Ministry preparation is as old as the church itself. The Apostle Paul received personal instruction from Christ, and he exhorted Timothy to “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman unashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The Apostle’s exhortation to Timothy rings through the ages, challenging every generation of gospel ministers to be maximally prepared for ministerial service.
As an institution that exists for the Church, Midwestern Seminary abides under an Ephesians 4 mandate, equipping pastors, ministers and missionaries for local church service. While not every graduate will minister within a local church setting, seminary students should view their calling through the prism of serving the church.
In the world of theological education, the Master of Divinity degree has long been the gold standard for ministry preparation, and its status is well deserved. In it, one finds the complete toolkit for ministry service: Greek and Hebrew, New Testament and Old Testament, theology, church history, preaching, pastoral care and counseling, evangelism, missions, and much, much more.
Yet, in many seminaries, the Master of Divinity degree has fallen on hard times. In recent years, shorter and less rigorous Master of Arts degrees have syphoned off students from the Master of Divinity degree.
The increase of online studies over the past decade unintentionally accelerated the shift from the M.Div. to the M.A. degree. Since accrediting agencies approved online M.A. degrees many years before the lengthier online M.Div. degrees, online students had no choice but to become M.A. students, thus increasing the migration.
Thankfully, at Midwestern Seminary, the Master of Divinity degree is making a comeback, and this is not by accident. Indeed, at our recent Board of Trustees meeting, we announced Midwestern Seminary now has more Master of Divinity students than at any point in its history.
Our surge in Master of Divinity students parallels the seminary’s overall enrollment growth and follows the recent retooling of our Master of Divinity degree. We barraged every aspect of our curriculum, including the M.Div. degree, with one driving question—how do we best prepare our students to serve the church?
This process led us to revamp our Master of Divinity degree. We pruned the edges, strengthened the core, and produced an 81-hour M.Div. Midwestern Seminary Provost, Jason Duesing, recently expounded upon our new Master of Divinity degree, and the primacy of the M.Div. in and of itself.
At Midwestern Seminary, we are insisting every Master of Divinity student get the full complement of ministry preparation, including the classic, timeless disciplines of theological education. Yet, we have structured the M.Div. with student concerns like affordability and attainability in mind.
The 2.0 version of the Master of Divinity provides the student with the complete ministry toolkit, while being affordable and able to be completed in three years or less.
The urgency of recovering the M.Div. degree is not rooted in what it offers, but in what ministers and churches need. Ours is an exhilarating age to live in and minister. The unpredictable challenges of a decadent culture, the perennial needs of the church, and the demands of 21st century Christian service all point to the urgency and consequence of the Master of Divinity degree. In other words, the needs of the church are great, and the church’s expectations of their ministers will be greater still.
We do not settle for shabbiness in any other area of life, so why would we settle for it in Christian ministry? When my automobile needs servicing, I do not take it to a backyard mechanic. When I need an accountant, I do not look for someone that is merely good with a calculator. When I have a sick child, I do not take them to a physician who occasionally dabbles in pediatrics. Let us not subject our churches to such shoddiness either. Sunday morning at 11 a.m. is not amateur hour.
The sad reality is many church members are pathetically ill-informed, but their lack of biblical training is not a permission slip for ministers to exhibit the same. God does not grade ministers on the curve. We are judged by New Testament standards of biblical knowledge and ministerial fitness, not by whether or not we know the Scriptures marginally better than ill-informed church members.
The call to the ministry is indeed the most glorious calling known to man. All whom God has called must be optimally prepared to serve him. Don’t settle for the quickest or easiest degree; aim for being maximally prepared for a lifetime of faithful ministry. Completing the Master of Divinity degree does not ensure a faithful ministry, but it does best position one for it. If at all possible, do not settle for anything less.topicsHigher Education, Master of Divinity, Midwestern Seminary, theological education