I saw this link a while back on Al Mohler’s Twitter feed and found it helpful. It’s from the Southern Baptist Texan and written by Tammi Ledbetter. The article, entitled “Patterson: Preparation for Ministry Requires Sacrifice,” includes the following helpful commentary from Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson:
“Pastoral ministry, evangelism, missions, counseling and music are all, by the nature of the disciplines, incarnational, not mechanical,” Patterson added. To think otherwise is as ludicrous as believing the Navy SEALS who took down Osama bin Laden had received all of their training online, he observed.
“There’s never going to be a day when we train special ops or the common soldier without taking him to a base, out of his comfort zone, and instilling certain disciplines that can never be instilled online.”
There is much that one could write about this subject. Many of us are thankful for the way that online education allows people who would not otherwise be able to study from faithful teachers to do so. But I think that Patterson has an important point here. I like his linkage of ministry training to Navy SEAL preparation. If we take military training so seriously that we require future SEALs to effectively give up their former lives to qualify as elite soldiers to serve their country, why would we take spiritual training in service of our Savior less seriously?
We should in fact take it more seriously. There is nothing that more bears upon the health of the church of Jesus Christ than the preparation of its ministers. The seminary is far more important than we might think. The instruction that one receives from real, live professors who model what they teach, meet students outside of class for discipleship, and generally exude a Christlike spirit cannot be calculated in value. It costs us, yes, to enter into such a course of study, but isn’t that the point? What are we doing in ministry but taking up our cross to follow Christ–in order that others might do the same?
Should such an act be light, weightless, easy, convenient? One might argue that it should not. We are not gluttons for unnecessary punishment, but the minister of the cross should be more than willing to bear hard burdens in order to steward heavenly realities.
The seminary fills a vital role; the costs it requires are vital costs.