A Prayer for Graduates (And Good for All of Us)

Kelly Walter, founding pastor at Rock Brook Church in Belton, MO., spoke at our recent commencement and challenged graduates to put this prayer at the top of their list: “God, let me humbly serve you in the authority of Jesus Christ.”

In 2 Peter 1, one of the closest friends of Jesus identified himself as Simon Peter. Pastor Walter said, “He’s both Simon, the humble fisherman from Galilee, and Peter, the one Jesus called the Rock. He maintained the tension between humility and authority.” The Apostle Peter knew firsthand how ego can affect one’s perspective and ministry. Simon Peter walked on water but began to drown when he took his eyes off Jesus. Later, Simon Peter valiantly stepped in with a sword to prevent Jesus from being captured, yet later denied he was associated with Jesus. Pastor Walter said, “Most people fail in ministry not because they can’t do the job or because they aren’t skilled in the performance of their duties. What gets them are character issues. They get destroyed by their hurts, habits and hang-ups.” No character flaw is more disastrous than pride.

Walter reminded the graduates that we serve in the authority of Jesus Christ. Henri Nouwen wrote, “It is Jesus who heals, not I; Jesus who speaks words of truth, Not I; Jesus who is Lord, not I.” We serve in the name of the Lord Jesus who sends us.

Walter concluded his message with this reminder:

This message came from God. You can be confident in it. The Bible is worth giving your life to. It’s worth understanding. It’s worth knowing. It’s worth living.

The time, energy, and resources that you put into your Rockbridge education are worth it. But more importantly, the time, energy, and resources that you will put into ministry going forward from this date are worth it.

Take the knowledge that you have received; put it together with the glorious power and precious promises of God and serve Him humbly and with Christ’s authority until you hear Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Seminary graduation reminds us of God’s transforming power when servant leaders pray:

“God, let me humbly serve you in the authority of Jesus Christ.”

 

End of Our Fiscal Year

We close our financial year on July 31. Our mission to develop servant leaders for Christian ministry is possible because of the gifts of people like you. Please help us disciple leaders who disciple the world. You may send your check to Rockbridge Seminary, 3111 East Battlefield, Springfield, MO 65804 or give online.

By |2019-07-12T21:15:33-05:00July 12th, 2019|

Not the Final Verse

You may remember the 1969 song “Is that All there Is?” sung by Peggy Lee. The chorus read,

Is that all there is?  Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is . . .

Besides wanting to slit your wrist after listening to it, the song begged an existential question that is answered by the resurrection of Jesus. On Friday, as Jesus hung on the cross, life for the disciples couldn’t have looked worse.  Their mentor and friend was tortured and killed. They were on the run, fearing their own death. On Friday, they didn’t know that on Sunday they would be singing different lyrics. Friday wasn’t the final verse of the marvelous song.

Paul wrote, “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Cor. 5:19, NLT)  This faithful follower of Jesus who was persecuted for his faith concluded, “If that is all there is, we might as eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor. 5:32b)

You’ve probably heard the story about a family handing out spoons at the funeral of a loved one. This deceased loved dessert, particularly Bluebell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.  As was the tradition in their family, dessert came at the end of the meal. The life celebration concluded with this encouragement, “The best is yet to come.”  Easter reminds us that death is the beginning to a new verse.

As you celebrate Easter, may you experience the presence of Christ and the hope of the Resurrection.

 

By |2019-04-18T20:37:34-05:00April 18th, 2019|

Chapel on Sexual Abuse in the Church

Chapel Service

In this term’s chapel, the Seminary addressed the issue of sexual abuse in the Church. President Eldridge introduced the chapel with these words, “The Bible is not silent about sexual abuse.” The Bible is clear about our responsibility to protect others from the abuse of power. Suzie Paslay read the scripture, “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people” (Psalm 82:3-4). Eldridge said, “We grieve with the victims of sexual abuse. We acknowledge the failure of the Church to properly address sexual abuse by ministry leaders.”

Participants concluded the service by praying for the victims and praying for church leaders to take restorative measures to deal with this horrendous sin in the church and community. The service included the Lord’s Supper, led by Dr. Ed Eastman.

The Seminary is launching an initiative to provide sexual abuse awareness to all our students and graduates. The cost for the curriculum is $5 per student, for a total of approximately $1000. If you are interested in donating to this cause, please contact the President’s Office or donate online.

Upcoming Events

Registration for Term 3: April 1 – April 29
Term 3 Begins April 30
Graduation – June 24, Saddleback Church, Refinery, 7:00 p.m.
Purpose Driven Church Conference – June 25-27 at Saddleback Church

By |2019-03-01T16:52:12-05:00March 1st, 2019|

Seminary Scary?

 

For some, the very word “seminary” is frightening. They envision struggling with languages such as Greek and Hebrew. They suppose seminary is only for perfect geniuses whose conversations contain strange words such as “dyophysitism” or “tropological.” Let me demythologize the term and take the scary out of seminary.

The word “seminary” comes from the Greek word meaning “seed.” Seminary should be a place where people grow and mature like a seed grows into a mature plant.  Seminary, if you will, is a seedbed for germinating faith. For those who are thinking about seminary . . .

1.  You don’t have to be perfect.Like with salvation, if you are waiting until you get your act together, seminary will always be a distant goal. Each of us come to seminary as sinners. Grace is our uniting bond. Through the seminary experience, you discover where God has been at work in your life in the past, unite with God in the present, and gain a vision of God’s calling for your future.

2. Your ultimate goal is not knowledge, but relationships.The goal of theology is not simply the acquisition of knowledge aboutGod, but to know God intimately. Just as you grow in your relationship with friends and loved ones, God wants you to grow in your relationship with him. Yes, you will grow in your understanding of biblical concepts. Yes, you will develop your ministry leadership skills. However, if you grow in knowledge (head), and practice (hands), but do not grow in your relationship with God (heart), you miss the primary purpose of seminary.

Paul prayed this for his friends, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Eph. 1:17, emphasis mine).Each day we pray this for our students, that through their studies they will know God better.

By the way, you can receive an MDiv at Rockbridge without Greek and Hebrew. We help you learn how to use tools for understanding the biblical languages.

3. You don’t have to be an “A” student.Most of our students have been out of formal education for over 20 years. Many did not do well in previous academic studies because they were not motivated to learn. But with maturity and a passion for Christ come a desire to know and learn more about God. Rockbridge students improve their written and oral communication skills. They develop friendships with colleagues from around the world who cheer each other on. They are motivated to create projects they can use immediately in their ministry.

So, if you are feeling a nudge from God and friends to attend seminary, don’t be scared. Seminary might just be the seedbed where your faith can grow.

Please share this with others who are exploring this journey. If you want more information, contact admissions@rockbridge.edu.

 

By |2019-01-19T01:18:22-05:00January 19th, 2019|

The Journey – It’s the Experience

We live in an experience economy. Today it is not about the destination, but the experience. Adult learners are not interested in being silent spectators. They want to be active participants. If learning is indeed the experience and not the stamp on the passport, what makes for a good learning experience?

There are many ways to travel and experience new horizons. One is to go with a large group hosted by a travel guide. This is economical and efficient. You get to see a lot of venues in a short period of time and buffets are included. People sit in rows in buses and listen to an expert lecture through a loud speaker system. Travelers are herded to well-known sights where they receive additional information and a quick investigation of the destination. They are shuffled again onto the bus and on to another city or cultural marker. There is little opportunity for a serendipitous adventure or taste of the local cuisine. The vacationers’ senses are so overloaded with information they can’t absorb it all. Thousands of pictures are taken, but they can’t remember much about the sight. Their passports are stamped and can be proudly displayed to friends. They are off to other countries, never to return to this one. The experience is about the travel guide and the stamp. Should they return on the trip, they would hear the same commentary and see the same sights. This is old school.

Imagine instead a group of friends that set their own course. Instead of a bus, they fly a private jet with clusters of seating facing one another to encourage conversation. Each traveler has read books about their destination, particularly on topics of their own interest. Each person becomes an “expert” on the journey and the collective exchange is greater than the one. They stop and peruse sites on their own time schedule. This arrangement allows for the group to explore the region, not just the tourist traps.

Experts are enlisted from time to time to answer questions and provide suggestions of other places they should explore. The group encounters locals who join them in the journey and serve as color analysts. The experience is centered on the goals of the sojourner, not the expert guide. They pause for a meal in an outdoor café and enjoy the sights, sounds, and the language of the people. Even the bad experiences are embraced and valued, because the travelers own the adventure. It is often the unforeseen experiences that are remembered the most. An explorer accompanies a fellow trekker, an expert photographer, on a photo shoot. This colleague gives the amateur tips on what to look for in order to capture the essence of the local people.

Adventurers arrive back home with more than a stamp on their passports. Their diaries are full of stories and adventures. They have an appreciation for the people and culture of their trip and a desire explore the region again, because every trip and every experience is different.

Each of these types of learning experiences has advantages and disadvantages. Some prefer to sit and listen. Others want to engage more deeply in the learning process. We know that students learn more when all of their senses are used and they are involved in the learning process. At Rockbridge Seminary, we’re about engaging people in a learning community. We are the private jet, not the tourist bus. Our curriculum is learner centered, rather than content centered. Students are responsible for their learning, but they are aided in their journey by expert faculty members and mentors. The student and faculty are colleagues, both contributing to the experience. Which learning approach is best for you? Do you want to be a tourist or a trekker?

By |2018-09-07T18:55:03-05:00September 7th, 2018|

What Makes a Great Student?

As students are returning to school, this is a worthwhile question to ask.  It is easy to criticize teachers and complain about deficiencies in our schools, but teachers are only part of the equation. Students and parents share responsibility for learning outcomes. Great schools are determined not just by the caliber of their faculty, but by the caliber of their students. I have been fortunate to be associated with great students at Rockbridge Seminary.  Our average student age is 42.  Some haven’t been in a formal educational environment since college, decades ago, yet they exemplify what it means to be great learners. Here is what I have learned from them.  Great learners are:

  1. Curious– This quality sets good students apart. Curious students ask thoughtful questions (not “is this going to be on the test?”). Great students want to know how things work. They ask, “How did you do that?” or “What would it look like if we did that?”  They are inquisitive, hungry to understand the world. Our students at Rockbridge thirst for the knowledge of God.
  2. Humble – Humble students understand they don’t have all the answers. You can’t learn if you already know it all. People who live long enough usually look back and laugh at how they thought they had life all figured out in their earlier years—time and experience taught them that they didn’t know as much as they thought.  Recently, I bought a t-shirt that reads on the back, “Pon-tif-i-cate: Express one’s opinions in a way considered annoying, pompous, and dogmatic.”  The front of the shirt reads, “If I pontificate, snap my wristband.” This is a reminder to not take myself so seriously and to learn by listening to other points of view.
  3. Teachable– You can acknowledge you don’t know everything, but that doesn’t always mean you are open to learning new things. People who are unteachable say things like, “I just can’t do that.” “I’m not wired that way.”  “I’m stupid.” “I’m not good at ______.” Teachable people are open to learning from everything and everyone. They love to be around people who challenge their thinking and help them grow. They look for ways to apply what they learn.
  4. Unlearners – In order to learn, sometimes you have to unlearn. Good students discard old ways of thinking and assimilate new ideas.  Jesus repeatedly said to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, . . . but I say to you . . .” (Matt 5:17-48).  Jesus taught that you don’t put new wine into old wineskins.  The disciples had to discard some old ways of thinking.
  5. Failures – Yes, you read it correctly.  Whether you are learning racquetball, speaking a new language, preaching, or going back to school in your 40s, there will be failures. Some of our greatest lessons in life come when we fail. Failure is part of learning. You can’t walk on water if you don’t get out of the boat (Matthew 14:22-33). Do poorly on a paper? What did you learn that will help you do better next time?Did poor time management affect your study habits? What can you do to prevent that?  Got dinged for grammar?  Thank God for spellchecker and the Internet. Every failure provides an opportunity to learn.

We are created to learn. We live in an amazing time in history with abundant opportunities for growth and exploration. May each of us make the most of our days by being great learners.

By |2018-08-25T04:28:19-05:00August 25th, 2018|

Traditional Seminary vs. Online Seminary – which is right for you?

Today, persons called to ministry have many options for their training. With more than 500 seminaries, 1200 Bible colleges, and several hundred Christian Colleges that offer ministry tracks, the choices are daunting. How do you sort through the various opportunities and simplify your decision-making process? The following examines the pros and cons of two of these options: traditional and online seminaries.

Traditional Seminaries
By far the most typical form of seminary training is residential. The advantage of a residential campus experience is face-to-face interaction with colleagues and faculty. Residential programs also provide extracurricular activities, hard-copy libraries, recreational facilities, and other amenities you would expect from living on or near a campus.

The disadvantages of this approach are that students usually have to leave home, bear the costs of moving to a campus, and work in secular employment or live in poverty in order to acquire a seminary degree. The sacrifices can be great, particularly for older students. Often students are disengaged from ministry for 3-6 years because local churches see them as drifters who won’t be there long, or the opportunities for vocational ministry positions are scarce. Students may find there is less interaction with peers than expected. Married graduate students hustle from class, to work, to church, with little margin for hanging out and discussing theology with friends.

Critics say that residential seminary training is not practical, but that is dependent more upon the curriculum than the location. Some students find they are not disciplined enough to study on their own, and don’t do well in online studies. They need the structure that physical classes provide.

Fully Online Seminaries
The fastest growing form of seminary education is online studies. The advantage of online seminaries is that students can remain in their ministry field or secular employment and obtain theological and ministry training at lower costs to their family. They don’t have to uproot their family to acquire the education they seek.

The disadvantage of online learning is much the same as shopping online. Amazon is convenient and cheaper, but some want to visit a store where they can touch the fabric and talk face-to-face to a salesperson. Others prefer to save time and money, by reading reviews and ordering the product online, with the knowledge they can send the product back if it doesn’t fulfill their expectations. The risk and cost for attending a fully online program are less than residential programs. While some online students are engaged in their course work and in interactions with fellow students, they can feel disconnected from their school because of this lack of physical presence.

As with residential programs, there is a wide range of online seminary programs. Some are nothing more than self-paced correspondence courses with video lectures and tests. The best online communities require high interaction and engagement through chats, forums, and audio/video conferencing. Twenty years ago, critics claimed that the learning outcomes of online classes were less robust than those of residential classes, but recent research shows just the opposite: students engaged in online learning achieve learning outcomes that are at least as good as, or better than, those achieved by students engaged in residential studies. Once skeptical of online learning, churches, employers, and society have accepted this form of education.

As our society has discovered, lifelong friendships and supportive networks can be developed online. Online doesn’t have to mean non-relational. Some students who have attended both residential and online seminaries say they know their online colleagues and professors better than they did fellow students and faculty in residential programs. Students who do well with email and staying in touch with family and friends through social media adapt well to this learning environment.

Prospective students should be aware that graduate-level education, regardless of its form, requires discipline, time management, and effort. Online courses, though convenient, require as much time and energy, if not more, than residential programs. We’d be honored to help you determine which approach is best for you. To set up an appointment with an academic coach, call 866-931-4300 or email academics@rockbridge.edu.

About the Writer: Dr. Daryl Eldridge has served as Dean at one of the largest residential theological seminaries, served on staff at several churches helping to develop the ministry skills of leaders, taught in blended programs, and is now the president of Rockbridge Seminary, a fully online accredited seminary.

By |2018-08-15T20:50:34-05:00August 15th, 2018|

Theology AND Practice

One of the grave dangers of the Church and for every Christian is to believe what the Bibles says, but not practice those beliefs. James expressed it this way,

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says(bold mine.) Anyone who listens to the word but does not dowhat it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.  (James 1:22, NIV, bold mine)

Our five core courses examine the biblical theology for why the church exists as found in Acts 2:42-47. This beautiful passage portrays how these early Christians spent their time and energies. Our five core courses are Theology and Practice of . . . worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism/missions. Students develop a systematic biblical understanding of theology, but they also learn how to put those biblical foundations into practice in their unique ministry context.

Pastors and church ministers are called to lead others.  People need to know “why,” but they also must be taught “how.”  It is important to tell believers to be engaged in discipleship, evangelism, and the other tasks of the Church, but unless leaders give people the tools for practicing their faith, doctrinal teaching will have little impact on the lives of others.

Facebook

Check out our Facebook page @rockbridgeseminary. If you have taken one of our core courses, please post how the course helped you do church.

End of the Year Giving

We are so blessed to have so many supporters of our mission to develop servant leaders for Christian ministry. One third of student costs is covered by the faithful giving of people like you.  Here is how you can help.

By |2018-07-13T16:22:26-05:00July 13th, 2018|

Getting the Most out of Seminary While Saving Money

I worked four years in a church staff position during and after college, before deciding I needed to further my education by going to a seminary. These years were invaluable to my development because I experienced ministry and discovered what I needed to know before furthering in my studies. I wish all incoming students could have ministry experience before attending seminary.

Before I set foot on the campus, I wrote in my journal a list of things I wanted to learn while at seminary. I wish I had kept that list.  I don’t remember all the objectives, but one of them was, “Learn how to recruit, train, and supervise volunteers.” I experienced a great deal of frustration in my youth ministry with supervising volunteers much older than me. The volunteers were patient, but I needed help in this area if I were to be an effective minister.

During orientation and my first days at a seminary, I took my list of about 15 items and looked at the requirements for my program of study and determined which core courses matched the learning objectives on my list.  I then looked at the seminary catalog and the electives I could take and identified courses that would help me accomplish those objectives. For example, there was a course entitled, “Working with Volunteers,” which matched one of my learning objectives. I could then map out my curriculum for the next two years, maximizing my seminary experience.

Each term before registering for classes, I reviewed my list, checked off those that I accomplished, and identified courses that would meet the remaining objectives. In more than one occasion, I added new learning objectives to my growing list.

One of the assignments in the class on volunteers was to write a ten-page term paper. I wrote a 50-page paper on recruiting volunteers.  My friends teased me that I had gone overboard, but I told them I wasn’t trying to impress the professor. This paper was for me and I wanted to develop materials that I could take back home and use. Your seminary learning takes on another dimension when you have ownership in the product. Ask your professors if you can negotiate assignments to fulfill your learning objectives. Instead of a paper, maybe you could write a strategic plan, develop a website, or write a sermon series. Suggest projects that meet the course objectives, but also have immediate application in your ministry.

Not all of my learning objectives could be fulfilled through seminary courses.  This is where mentoring, internships, and field experiences can round out your seminary experience. Since I was in youth ministry, I looked for a church that was really doing a great job in discipling youth. One of my objectives was to learn how to educate youth about ethical issues, including sex education. I found a youth minister who was willing to mentor me and he had developed some materials on sex education in the church. Over the course of those two years and with the help of this mentor, I developed some discipleship materials that I used for years.

If your seminary doesn’t provide specific courses that will address your learning objectives, talk with an advisor and see if you can take courses at other institutions and transfer those credit hours to your program. You might find that you can save money by taking quality courses at seminaries that have lower tuition costs. Another way to attend a seminary and save money is to attend an online school. Find a fully online seminary that doesn’t require you to leave your ministry and work to acquire a degree. Online schools save moving expenses, tuition, travel expenses, and many incidental expenses.

What do you want to learn? What skills do you want to develop? What competencies will you need to develop in order to be an effective minister?   What attitudes do you need to change?  What spiritual disciplines will you need to develop? Write out a list of your learning objectives to guide your seminary studies. With this intentional learning plan, you will maximize your time at seminary and you’ll not have to write a book, “What I didn’t learn in seminary.”

About the Writer:Dr. Daryl Eldridge has served as dean at one of the largest residential theological seminaries, served on staff at several churches helping to develop the ministry skills of leaders, taught in blended programs, and is now the president of Rockbridge Seminary, a fully online accredited seminary.

 

By |2018-06-08T19:21:19-05:00June 8th, 2018|

Why Go to Seminary?

Seth Godin wrote an interesting piece about education at the crossroads today.  And he raised an interesting point:

School was the big thing for a long time. School is tests and credits and note taking and meeting standards. Learning, on the other hand, is ‘getting it’. It’s the conceptual breakthrough that permits the student to understand it then move on to something else. Learning doesn’t care about workbooks or long checklists.

In another blog, Craig Groeschel raises this question, “How important is seminary?”   All of us know people who have become successful without the benefit of a degree.   Is “success” the criteria for why someone should get an education?  Seth Godin says the point is not education or schooling, but learning.    Is education different from learning?

I am a lifelong learner.  I read a book a week, attend continuing education conferences, research on the web, and write.   I believe in the admonition: “Leaders are learners.”  People can sit in a classroom and not learn.  People can get a degree without getting an education.   People can learn a lot of things, but not be educated.   There is a difference between learning and education; both are important.   Here are some reasons why I believe it is important to get a seminary education.

A seminary education exposes students to fields of learning beyond their interest.   Most of us read and learn about things we are interested in.  I love to learn about leadership.  If it were up to me that would be all I studied.   However, my education would have been incomplete without my studies of theology, psychology, ethics, algebra, history, chemistry, and biblical courses.   There is more to ministry than leadership.   A good education provides a well-rounded experience.    A good education lays the foundation for future learning.

A seminary education provides structure and encourages self-discipline.  People can find out what books are required of seminarians and establish a learning goal to read all those books in 3 years.  They could discuss their learning with veteran ministers in their geographical area.  However, what percentage would structure their life to accomplish that?  In the busyness of jobs and ministry, sharpening the saw through a self-directed learning program is usually the first thing to go.   Some people need the structure of a formal education.  It is because schools have deadlines, provide accountability, and have standards that students learn to excel.   A good education teaches students discipline and self management.   I have several friends who have become very successful in life without finishing a degree in higher education and seminary.  They would say they received their education in the school of hard knocks.  However, every one of them have insisted and paid for their children to get a college or seminary education.   They understand the value of a formal educational program.

A seminary education sharpens your thinking through interaction with others. Just because we have an idea, doesn’t make that idea right.  You may like an author because you agree with his or her point of view. That doesn’t mean your view is the only correct view on the subject.   A wise sage wrote, “Iron sharpens iron.  So one man sharpens another (Prov. 27:17, NIV).  A seminary should be a sacred and safe place to explore ideas and have them sharpened through the interaction with others.   A school is a community of learners seeking truth. A good education will expose you to a wide range of views and interpretations and help you develop critical thinking skills.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I believe our educational system (including seminary education) needs an overhaul. The term “higher education” in some cases is an oxymoron.  All education is not created equal. I have sat through boring lectures and taken exams that were poorly constructed and didn’t help me learn.  College and seminary education is too expensive.  There is much we can do to improve learning in higher education.

A residential seminary education is not the right learning pathway for some people, nor is online learning the best model for others.  If I have learned one thing in life, it is that education humbles you.   The more I know, the more I realize how little I know.  I don’t have it all figured out.  To not learn and not get an education is arrogant. It is saying I know all I need to know.   Figure out how you can further your education and be a lifelong learner.

Please share this blog with your friends, family, and colleagues who are considering ministry training.

Graduation – June 25, 2018

Please join us in celebrating our graduates at Saddleback Community Church (The Refinery), 1 Saddleback Parkway
Lake Forest, CA 92630.  The celebration is at  7:00 p.m.

 

By |2018-06-01T15:14:54-05:00June 1st, 2018|