Your vision is not just for the destiny, but it can also be used for the journey. You can help others along the way. And what you do for the small guys along the way will later result in you having open doors for the destination,

Genesis 41 – Your vision will be apparent before all – believers or otherwise.

Genesis 42:6 – God will move land and sea to make HIS vision come true through you. People will make your vision come true without even knowing!

Genesis 44 – A leader will bless the people He is intended to bless and lead even if they betray Him. He sees them as a divine assignment and he sees their betrayal as working together for the good of God’s vision.

Genesis 45 – A godly leader with vision does not resent those resent him and his godly vision. Rather he sees all thing working together for God’s purpose. Joseph saw the betrayal (and residual hurt) as necessary to sustain the Israel (Jacob) and all of his descendants. The betrayal led to 8

Genesis 46:2 & 47:11&27 – The folk who hated on your dream will eventually realize that it will bless them too!

Genesis 47:31 – They will all bow just as the vision said.

Why Did God Trust YOU with This Horrible Experience?

Ever wonder to yourself why God trusted you with a bad experience? Cancer, loss of a child, etc.?

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Image As a child, I remember watching” Alive” with my family. This movie is based on a 70’s plane crash survivor story known as “Miracle in the Andes”. Being so young, the only things that stuck out to me were the mountains, the cold temperatures, the plane crash, and the cannibalism the survivors had to do to survive for weeks without food. But there was so much more to the story.

I just finished watching the movie some days ago as a 27 year old, spirit-filled adult. And the movie was so much richer than I’m sure even the director intended. God blessed me to open my eyes to the wonderful insights and rich revelations one could glean from that movie.

The movie starts out with a man sucking on a cigarette saying that he was given a glimpse to another aspect of God. For the longest, he was introduced to…

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A High Failure Rate for the Time-Honored Altar Call?

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altarcall_grumpy

If you’ve been raised in the American church any length of time, you’ve heard of or experienced the traditional and time-honored “Altar Call”. This is a call that is administered typically at the close of a church service after the sermon and before the offering. This call is a petition – a beckoning if you would – of the lost souls in the church to come down the aisle and to stand at the altar to do business with God.

In the church settings in which I was raised, one would seldom do just one altar call in their life. If you were like me, my cousins, and my  sisters when we were young, we went to the altar to get saved just about every few weeks. Guess it was like a bad perm – it didn’t take the first time. But yet in spite of the fact that it…

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Impure & Defiled Religion – Spiritual Abuse

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James 1:26-27 – “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

What kind of religion should any and every Christian want? More than likely it should be a religion that God the Father in heaven sees as pure and undefiled. These two adjectives seem imply that there can in fact be impure and defiled religion in God’s eyes. Thank God that James informs us what the pure and undefiled religion is. For one, he simply says that is a religion that shows itself through visibly love and concern for orphans and widows when they are afflicted. We have to imagine the plight of young children in the Bible days…

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