Run in Such a Way as to Get the Prize

1 Corinthians 9:24
Imagine for a moment that two individuals, Bob and Scott, are preparing to run a marathon. To prepare for this grueling endurance race, Bob says, “I’m going to read some books, watch a few videos, and go to a conference to meet some other runners and discover what they think works. Then I will train on my own and run the race.”

Scott, on the other hand, takes a different approach. “I’ll read books, blogs and other helpful resources, but I will also hire a coach who will advise me personally, put me on a proven training program, and connect me to a group of runners who are training for the same distance and who I know will cheer me all the way to the finish line.”

Who do you think will finish the race strongest, if at all?  I hope you picked Scott. A training program with peers and experienced mentors who guide training benefits the runner better than a DIY training program.

God calls all of us to minister and all of us to “run in such a way as to win the prize.” (1 Cor. 9:24) For those called to full-time ministry, the need to equip and prepare is even greater!

Books, conferences, blogs and fellowship are all great things, but pastors and church leaders need more. They need a proven training program and coaching.

A graduate theological degree from an accredited seminary is one of those proven training programs to run the marathon of ministry in such a way to win the prize of finishing well.

Reasons why people say they don’t need seminary

Those called to serve God in a part-time or full-time vocational capacity typically give two reasons why they don’t want or need seminary training:

  1. It will squelch the Spirit, and
  2. It is not relevant or practical to real-life ministry.

Let us take a candid look at both of these arguments.

Seminary “squelches the Spirit”

“If I go to seminary then all of that dry academic, theological rhetoric will squeeze the Spirit out of me. God has already given me all I need to serve Him.”

Yes, seminary language and academics can become substitutes for an authentic relationship with God—but so can the lingo and methods of your favorite author/speaker or peer group. If you are already aware of this possibility, you are positioned to pursue truth in the context of a community of faith and learning and to be coached by a mentor/professor who can equip you for ministry while deepening your relationship with God.

Seminary is impractical and irrelevant

“The stuff they teach at seminary is not the real world. I need ministry training and a way of doing church that is practical and will work.”

Too many “real world” ways of doing church are “cutting edge” and not proven over time and in multiple contexts. What is told at the biggest conferences and in the best-selling books and videos does not guarantee its lasting effectiveness, or that it will work where you serve. Why not learn how people have tried to do and be the church globally and historically and apply some of that to where you serve? A growing number of quality seminaries allow you to learn where you live and serve. The application of what you learn can be immediate in the ministry issues where you serve. You can still go to Orlando for that conference and speaker you like.

The real reason people don’t want seminary training

Now, let’s be candid (in a loving and Christ-honoring way) and look at the real reasons people don’t want to go to seminary:

Fear & Insecurity

Many feel threatened by the idea of coming under the mentorship of another, of training and disciplining oneself under the authority of another. Plus, in-depth theological training and biblical study may threaten deeply held presuppositions or push a student out of his or her comfort zone.


Let’s face it: Most seminary degrees are not cheap.


Seminary graduate study requires hard work, determination and the ability to integrate your training into your life of family, work, and hobbies. Like adding marathon training to your already busy schedule, you commit and find time for the things that are important to you.

Don’t let these be excuses for you not getting the training you need to finish the life-long calling of ministry. God has called you to run the race of God’s mission call on your life. Prayerfully consider a graduate training program so you can run with endurance the marathon of ministry set before you.

Gene Wilkes is President and Professor of New Testament and Leadership at B. H. Carroll Theological Institute and author of Jesus on Leadership.

B.H. Carroll Theological Institute is a graduate school dedicated to equipping men and women called to serve Christ in the diverse and global ministries of His church. As a community of faith and learning, Carroll believes that theological education belongs to the people, and seeks to make it accessible and affordable, encouraging more people to respond to the call to Christian ministry. Carroll Institute is reinventing theological education in innovative, creative ways that make ministerial training more relevant, practical, affordable, and accessible to all Christian workers through an online learning environment.