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Looking Forward to 2018

Kevin, one of my best friends, signs off his emails with, “Looking forward.” I’ve adopted it as my closing line. The phrase envisions new opportunities, new experiences, new horizons. It imagines a positive future.  It conveys a blessing.  It is a message of hope.

We are looking forward to 2018. Here are a just a few exciting things you will see at Rockbridge:

  • A new learning management system that is rich with media.  The new environment will engage students even more in the learning process.  Courses will also be assessable on their phones.
  • New curriculum designed to engage the Head, Heart, Hands, and Habits.   There is an emphasis that will help students grow in their inner being as well as grow intellectually and develop ministry skills.
  • Graduation at Saddleback Church, in Lake Forest, CA on June 25, 7:00 p.m.  Our first DMin graduates will be hooded.
  • A new Student Information System will help us better assess student progress toward their learning goals.

Please be in prayer for the seminary as we develop servant leaders for Christian ministry.

End-of-Year Giving

God has financially blest the seminary.  Thank you for your contributions.  Your gifts make it possible for us to provide quality seminary education at an affordable price. We are honored to be stewards of your trust. Recently, one of our graduating students wrote to us and said, “I was blessed by my time at Rockbridge, because it allowed me to stay in my current vocation and complete my studies. Programs like Rockbridge are filling a real need in equipping people like me who want a formal seminary program – but can’t afford to shut down their life to attend a brick and mortar school.”

You can give online or send your checks to Rockbridge Seminary, 3111 E. Battlefield, Springfield, MO 65804. All gifts are tax-deductible.

Looking forward,

Daryl Eldridge, President










“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matt. 1:23

I love Christmas because of what it celebrates. The name Immanuel means “God set up his tent among us.” God saw our need and rather than being a distant landowner, he moved into our neighborhood. He could have lived in a different place or come at a different time, but he chose to come to the Middle East, to a first century Jewish family. It is hard to understand how God would leave the splendor of heaven to live in the confines of human flesh. He who spoke the world into existence didn’t come during a time of modern conveniences such as microwaves, cars, airplanes, or Amazon. Paul described the incarnation in this manner:

“he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:7-8)

The incarnation is God’s gift to humanity. It is an expression of how much he loves us. Our prayer is you will experience God’s love and presence this Christmas Season.

Daryl Eldridge, President



#GivingTuesday – It’s Not Too Late

Emanuel Goicovici is the pastor of Deo Gloria Baptist Church that serves an impoverished area in Transylvania, Romania. Pastor Emy grew up in the small village of Utvin. He was one of the first students at the Baptist High School that started after the Revolution in 1989. After 4 years in High School he felt called to prepare for pastoral ministry. He went to the University in Bucharest at the Baptist Seminary for the next 4 years, and by the age of 22 he was chosen as a pastor in Hunedoara. He moved there with his new wife Fabiola. Hunedoara was a metallurgical single industry town during Communism.  After the fall of communism, the city had the highest rate of unemployed people in Romania.

Most in the culture identify with the Eastern Orthodox Church and view neo-protestant churches as cults. Deo Gloria Church started in the home of Emy and Fabiola and has grown by more than 50%. His mission is to create contexts that will change his city, as people become disciples of Jesus. Emy is graduating this year with a Master of Divinity. The fully online program at Rockbridge Seminary allowed him to remain in his country and yet study with people from around the world. Pastor Emy wrote about his experience with Rockbridge, “Coming in touch with so many people with passion for God’s Kingdom kept me ablaze and I am more passionate now about the ministry than I ever been.”  It was possible for Pastor Emy to attend seminary thanks to the gifts of individuals and Watershed Church in San Antonio, Texas.

You can help leaders like Emy develop ministry skills and impact communities around the world. We have several students who are close to graduation, but had to drop out for a while because of finances. Our goal is to raise $10,000 to help such students complete their studies. Would you please help students like Emy?  You may give online or send a check to Rockbridge Seminary, 3111 E. Battlefield, Springfield, MO 65804.

Seminary Update


You are cordially invited to attend graduation on June 2, 7:00 p.m. at Second Baptist Church in Springfield, MO.  We have our largest number of students graduating from our Diploma in Ministry Studies, Master of Ministry Leadership, and Master of Divinity programs.  Congratulations to all the graduates.

Student Evaluation of Learning and Teaching (SALT)

Each term our students provide feedback on how we can improve our instruction.  Part of the survey gathers data concerning student satisfaction.  Student in the 2017-T2 term reported:

  • Achievement of Course Goals – 100%
  • Recommend Studies to a Friend – 98.61%
  • Satisfied with Studies – 98.61%

We are grateful for our students and faculty who create a great learning community.

Trends in Online Education

While total enrollment in higher education decreased by 1 Million from 2012 to 2015, more students are taking online courses.  Thirty percent of all students in higher education are now taking at least one distance course.  Distance learners are split almost evenly between student who are exclusively “distance” and those who take some courses in person.  Overall distance enrollment has grown, on-campus enrollment has fallen by 5% since 2012.

Schools that have increasing proportion of distance education cost less and are more efficient.  Since Rockbridge is 100% online, we provide a quality education at an affordable price.

Not all online programs are created equal.  Online education is not simply a matter of video-taping a professor and putting content online.  Best practices in online learning provide a high level of engagement with students and faculty.   From the beginning,Rockbridge was designed to be highly interactive, which is demonstrated by the high marks in student satisfaction.

Brokerage Acct –

Rockbridge has a brokerage account and can receive stock donations.  Contact Dr. Eldridge if you are interested in donating business stock to Rockbridge.  The school is a 501(c3) and your gifts are tax deductible.  You may also give online at this link.

“How Much Money Can You Save at an Online Seminary?” By Linda Graber

Students in ministry continue to graduate from undergraduate colleges and universities with increasing debt. As tuition and interest increase each year, students without scholarships are adding to their school debt. More students are beginning to investigate online seminaries versus traditional campus settings before beginning their master studies. There are several reasons a student can save money by attending an online seminary.

1. Online Seminaries do not require travel saving a student transportation expenses. A student will not have campus parking fees for an online seminary. There are a few programs requiring travel to campus for scheduled seminars throughout the year. Transportation costs for a fully online seminary are zero compared to commuting or living on a traditional campus.
2. The saying, “time is money” is another reason online seminaries can save a student money. Attending an online seminary gives flexibility to the student while choosing their own schedule for completing classroom assignments. The student has the opportunity to work on their daily time schedule and not on the school’s schedule. A student will have more hours to work outside of the classroom and be able to spend more time with family and friends.
3. Online seminaries generally cost less than a residential seminary. The majority of the teaching staff serves in adjunct positions, saving the school the additional costs of employee benefits and helping keep tuition lower for the students. Some online seminaries do not have the expense of maintaining campus facilities. There are no fees for lawn maintenance or snow removal in the winter months.
4. Online Seminaries save the students extra clothing expenses since a student can study at home, sometimes in their pajamas, with their flexible schedule. Students do not have to dress professionally to attend an online classroom.

5. Many online seminaries allow a student to take one course at a time with a “pay as you go” plan helping students avoid adding to their school debt. Many online seminaries allow students to purchase textbooks available on electronic readers such as the Kindle and Nook, saving money by avoiding purchasing costly printed textbooks. With an online seminary, there are no additional student fees, cost of living on campus, meal plans, concert, sports fees, or computer lab fees.
6. One word of caution when choosing an online seminary always read the fine print when making application for admission to the seminary. Sometimes online seminaries charge extra fees to use the online classroom. It is best to ask questions and do your research before choosing an online seminary.

If you want to save money, consider attending an online seminary. It may be the easiest way to avoid adding to your educational debt.

Linda Graber is the Director of Alumni Relations & Ministry Partners and Academic Coach for Rockbridge Seminary. She has a Master of Ministry Leadership from Rockbridge Seminary and is working on a Master of Divinity.

Can Instruction at Rockbridge Seminary help my ministry? By Dr. Tom Bartlett

Just recently I had a conversation with a young church planter who, while serving a church decided he wanted to further his theological training by going to seminary. He approached the leadership of his church knowing that he’d need their buy-in, but also some financial support. After expressing his passionate desire, the leadership discussed the situation and came back with a resounding word of disapproval. Stunned by the decision of these leaders, he asked why? The answer that came back was perplexing. They said that seminary just messes people up. As he relayed this situation to me, I was not overly surprised by the outcome. I had heard similar words and even experienced a great deal of discouragement when I decided to go back to school for my masters and doctorate. People would challenge me with, “Why do you need that degree, just trying to impress people?”  Or, “Is this some sort of pride thing Tom? You don’t need seminary just study your Bible and trust the Lord.”

Now, while these statements bothered me, I did find in them the opportunity to at least analyze why I would subject myself to the rigors of higher education. As I scrutinized the why, I kept coming back to three motivating factors for my personal pursuit. 1. I knew there was so much more to learn theologically and professionally, and I wanted to explore, learn, and grow as a minister. 2. I felt that my calling to raise other leaders would benefit from this endeavor, and 3. This one, might seem insignificant, but to me it was important. I made a promise to myself that I would be a lifelong learner and that I would earn my seminary degree in the process of that learning.

So now, with the benefit and wisdom of hindsight I can look back and answer the question from this side of that experience with a better perspective. The question: Can instruction at Rockbridge Seminary help my ministry? The answer simplistically is a resounding yes, if you want to grow. The longer answer, I’ll spell out here briefly. Here are the three perspectives I now have that I did not fully have before I began that journey. First, you don’t know what you don’t know. Secondly, every pastor needs tools and seminary gives you tools, Finally, no man is an island, and everyone needs a mentor.

You don’t know what you don’t know

Over the years, I’ve had the wonderful privilege to travel to some amazing places for ministry. My very first foreign mission trip was to Bangalore, India where I was teaching a pastor’s conference. Before I left on this trip, my mind was filled with so many ideas of what India might be like, much of which was nowhere close to what India and its people actually were like. After seeing India for myself, I learned so much that I did not know about this amazing country and it was certainly not at all what I had expected. This is the same experience I had in seminary as well. I had so many erroneous ideas of what it might be like. The long hours studying things I might not enjoy, listening to dry and boring lectures, getting no rest and hating every minute. On this side of it, I now know that none of that was true. All of that was simply my preconceived ideas that were not based on knowledge.

Beside the misconception about what seminary would be like, I also realized that there are areas of study and understandings even beyond my college education that I had yet to become aware of. Rockbridge Seminary opened my mind to ministry work and studies that I personally had no clue about. The exposure to missions local and global, inner city strategies, preaching helps, a comprehensive approach to planning and strategic thinking and more were just what I needed. Before I started at Rockbridge, I didn’t know what I didn’t know!

Everybody needs tools and seminary gives you tools

Not long ago I moved my family to the Washington, DC area to serve as a consulting pastor for a ministry based out of Nairobi, Kenya. Moving is always a frustrating thing. During a move and setting up a house, you will use whatever you can find to do the job at hand. A shoe becomes a hammer, moving blankets become covers and pillow to rest with, and left over pizza becomes breakfast! It’s just the way it is, you use what you have on hand at the moment you need it. Early in my ministry, with a great desire to see people grow spiritually, I often found myself at a loss of what to do. How do you measure spiritual growth? How do you select someone for leadership? Who do you invest your time in? How do you write impactful sermons every time? Without the proper tools these items were addressed with what I had in hand, which was very little, a narrow perspective and simple inadequate tools. I guess in some ways you could say the job got done, but I knew there was a better way, although I wasn’t sure what that way was.

In starting at Rockbridge, I knew by week two of my first course that the tools I needed were about to be found. And, not only were tools on their way, the training to use them and to discover more about me was right around the corner too. Seminary gives you tools which in and of itself is not enough, yet they are extremely helpful when you are instructed in how to use them. Tools in areas such as leadership development, discipleship and its evaluation, languages and study tools, preaching, missions, and so much more. I now have the tools; no more ministry work through inadequate tools! I do however still enjoy pizza for breakfast!

No man is an island, everyone needs a mentor

         Over the past decade, I have taken a team approach to ministry like never before in my pastoral work. In leadership, I work to allow others to make every decision they can and make only the decisions that I must make as the leader. I respect the input and value the contributions of all team members. I never walk into a meeting with the entire plan laid out waiting for the team to stamp their approval of my ideas, my passion, and my vision. Early in my ministry as a staff person what was modeled for me was a top down, CEO model of leadership where the staff took marching orders with little to no input. Rockbridge taught me the power of team and the power of mentors.

As a team, the classes tackled issues and we learned from each other. No one had all the answers and everyone was required to participate. We learned from each other and built a sense of community in the process. At the same time, Rockbridge’s approach of using a seasoned mentor with each course has become a life-long component for me. Now, instead of feeling like a “Lone Ranger” who must make all the decisions, have all the information and be everything to everyone, I have a sense of community in my ministry and I regularly meet with and talk to mentors whose input is invaluable. I need the team and I need a mentor, I simply didn’t realize how much before.

So, can Instruction at Rockbridge Seminary help your ministry? All I can say is, it helped mine. Today, I continue to learn and grow, I use and continually sharpen my tools, and I do ministry as it should be done, in a community of people that love each other. Thanks Rockbridge Seminary!

Dr. Tom Bartlett
Rockbridge, MML (2006), MDiv (2009)
Dr. Bartlett has led churches in Florida, Colorado, and North Carolina, and Washington, DC.  He has served as a worship leader, a pastor, and a trainer of pastors in places such as India, Nigeria, and China.  Areas of experience include, multisite church planting, leadership, preaching/teaching, and the theology and practice of worship.

5 Considerations for Pursuing an M.Div. Degree Online

What is an M.Div.? The Master of Divinity is the first professional degree of pastors and the standard theological degree. It requires three years of study.  Credit hours to complete the M.Div. range from 76 hrs. to 106 hrs. An M.Div. is unlike other master’s degrees, such as business or nursing, that are built off undergraduate degrees in the same field.

If your undergraduate degree is in Bible or Theology, your learning goals might be better served by completing a Master of Theology or a Master of Ministry Leadership. Otherwise, you may have to repeat courses in Bible and Theology you had in college. Because of accreditation standards, seminaries cannot transfer in undergraduate credit for graduate credit.

Here are some considerations for pursuing an M.Div. Degree Online:

1. What are your goals?

If your desire is to get a broader and deeper understanding of the Bible and theology, the M.Div. is the perfect choice. Master of Divinity degrees require courses in such disciplines as New Testament, Old Testament, Hebrew, Greek, Hermeneutics, Church History, Systematic Theology, Pastoral Ministry, Philosophy, Church Growth, Evangelism, and Christian Education. If your goal is go deeper into theology, you may consider a research degree such as the Master in Theology. If your goal is to serve as a staff member in Christian Education, a Master of Christian Education (MACE), or a Master of Ministry Leadership (MML) may better serve your needs.

If you desire is to teach at a seminary, you would probably need a Ph.D., which requires an M.Div. or MAT. Though some seminaries hire professors with a Doctor of Ministry, the DMin is more common for those that want to remain in the local church or other ministry organizations. The M.Div. is also a requirement for the Doctor of Ministry.

2. Ordination and Pastoral Positions

The M.Div. is a requirement for ordination in many denominations. . Check with your pastor or denomination to determine what the requirements are for ordination.  Many missionary sending organizations require an M.Div.

3. Do you want to be a military chaplain?

Military chaplaincy (and other chaplaincy positions) require an M.Div. Check with the branch of the military to see if they accept degrees earned online..

4. Time Requirement to Complete an M.Div.

While the M.Div. is a 3-year degree, because of work and ministry, students may spend four or more years completing their degree requirements. The beauty of M.Div. Program at Rockbridge is you can complete the M.Div. in 3 years by taking one class per term (six terms a year). Graduate work requires self-discipline and good time management skills.  For every hour of course credit, you should expect to spend 3 times that in preparation and work. For example, a sixteen-week three-hour course requires about 9 hours of work per week. Shorter terms will intensify the amount of study per week. Students at Rockbridge spend about 17 hours a week in their 8 week courses.

5. What is your learning style?

Some students love the engagement and flexibility of online classes. Others prefer a traditional classroom environment. Some students prefer to listen to lectures and take notes, while other prefer to work independently and collaborate with others.  Online M.Div. programs are excellent for those who want flexibility of schedule, collaboration with ministry colleagues, and completing work while serving on a church staff.  If these 5 consideration meet your ministry training needs, an Online M.Div. may be right for you.


Update from Rockbridge


We received word this week that we are approved for SARA, the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement. This means that states in this compact recognize our licensure from Missouri.  Rockbridge is certified to operate in all 50 states either through SARA, consent, or exemption.  Here is a link to the State of Missouri, which links to our website:  This is another huge step forward for our seminary.


Graduation this year is June 2, 2017, 7:00 p.m. at Second Baptist Church, Springfield, MO.  Please make plans to attend.  If you are in the area or an alumnus, please come and encourage the graduates.

Thanks for Your Gifts

 We are so thankful for each donation to Rockbridge.  It is your gifts that make it possible for students to afford world-class ministry training.  You may give online through this link.

The Truth about Online Learning – Dr. Ingrid Buch-Wagler

I am an online professor. When I first started teaching online it was 2005 and I thought quite frankly, “This will never work.” Now over a decade later, so much has changed, including my opinion.  Online theological studies allow a student to be both in the field and in the academy at the same time, with both informing the other. Rockbridge students must already be in ministry. The seminary is only looking for students who have already received a call, have had that call endorsed, and are serving in a church or para-church community. The great value of a Rockbridge theological education is two fold: it is very hands-on practical and it involves a local mentor. The adult learners I serve in Rockbridge worship courses are not wanting an ivory tower education. They are wanting real applications to the real situations in which they engage. In the courses I teach, students want to feel that I have the academic side covered, but that I know the ropes because I too am in ministry. And I do. I was born into it. My dad, brother, and husband have all been pastors. I began serving when my dad would take me along on his pastoral visitation and I would belt out hymns. I was 11 years old when I was ready to accompany congregational singing on Sunday morning. But I am clear in the worship courses I teach, that worship is not first about music. It is about a posture of the heart.

I think the greatest value of online learning is the collaborative nature of the community built in each course. Students engage with men and women from different ages, stages, ecclesiastical streams, ethnicities, backgrounds, and geographical locales. They serve in small rural churches, mega churches in suburbia, and missions in the inner city. They are all there to learn from the course content and each other.

These learners already know who they are and what they are about. They are not trying to find themselves. They know how to manage one more area of their life as they go back to online “school.” They are motivated and confident. That I as a professor get to speak into their lives and facilitate their goals is such an honor.

About the Writer:  Ingrid Buch-Wagler holds a Ph.D. in Conflict Management from Trinity Theological Seminary and has taught at Rockbridge Seminary since 2009. Her teaching and research interests include Conflict Management, Worship, and Mentoring/Discipleship.  Ingrid serves at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Fairlawn, Ohio.

3 Reasons Students Prefer Online Seminary

By Dr. Mark Simpson

Laura and Larry are both adults active in their local churches while working full-time in the marketplace and supporting family. Laura lives near the East Coast and is a senior executive in a marketing firm. She has 3 children in grade school who are all active in church activities and school sports. Laura recently felt the Lord leading her to move into full-time ministry focusing on reaching local business and professional women with the Gospel.

Larry lives on the West Coast and works in a medical device parts plant. Larry is an elder in his church and provides leadership for its evangelism and discipleship ministries. His wife is a public high school teacher coming up fast on her district’s mandatory retirement after 20 years of teaching. Like Laura, Larry also felt the Lord leading him to move into full-time ministry as a pastor.

For both Laura and Larry, going to seminary is the next logical step to be better prepared for Christian service. Here are 3 reasons students prefer online seminary.

1. Online Seminary Reduces Obstacles

As brick and mortar seminaries are explored, difficult questions arise about the impact of pulling up roots to go to seminary. What will be the impact of moving be on my family? How will I continue to meet daily financial needs? Do I really want to suspend my current ministries to go to school? Can I afford the cost of tuition and books? These are but a few of the common questions faced by every student aspiring to attend seminary. For many students the answers to these questions become obstacles that prohibit them from attending seminary.

2. Online Seminary Fits My Life

While searching the Web to compare theological programs an attractive resolution to many obstacles presents itself: attend an onlin
e seminary.
Doing so means you will not have to move and uproot your family. You also will not have to quit your current job, and you will be able to continue in your current ministries. Additional benefits reported by my current class of online seminary students include:

  • Not having to leave home to go to school or class. This also means no hazardous driving in winter weather [or rush hour traffic, or leaving work early to get to class]. Costs are also reasonable. – Belinda Mpagazehe (MML student)
  • The flexibility of time for learning – there is not a specific time that class meets, which allows your seminary training to fit into your schedule for the week. This has been an incredible blessing. – Brian Naess (MDiv student)
  • The structure is such that you know when things are due and you chart your week out accordingly. Works very well for a person in a secular job and doing this work in the evenings and on weekends. There is a real sense of ownership and accountability when you are in charge of your own scholastic destiny. As an introvert, I am forced online to interact where in a [physical] classroom I probably could have stayed more anonymous. This has helped me to work through the uncomfortableness and it has helped my writing as well. – Bill Trench (MDiv student)
  • I do not feel like a “number.” I have been to super big and small campuses. I have more interaction online than I ever did sitting right next to students in a huge class room. I like the diversity of perspectives I get from students all over the world. It stretches me at times and allows me to see things differently. – Yvette Perrin (MDiv student)

But attending an online seminary just for the sake of these conveniences is not the real benefit—access to a theological education is the real benefit!

3. Online Seminary Brings the Learning Experience to Me

Being able to study anytime, anywhere, from any location with Web access removes many barriers to getting a seminary education. Students like Laura and Larry from around the world no longer must go to where the seminary is to get theological training. Instead the online seminary brings the learning experience to the student. And with it come new and refreshed opportunities to learn from the knowledge and experiences of educators and ministers around the globe. The flow of information is intentionally multi-directional: instructor with student, and student with student. And rather than being passive attenders to a campus-based classroom, online seminary students are required to be active participants throughout the learning experience. For many this active role to learning is refreshing, as is the opportunity to learn in community through an online seminary.

About the Writer: Dr. Mark Simpson is the Chief Academic Officer of Rockbridge Seminary, a fully online accredited school. He has served as Associate Dean for Doctoral Studies and Digital Learning at one of the largest residential theological seminaries, and developed fully online courses and programs as Coordinator of Online Learning for a Christian university. He has been teaching online courses for seminaries since the late 1990’s.