Why Church-Based Seminary?
My Christian experience began with a dual love: for the Word and the Church. Yes, I loved the study of the Bible. As one who came to faith after a painful journey with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I knew instinctively that knowing God’s word would establish me in the truth (John 8.31-32). Connected to this was my love for my local church. It was the home of my tutelage, my friendships, and my growth. I came to see early that God’s church is guardian of the truth (1 Tim. 3.16), the family of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. These two loves deeply shaped my early days as a Christ follower.
Yet, the messages I heard about training bewildered me. I was boldly told that I had to go to seminary to be equipped for effective ministry. I was recently married, employed and living paycheck to paycheck, and heavily involved in reaching my friends and neighbors for Christ. Seminary seemed distant, expensive, and stunting to my life and ministry. Why should I stop everything and go, then? Perhaps this was because only academic institutions could properly “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (cf. Eph. 4.9-15). Maybe it was due to the low opinion many held of the church as a poor place for serious leadership and theological preparation. Whatever the reasons, most felt that if I was trained, then I would have to go, and yes, I did. But while I endured 15 years of training for my doctoral degree, I was convinced it would not work for most people. This is why only 5% of the world’s pastors have received any formal Bible college or formal seminary training. They can neither access it, afford it, or use it effectively where they live.
World Impact’s Church-Based Seminary (TUMI) connects this love for the Word and the Church powerfully and directly. Our satellite program empowers churches to form their own “seminaries” (read as “ministry training centers”) with biblical content, culturally-conducive material given in an effective, affordable, and accessible way. Over 300 partners have trained workers in their own context who could never afford nor access traditional seminary. Hundreds of disciple-makers and ministers are being equipped to fulfill their callings, without suffering crippling debt, leaving their churches or jobs, or getting training that proves irrelevant to where they live.
The Word and the Church combine powerfully in church-based seminary. TUMI is a willing servant to a great idea whose time has finally come: bringing ministry training and church life together for the sake of the Gospel. What a great combination for the Kingdom!