Christian schools, bible colleges and seminaries seem to get a bad rap from Christians and non-Christians alike.
To some, they’re closed-minded institutions where you’re dogmatically transformed by the removal of your mind. For others, it’s unnecessary—“‘knowledge puffs up;’ boycott Christian learning in Jesus’ name.”
This means that those who attended a Christian school can look forward to a degree in being misunderstood with a major in feeling undervalued.
I’ve asked my colleagues to tell me how people react when they tell them they’re seminary students and distilled their responses into five common myths that I think we should ditch if we want to see Christian education for what it could be, and often is: a transformative intellectual and spiritual journey.
1. If You Go to Bible College, You’re Not Getting a Real Education.
Privileged kids who go off to university can be notoriously elite about the whole thing. It’s like we think we’re smart by association. We’re still slightly embarrassed at the thought of attending community college—which is so, you know, practical. But then we complain when our bachelor of arts degree doesn’t lead into our dream job.
Seminary studies are often like that too: they may not land you the job within six weeks by themselves, but they’ll enrich you undeniably. For me, this has meant rich dialogue with people from different denominational backgrounds (which, for some, sounds like the lion lying down with the lamb), a completely renewed perspective on faith and purpose, and character formation (something we often complain is missing from the public education system).
2. Everyone Who Goes to Bible College Wants to Go Into Ministry .
False. Aside from those who want to be missionaries, counselors, professors, organizational leaders, spiritual directors, and entrepreneurs (to name a few), many of us haven’t the foggiest clue what we’re here for—besides the love of learning.
One such guy, opting for Bible college to help him sort out his theological baggage, ended up pastoring the largest church in Canada. Another guy discovered his passion for food and went on to start a popular restaurant chain called “The Burger’s Priest.” So don’t assume we’re idiots for not planning to be pastors, because you never know.
3. Theology Doesn’t Speak to Real-World Issues.
“You want to be a theology professor? Get a life,” bellowed my theology professor to our stunned class one afternoon. In a 40-year pastoral career, our theology prof. has buried more corpses than the number of years he’s ministered. Children’s funerals are his least favorite.
Clearly, our professor has spent his career dealing with all kinds of people at their rock-bottom lowest—when they’ve had a breakdown, got divorced, lost their job or a baby or their mental health. And this man is crazy enough to tell us that his theology kept him going through the impossible times, enabling him to love even the most difficult people. Now I’m convinced that if our thinking about God and other seminary stuff doesn’t directly influence how we live, either we never truly learned it to begin with, or it probably should be scrapped.
4. Bible College is for Priests and Nuns (and Other Super-Christians).
This is perhaps the most flattering myth of all. People assume that we’re going to Christian school because we’re spiritual giants who want to marry Jesus. I can only assume they subconsciously hated Sunday school, since they freely associate a love of theological reflection with asceticism.
Aside from the fact that most of my favorite professors are married, everybody eventually clues into the reality of human brokenness—even in seminary. We’re taught by individuals who suffered serious career setbacks, got divorced, survived cancer, church hop, live with ADHD or wrestle constantly with God questions. And my classmates wrestle too, trying to juggle their studies with tough life stuff. Maybe the only difference between us and average church people is that we talk about it together.
5. Christian Schools are Just Happy, Sterile Christian Bubbles.
I can’t easily dispel this myth, since I can’t argue with the experiences of some of my friends. I recall a prominent Christian leader in the business world confess, “I don’t like church people. I love Christians, but have you ever noticed how weird we get when we come together in a church?”
Many people worry that seminary is just another church ghetto, isolated from the rest of the world. While that might be the case for some people for a season of time, I don’t think it’s the norm. While seminary classes have attracted non-Christian students, it can also be a great resource for missional opportunities. And, of course, you will carry the learning and personal formation with you wherever you go for the rest of your life.
Amy Francis loves creating, beer tasting and spontaneous plan-making. She writes to connect great people and engage them with great ideas. When she dies, Amy hopes to be remembered for her genuine love towards the people around her. You canread more of her stuff at amyfrancis.com.