Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To School, or not to School... that is the Question...

Well, I am pretty sure I figured out who “anonymous” is that keeps commenting on my blog. Or at least, ONE of the anonymous people that keeps commenting on my blog. There is one person that freaks me out a little, but I don't think he/she visits anymore. So, to the person who this blog post is written for, I only have one thing to say to you - I wish we were still friends. 

If you read below on my blog, I made a bold statement about how I think that grad school is a good thing, and I recommend going, if you are able too. Long ago I have decided that I will not publish comments that are left anonymous (stand up for what you believe in…), but I want to address what this anonymous commenter had written,  so I will quote what he/she had said to me:

“Do you realize that studying the bible and all the numerous books you will be reading can be done on your own? I know many men with great knowledge of the bible and awesome ministries that never went to grad school. Good for you that you are doing this, but shame on you for thinking that everyone in ministry should. After all, God used a bunch of undereducated men to start His church! Lets keep education in perspective and remember that GOD is the authority, not man’s attempt at knowledge.”

With all of this said, I am going to focus on 5 things:

1 – A+B, doesn’t have to equal C. College + Degrees doesn’t equal an “awesome ministry”. I never said that.

2 – Numerous book reading can be done on your own, but most of the time, that just never happens. And numerous book reading, does not equal a college education.

3 – Lets talk about the difference of an undergraduate education, and a seminary education.

4 – God TOTALLY used educated men.

5 – God IS indeed the authority… but maybe the problem with today’s church is that people are not striving for knowledge at all – they leave it all in the pastor’s hand to teach them. Pastor’s really need to start teaching teaching teaching their congregations. And in that case, an “attempt at knowledge”, is really important.

Disclaimer: I know that this conversation can get heated. I reeeally don't want to offend anyone with this post. Honestly, what I want to do, is encourage people to further their education. The majority of my family doesn't have degrees, and a lot of my friends don't either, and I don't think less of them at all. In fact, I have some REALLY brilliant friends who never went to college. School is not for everyone, but I think it's a really good thing. And I really think that it's extra important for Pastors to have some kind of education. 

1 – A+B, doesn’t have to equal C. College + Degrees doesn’t equal an “awesome ministry”. I never said that.

>>>I am sure there are plenty of pastors with no college education, and "awesome ministries". But, I think we need to define the word "awesome" a bit more carefully, and I will address this point more within #5. 

2 – Numerous book reading can be done on your own, but most of the time, that just never happens. And numerous book reading, does not equal a college education.

>>>One of my old pastors, Frank Sanchez, is a rare gem. Frank is a perfect example of a person who is just plain well educated. Frank does not have any accredited degrees. Frank is completely committed to studying God’s word, and the scholars who have gone before him. Frank loses sleep at night after his family is asleep, because he is up listening to lectures, and reading. Frank’s bookshelves are filled with books that have actually been read. Frank is probably one of the most gifted Pastors I have ever met, and every ministry he touches, is awesome. So it’s a total bummer that Frank is limited in certain things that he does because his degrees aren’t recognized by the "recognizing important people", because I fully believe he has the abilities to obtain jobs and position that are aligned with the M.Div. qualification.

But like I said, Frank is a RARE gem. I don’t know anyone else like him. Unfortunately, there are numerous pastors who have not been well educated, and are not committed in keeping their studies up. Because of this, I believe that the people they are pasturing, will suffer from this.

I sit next to a guy who is a pastor. He has been going to Fuller for 10 years. He never has had the time, or capability to go to seminary full-time, and so he just keeps plugging away. He says he probably won't ever get his masters degree, but that he feels better equipped to be a pastor by keeping up on his education. Also, he has an accounting degree, which he says was probably the best decision for his work now as a pastor, because he understands money and business. I think this is great. 

My friend Jessie also has her undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies. She's a youth pastor. She's brilliant. I definitely think she will go to grad school one day, but for now, it's her hubby's turn. Jessie is committed to staying up on her education by reading books, and studying for her bible studies. And even better, at Biola, she was prepared for this. 

My point is, it's not the degree hanging on the wall that counts, it's the knowledge that you are able to obtain. Having knowledge about your faith (especially if you are a pastor), is hugely important. 

But with this said, I am not a huge fan of no degrees when it comes to something important. You can't become a doctor just by reading books... or a lawyer, or a police man, or even my job! Yup, I had to take many classes on how to read those cardiac dysrhythmias. 

I have another friend - probably one of the most brilliant people that I know. He's like a sponge - just soaks up everything. But I don't think he would have been able to reach his full potential unless he went to school. I would LOVE to see him in law school one day, or get his Ph.D. 

I just think that people are a huge big ball of potential, and an education will help make that ball bounce. 

One last important thing about actually attending a school – the experience. Sitting at home reading books will bring you knowledge, but it wont give you any room to sharpen your sword. You aren’t in class discussing these things with peers and professors. You aren’t learning the discipline and structure of writing papers, and completing your reading on time. 

I am not going to sit here and undermine a college education. Getting an undergraduate degree is rough. It is hard work, and it gives a person a certain kind of character, and an experience in life that no one else can relate too unless they have been through it. On a job application, you can't write down your experience as a person who has "read a lot of books", vs. "I have a degree". And I think there is a legitimate reason why. I am proud of my degree, and the work I did to obtain it. 

3 – Lets talk about the difference of an undergraduate education, and a seminary education.

>>>I want to break up my segments of education:
  1. Community college for my EMT cert. This helped me grow as an adult, and gave me really helpful trade knowledge. 
  2. Community College for my AA. I am a firm believer that general education is ridiculously important. To be well versed in general knowledge is something that cannot be replaced with anything. For instance - Those people Jay Leno runs into on Jay Walking - funny funny stuff, but kind of sad. A basic knowledge of history, government, english, math, and science, is important. 
  3. Finished my undergraduate degree at Biola University in Biblical Studies. After obtaining this degree, I didn't feel completely ready to dive into ministry. Ya, I felt pretty confident about leading a Junior High Ministry, but those kids asked some good questions, that I wasn't sure about what the answers were. I didn't feel ready to lead anything bigger than that ministry, because I didn't feel like I had enough education. 
  4. Now into my first semester at grad school. Every class I sit in, I feel like an idiot because of how much I DON'T know. And when I talk to my friends who have graduated from Seminary, I realize that I have a lot to learn. I am realizing now that my undergraduate degree prepared me for my seminary education... but that I do NEED a seminary education. 
I have always heard it been said - an undergraduate degree prepares you for life, and a masters degree prepares you for what you REALLY want to do. I believe this so much more now. 

4 – God TOTALLY used educated men. 

>>>And even if the disciples were completely uneducated before they met Jesus, they went to the best 3-year seminary out there - one taught by Jesus, Himself! 

But seriously, the men back then were not stupid. And they were at least well educated in their Jewish faith. 

5 – God IS indeed the authority… but maybe the problem with today’s church is that people are not striving for knowledge at all – they leave it all in the pastor’s hand to teach them. Pastor’s really need to start teaching teaching teaching their congregations. And in that case, an “attempt at knowledge”, is really important.

>>>Like I said, degrees don't equal an awesome ministry and/or life, but they sure do help. 

Two different thoughts:
  1. My mom has always wanted to be a school teacher, but she never had a chance to go to college because her mom died when my mom was 19, and she had two little siblings to care for. Sucks. So she decided to go down the career path of healthcare administration. She has worked in that field for over TWENTY years, and will never get out of it. This is all she knows. And she can't move any higher up in the company, because she doesn't have a degree. Double sucks. My mom is the most amazing person I have ever known, and my love for her is off the charts. Because I love her so much, I just always have wished that she would have been able to work her dream job. Because of this, my mom has always pushed me to get an education in what I LOVE. And though she may not understand me getting all these theology degrees, she loves seeing me happy. And she loves knowing that (hopefully) I will be able to work at a job that I love one day, because of my education. 
  2. Some church's are not taking time to teach their congregations about the Bible. And I believe that they are not, because they don't have the resources to do so, because they are not well educated. In turn, people do not feel "fed", and people don't get their questions answered, which in turn, can lead to people becoming confused about Christianity. But at the same time, I will admit, that there are some well educated men and women, who can also lead people astray. But my point still stands - an education is better than no education. 
I know this post is going to offend some people, but what else is there to do?! Tell me Andrew Faris!! ;)

Seriously though, for many years I was told the advice to not go to school, and prepare to be married. What if I would have listened to that crap?! People are out there telling young students this advice, and I just feel like I need to speak my feelings (hopefully in a loving way) as well. 


Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with ya Carrie. ESPECIALLY against the claim that reading a lot of books = education. What?! No way! In my experience with my undergraduate Bible degree, yes, I learned some things from books. But mostly, I learned from: 1) My amazing, wise professors! 2) My constant dialogue with peers who sat next to me every day in the trenches, seeking truth along with me, and 3) crazy studying for exams and papers. Seriously, the claim that reading books = education is just ridiculous.

Also, achieving my degree did a LOT for me besides giving me something to put on my resume (and yes, it sure did that too! Landing me my two jobs!). I have a sense of accomplishment that just plain rocks! It was super hard, and I did it!! It also taught me patience, tenacity, teamwork, trust in God, faith in myself, and stellar work ethic. The experience of my education has defined who I am now. I would not be the same "me" without it!

And this would be all the MORE true if I (when I?) am able to go back for my M.Div!

And finally, on a personal note, I have had an "uneducated pastor." He is a fireman, a loving husband and father, a wonderful person, a man of God. He is kinda my spiritual father, even now that his church has ended and I have moved on to a new church. He married my husband and I and did our premarrital counseling. He is awesome! But.....I firmly believe he would have been an even MORE awesome leader and pastor if he had been educated in Biblical studies. Love him to pieces, don't get me wrong. But perhaps he could have been even more effective as a pastor with an M.Div under his belt. I'm very sure of it, actually. He would agree!

Hope I didn't offend anyone...

<3 Jessie

P.s. I am so NOT brilliant, Carrie! You crazy goose!!

P.p.s. When are we hanging out?

Carrie said...

Jessie - Thanks for your thoughts! You are brilliant!! ;)

I too had an amazing pastor for years, who did not have an accredited degree. And I too think that an education would have made him even way more amazing. I think a Seminary degree would make every pastor way more amazing. Maybe this is bad to say? I don't know?

Anyway, lets to Disney soon, seriously. I want to go on space mountain because it newly designed for Halloween. Also, I have been thinking a lot lately about how I want to go to Disney on New Years... what are you guys doing??

Andrew Faris said...

Great stuff Carrie! I love this post, and have just a couple thoughts to add.

You hinted at one thing but perhaps should be a bit more explicit: the difference between reading good books and going to class is massive.

For one thing, when you sit at home and read good books, you don't have to check your understanding of those books and the concepts therein against a classroom full of people and a professor who will get on your case when you say something dumb.

Second, you also don't have to write papers about the good books you read on your own. This is huge. A number of brilliant folks have pointed out that you haven't really thought about something until you've written about it. Writing papers forces you to hunker down and argue with all the geniuses who disagree with you, which sharpens you like crazy.

Third, if you go somewhere like Biola where the profs actually care about their students, you miss out on an amazing mentoring opportunity. The professors as godly men had as much to do with my growth as the studying I did in their classes.

Also, it really is just silly to say that somehow being uneducated makes you more able to serve Christ in big ways than being educated. Yeah, you can point to the disciples, but you're right Carrie: they were trained heavily by Jesus. And even if one doesn't accept that, I need only to point you to the likes of John Piper, C. S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Martin Lloyd-Jones, Erik Thoennes and a lot of other pastors who have Ph.D.'s that serve God in amazingly powerful ways thanks in part to those degrees.

Look: obviously you don't have to get a Ph.D. or even an M.Div. to really follow God, and I would even say that, as you mentioned, there is probably an overemphasis on degrees and underemphasis on genuine godliness in qualifications for pastors these days. But the comment from your friend/former-friend veers from mots of the wisdom that godly, wise Christians have told me for a long time, and it even assumes that somehow getting a Bible education is not doing exactly what s/he says to do, namely, putting confidence in the Bible.

Again, great stuff Carrie, and thanks for this well thought out post.


Anonymous said...

I can't fathom how going to school to study something you care about would even be controversial. The fact that this is even something "controversial" is just a sign that you have too many people in your life who live in an alternate universe. I am proud of you for pursuing this and hope you block out the negativity in your life. There's nothing wrong with being a strong, educated woman - the church needs a lot more of them, kicking them in their white, male, heteronormative assess.


Anonymous said...

Also, I think the idea that reading books alone in a non-structured setting = education exposes the worst aspects of individualism. Learning is always better in a diverse community. That's part of the point, and it's also the reason I think online education is a scam.


Eric said...


I am not typically a blog reader or comment...er. Whatever the case, I read your blog, and here is my comment...That person who wrote that post which caused you to write this blog has issues that are bigger than the great school or not to school debate. A congrats and a go get em kid would have been suffice. Keep up on the schooling, youre doing yourself and others, someday, a great thing.

Anonymous said...

Not doing anything I know of for New Years...Our Disney passes will have expired by then but hopefully we renew them. But let's go sometime soon!!

<3 Jessie

Matt Gundlach said...

I don't have time to read the whole article, all I have to say is in response to this erroneous comment: "After all, God used a bunch of undereducated men to start His church! Lets keep education in perspective and remember that GOD is the authority, not man’s attempt at knowledge." That if you actually read the New Testament, Paul was one of the most educated men in Judea, and I'm pretty sure that Paul helped start the church and used it in sharing the gospel, like that one time...in Athens...talking with some philosophers.....

Anonymous said...

Wow. Never expected it to rile you up so much. I happen to know a lot of over educated idiots, and wanted to put a differrent perspective on a degree. I do believe in getting an education if you can, and I did say "good for you for doing this", I just wanted to make the point not to look to an education and the do all, be all answer in ministry. Terribly sorry for offending!

c.c. said...

i agree with you, Carrie, that many in the church, including pastors, are undereducated and apathetic about it. i am all for a good liberal arts education as well as professional degrees for professionals (even ministry professionals), and academic degrees for academics. i mean, what the heck, i'm in a stinkin five-year program when i could be having babies or something.

coming at it from the other side, though, of being surrounded by educated people, there are three things i see a lot too. i know you never denied any of these things (you would probably affirm them); i'm just offering this as a supplement to this particular post. :]

1. i go to a church where a lot of people are seminary-trained. those who haven't been to seminary sometimes feel deprived or less spiritual because they don't "know the deep truths of God." instead of giving these kinds of people inferiority complexes (or letting them covet seminary and want to spend thousands of dollars on something they think is just "neat"), Sunday school classes offered by those who HAVE been to seminary could probably do the trick.

2. i also know a lot of people who want to go to grad school because they don't know what else to go. they feel unfulfilled otherwise, because their accounting job (or whatever) is not "significant." well, nobody ever said everyone is going to save the world through their job. it's what you do when you're there that matters.

3. i ALSO know people who want to be pastors, but think they're too good for seminary. they go because they HAVE to so they can put it on their resume, but they're really sliding through as easily as possible.