When I began to feel God pressing the need for my completion of formal theological education, I began the process of determining which seminary was right for me. In doing so, I considered multiple factors and sought the comfort of the Holy Spirit as I explored my options. I considered several solid, worthwhile schools that I would definitely recommend to others that in the end, I did not opt for. While my choice certainly is not the result of any failures or shortcomings of the schools themselves, I do think that it speaks highly of Southwestern.
What schools did I consider?
I looked at several schools, including:
- Logsdon Seminary in Abilene, TX (I had already completed 30 hours of graduate work at their Corpus Christi Extension)
- The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY
- New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, LA
- Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, TX
- Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, TX
- Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO
- Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL
- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX
Why didn’t I look at more? Honestly, I began with several convictions up front.
- I am a theological conservative. I would have considered myself to be rather progressive in the past, but as I continue to study God’s Word, I have become increasingly conservative in my theology and in my methodology.
- I am a Baptist. I know they (we, I guess) have their (our) issues, but no other denominational set of beliefs parallels my own more than that of the good ol’ SBC. That should be expected. I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church. I graduated from a Texas Baptist University. I have served in other denominations and movements (United Methodist, Evangelical Free, and Evangelical Friends), and have celebrated the commonality as we unite to spread the Gospel and preach Christ, but ultimately, I am Southern Baptist at the core. As the hymn has been re-written before, “My faith is built on nothing less than Lottie Moon and Broadman Press.“
- I am Reformed (or at least, I considered myself to be when I wrote this post. While maintaining a lot of respect for the Reformed tradition and still leaning strongly in that tradition, I wouldn’t quite categorize myself in the same manner today. Update 2019). Several years ago, I never would have thought I would have said that up front. And there are plenty of friends and family who would wish that I wouldn’t say it now. But I certainly fit more in the Calvinist theological tradition than I do in the Arminian tradition. For that reason, my search was narrowed down to schools that if not primarily Reformed, were at the minimum balanced in their view. Southwestern has garnered a reputation of late of being somewhat antagonistic towards Reformed teaching. I spoke with Dr. Patterson regarding this matter, and while he himself hopes to change my mind in this regard (and recommended that I spend time studying the Anabaptists), he stated that no student (however Arminian or Calvinist) would suffer persecution or embarrassment at the hands of the faculty of Southwestern. After speaking with several past and present students, and researching several faculty members, Southwestern appears to be very balanced in their teachings.
What about Southwestern stood out?
With that many great schools – and again, I think they’re all great schools – it was a more difficult decision than I expected. Each school has a great legacy and great alumni. I have a lot of respect for the faculty at all of these institutions.
They value preaching
In my experience, a high view of preaching is the direct result of a high view of Scripture – and the contrary is true as well. To hold a low view of preaching is the result of a low view of Scripture. Preaching is the most visible, and in my opinion, the most important aspect of pastoral ministry. Southwestern holds the pastor’s pulpit ministry in high regard, and that value is evident in everything they do – from their motto to their M.Div. requirements (the M.Div. requires 12 hours of Greek and 9 hours of Hebrew).
They strongly support global evangelism
One cannot escape the importance of global evangelism when walking around the Fort Worth campus. They are on prominent display around the campus as a reminder to students that the intention of the school is to develop ministers who will bring the gospel to the world. Theological academia that does not lead to a passion for sharing the gospel is hollow and no better than a white-washed tomb.
They value and train the family
Southwestern prides themselves in training more than the pastor, but training the entire family. One of the things that solidified our decision to attend Southwestern was it’s offering of courses for seminary wives. They belive that ministry is more than just the responsibility of the pastor, but of the entire family. So wives are offered a pared-down version of the courses that their husbands are taking, as well as courses such as The Wife of the Equipping Minister.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is the premiere Texas Baptist Seminary
My understanding of God’s call upon my life is to pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention and my hope is that would be within the state of Texas. Seminaries tend to brand their graduates. And while schools such as Truett or Logsdon are officially the two “Texas Baptist” seminaries, both come with their share of baggage after the split of the Texas Baptist State Convention. Ultimately, however the political wind may blow in Southern Baptist Churches in the state of Texas, Southwestern opens the door. Statistically, 40% of international missionaries serving with the Southern Baptist Convention are Southwestern graduates. 60% of pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention are Southwestern graduates. Southwestern has a rich history of training Word-centered, Christ-exalting ministers who carry the gospel to the ends of the earth.
For the reasons above, once I began to research my options, Southwestern became the most obvious choice.