SEMINARY? How can I justify it?

 

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Autumn comes, and your church starts making announcements regarding the upcoming Small Groups and Bible Studies.  Sign up sheets are at the information desk, emails come from the church with more information about the studies.  You find yourself looking through the menu of possible studies…

Beth Moore’s Daniel Study

Lisa Harper’s study on Malachi.

Dave Ramesy’s Financial Peace class.

Love & Respect for Married Couples.

The MOPS group is doing the “Frazzled Female” study.

A women’s expository study on the book of Acts.

and the list goes on and on.

They are all good studies, and you wish you could make room for them all, but you can only choose one!

For one second, did it ever occur to you that you shouldn’t study the bible, or what the bible has to say on certain topics?

Did you question if you could afford the book?

Did it ever cross your mind as to whether or not it would be worth it?

I mean, really, what would you do with it?

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You may think those are ridiculous thoughts, but I would like to tell you that those questions are the exact ones I heard when sitting in a workshop about women in seminary.

In the New Testament, we had women sitting at the very feet of Jesus to learn from him.

In 2015, we have women questioning… trying to justify… getting formal biblical training.

There were women in the workshop who were trying to grapple with the commitment it would require to get formal biblical education.  Do I have enough time for it?  Can my family spare the time it would take for me to study?

There were women who were trying to justify the cost of seminary, when we live in a time where information is just a few clicks away.  They were wondering if the family could afford, and if they were being good stewards with their money, by investing in seminary.

The number one question asked:  “What would I do with it?”

So, let me get out my soap box for a moment.  And, let’s talk.

Ladies….

You are teachers of God’s word, every time you give scriptural advice to a friend, teach a Sunday School class or lead bible study.

You are messengers of God, when you show up at the homeless shelter, fly into another country to install water filters, or lean into a coworker who is struggling.

You are image bearers of God, charged with being godly women, honorable wives, and shapers of your children.

If all of our thoughts, words and actions should be God centered, revealing God to the world around us…

… how better is it then, that we get to know God’s word in a deeper way?

We should NEVER have to justify digging deeper into the scriptures.

It shouldn’t need to be justified, it should be a PRIORITY.

Can we afford NOT to?

And the good news is this… if God’s calling you to formal biblical training, God is making that more and more possible every day.

You can download a bible app for your phone or device, for FREE.  We have access to commentaries from trusted sources, at our finger tips, a google search away!

We have books that we can borrow from libraries, download into our kindles, and buy off of amazon on every subject from Early Church history to Apologetics for Women In Ministry.

These are all the right steps to take to digging in deeper.

And if God is calling you to formal education, there are affordable options out there.

There are certification programs and degree programs online, which are less expensive than brick and mortal schools.  Christian Leaders Institute offers a certification on a donation based model.   You give what you can afford.

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Christian Leaders Institute, as well as some other online colleges and seminaries offer degree seeking programs.  The cost for these degree programs are a less than traditional schools, and offer you the ability to work at your own pace.  You can take one class at a time, or a full course load.  There are payment plans and scholarships available for seminary education.

For some, there will be the option of attending seminary on a campus.

The point is that there are options out there, for those who are being called. 

I can not believe that God would ever admonish any of his children for investing money, time and energy into formal biblical knowledge.  Too much of the scriptures instructs us to not just listen to The Word, or read The Word, but to CONSUME it.

If you feel God is calling you, pray that He will reveal to you how to go about it.

Even if it begins with you, a couple of friends, and an open bible.

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If there is WILL, there will be PROVISION

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There is a belief that I have always held on to when making big financial decisions, it’s really quite simple:

If it is God’s will, then God will provide.

I truly believe that if God is calling you into a new place, new ministry, or new direction in your life… and that step requires some sort of financial need… God will provide the funds for that need.

I’m not suggesting that it means you can sit around and do nothing, and your bank account will suddenly grow by the amount you need.  However, I do not believe God will call you to action if it means you will acquire debt to do so.

It may be that God is preparing your heart, head and family for the transition or change, but you are not getting the finances because the timing is not NOW.   When the time comes to take those steps, the details will be addressed.

Too often, we try to force these things because we feel the call… and then we assume that it must happen right now.

But when we rush God’s calling, we are shorting the blessing.

God put a calling on my heart quite some time ago, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to unfold.  I knew God was calling me back to school, I needed to be equipped for something.  I wasn’t sure what.  Through a series of affirming events, I found myself enrolled in a certificate program. This worked for my family in so many ways.  I could work at my own pace, they had a payment system that was within our budget, and the certificates were the equivalent of a seminary degree.

I didn’t know at the time what God wanted me to do with this education, but I did know that going back to school was part of the steps to get me there.  As a mom, with young children at home, I had plenty of time to work my way through.  I was not in a rush to get a job.  So, I was just going to do what I could… as I could.

Then just a few classes in, the news broke that the school was in the process of accreditation!  They were going to start a degree program.  I was so excited. However, this was also going to be a bit more expensive.  As I stated before, I wasn’t really in a hurry.  So, I just kept plugging away at my classes.  Each payday I make a payment into my student account, because we agreed that there would be no student loan or credit card debt.  I believed if God was calling me, the money would be provided.

My first dose of reality hit when I had my transcript reviewed.  There were some classes from my old college that they were not going to count toward this degree.  I didn’t quite understand why, and I made a request to have the transcript looked over again.  I provided a bit more information on the classes, explaining why I thought they fit the degree requirements.

After a few days, I got a wonderful email that they agreed!  They credited me for the classes I questioned, and I was just thrilled.  I sat down with my course schedule to see the impact that would make on my degree plan.  Sure enough, I would be finished in ONE YEAR.  Super exciting, but I wondered…. how are we going to get the rest of the money in this short of a time?  When I didn’t have those classes credited… the end was far enough out, I wasn’t worried.  This changed everything.

But, I still held true to the belief that if this was indeed God’s calling, then the money would come.

And it did.

Within just two weeks, I was given a job opportunity that would take a few weeks of my time….but would pay for my school balance in full.  This was nothing I had done myself, but God doing exactly what He does best….

Being faithful to those He calls.

Equipping those He calls.

Providing for those He calls.

A Semester Ends… and Summer is Calling

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I know that I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating for any new readers, I am currently back in school working on my Bachelors in Divinity Degree with Christian Leaders Institute.    This is a fairly new program for them, previously the school awarded certificates and included an ordination program.  However, last year, the school began it’s accreditation process.  This resulted in the addition of a Bachelors in Divinity Degree program!  And since, they have begun partnering with some great theological seminary schools for continued education into their masters programs.

It blows my mind how different my life is from where I expected when I graduated high school.   I went to college for a Bachelors in Arts degree, in Theatre Arts specifically.  Talk about a shift!  And, while I still long for the stage (on it or behind the scenes)… in many ways I don’t miss it.   I think over the years I have become very disenfranchised with what we see on stage & screen.  Even when I was in the thick of it, I can recall not understanding the need for gratuitous violence or sex.  I’d watch an action movie and wonder WHY this film needed a sex scene?  If it didn’t add value to the story, if it didn’t serve a purpose… then WHY?  I would also question how much they would show, perfectly content with the two lovers closing a bedroom door.  I knew what was happening behind those doors, I didn’t need too see it or hear it.

I think for a time, I wanted to be that change.  I could be a Christian and work in this industry.  I would just have standards.  There would be movies I wouldn’t do, scenes I wouldn’t do.  Easy peasy.  Not really, not anymore.  The industry has changed so very much, and there are so many actors and actresses willing to do ANYTHING in order to land the job…. a woman with convictions & standards doesn’t have a chance.  Right?  In fact, quite often, what we see now is a person who was willing to bend the rules in the beginning to get established.  Once they become a power house that gets the ticket sales, THEN they establish their new standards.  Everyone admires them for it too.  But they paid a price to afford them those convictions.

Then I looked at Christian movies and videos, available at the time.  I thought for sure that HERE would be the place that I could make a difference.  The story lines, scripts, acting and filmography were quite often cheesy.  But, let’s face it… they were working with a smaller talent pool, definitely smaller budgets, and time frame.  If we could just begin to infuse these movies with better actors, better budget, better everything…. we could WIN.  Those changes began to take place.

Yet, I find myself really disappointed still.  We didn’t make it beyond the first 10 minutes of Left Behind, with Nicholas Cage.  I had HIGH expectations for this movie.  Noah, well… Noah had rock monsters.  Fireproof and Courageous were ok, but like a Lifetime Movie type of ok.  (Yes, I know I am being HIGHLY critical here).  In fact, to be totally honest, the BEST Christian movie of all time in my opinion was The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson.  Let me explain why.

In your earliest acting classes, you are taught two very important things.  1) Acting is the art of lying.  In other words, you are responsible for creating a character totally outside of yourself that is also totally believable.  Every word out of your mouth is not true for you, but you have to sell it as truth for your character.   2)  Acting is the art of suspending belief.  I know, that sort of sounds the same as the first, but it’s a bit different.  Because this one is about the effect on the audience of the entire production.  It means that the writing, set, performance is SO GOOD… that the audience is totally invested.  You are transported out of your movie theater style seats and you are immersed in what you are watching.   Suddenly singing in the middle of a battle field doesn’t seem out of place.  Dragons are not only real, but you have an emotional connection (love/hate) to them.   You grieve this person who has died.  You are rooting for the underdog.  In today’s industry it also means buying the CGI that allows things that defy laws of gravity, or are seemingly impossible.

The Passion of the Christ, is the FIRST and ONLY Christian film that has (again in my opinion) pulled of those 2 important things.  It was also a film, unlike any other in the Christian catalog, to illicit a response in me beyond the theater walls.  Who hasn’t walked out of a movie theater or play, and discussed it over dessert or the course of the next few days.  The Passion of the Christ, broke me because my belief was suspended.  I was transported into that moment, watching my Savior being beaten, mocked and crucified.  It was real.  It left a visual imprint.  I still talk about it to this day.  It created the standard to which I weigh all Christian productions against.

This should be the goal.

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So, as I draw to a close of this semester of school…. in a completely different area of study… I can’t help but wonder about our churches.  Churches today have access to greater resources than ever before, the pews and seats are filled and filling, and many “pastors” put on a great show.  But why?  What is the purpose?  What is the goal?

I am growing more, and more, concerned about the response of the church body as they walk out of the doors Sunday afternoon.  Did they get their fill up for the week?  Or did it inspire them to dig deeper, did it leave an imprint, did it make the person want to learn more?  Is this part of their process of change?

Are we failing our body, when we spoon feed them everything they need to know, without inspiring them to read more on their own?  There is nothing greater, to me, then when I arrive home from church on Sunday… and I crack open my bible.  I want to see more, I want to learn more about what the Pastor was talking about.  I have been known to email our Pastor, or my mentor, a question here and there about the message.  I’ve looked at commentaries.  I have gone on to share it with others, because it was so profound.  Always hoping they too will be encouraged to dig in and read it for themselves.

Is this not the standard we should be striving toward, as Pastors,  Bible Study Teachers, Small Group Leaders, Writers, Speakers, etc?  We don’t want to hand them a plate full of food, and call it a day.  We want them to return for seconds, thirds, and more.  We don’t want to satisfy their hunger for the word, we want to show them how starved they are!

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It was during a video lecture, from one of my classes, Dr. John De Vries mentioned the idea of having a Small Group that actually meets to discuss the sermon message.  INSPIRED!   Seriously, I thought to myself… wow, that is a great idea!  And yet, it seems so obvious and simple.

This teacher, did exactly what I was talking about… his words in the lesson, called me to go a step further.  The semester is over, summer is calling and I know exactly what I want to do with it.  This is my summer small group!  The great part about this?  It is going to create a ripple effect, in our church.   Dr De Vries started the ripple by inspiring me to do the small group.  This small group is going to create 1) accountability to attend services each week and 2) encouragement to dig deeper into the message and word.  And, I pray that God will bless this small group by rippling out further as we talk about it in our homes, with our friends and even begin to invite people to join.

If you are a student, or a parent of a student… this term is coming to an end.  Summer is calling.  God is calling.

Looking for a Cause to Support?

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A very good friend of mine introduced me to the Christian Leaders Institute.  This program is an online, distance learning school that will help equip ministry leaders around the world.  They have a goal of training up 100,000 Christian Leaders by 2020, and by golly they just might do it!  The great thing about this school is that it is a donation based model for tuition.

Students end up a CLI because 1) they can’t afford to go to seminary    2) there is no seminary training in the country   or   3) they can not move their lives to attend seminary due to job or family.

Some students give generously, they can afford school but can’t make the move.  Some students give what they can, they want the education & pay into it an amount that they can afford without taking on debt or money out of their living budget.  And, some students, are unable to give due to their situation.

We know that Christ equipped those he called.  Many would drop everything to follow him.  Others would use their resources to support the ministry.  I can’t imagine Christ would have turned away anyone who wanted to listen, because they couldn’t give.  Can you?  Well, neither can CLI.

So, why am I promoting CLI on here?

1) I am a student, myself.  CLI fits well into my life because I can work around my schedule – I have family, community and church body commitments that I can’t walk away from.

2) I know that there are readers, who just like me, feel the call to ministry training… but due to their current situation in life … they feel that is isn’t obtainable.  CLI makes it obtainable.  Maybe that person is you, or perhaps you know someone who feels called but doesn’t have the means.  I hope you would share this resource with them, bringing them into the fold of the student body and one of the 100,000 by 2020.

3) I know that there are readers who either have the means to support CLI’s goal … or know someone who does.  It would be my hope that you would share this information with your resources and help fund this amazing opportunity for ministry training and building up leaders around the world.

CLI offers certificates that can take you deeper into biblical knowledge, or if you follow their program to the very end… you will end up with a Diploma in Divinity which is equivalent to a seminary degree.  The professors are vetted, qualified to teach and have received official seminary training themselves.

If you feel called to make  donation to CLI, click the link below.    You can donate as little as $15, and help equip leaders around the world (or even in your own backyard) share the life changing power of Jesus Christ.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE!