why lay people should go to the seminary

The Church is in great need of faithful, pious, educated laypeople. She needs pastors and deaconesses, vicars and interns, but she also needs Lutheran doctors, Lutheran chocolatiers, Lutheran landscapers, and Lutheran cowboys.

Lay theological study is critical to the health and vitality of the church. Formative understanding of God’s Word and of the Lutheran Confessions, of the church’s history and the great heroes of the faith, by lay people is one of the church’s greatest blessings.

Jesus the Teacher

An educated laity judges its pastors by the very words of Christ. It reminds the church of its past. It allows its deeply-rooted Scriptural truths to determine its future. It trusts and believes. It is watchful, on guard, alert. It calls out false doctrine when it sees it, prays for forgiveness when it is wrong, strengthens those called to serve. The church depends upon educated laypeople.

“They all say, ‘The ordinary reader does not want Theology; give him plain practical religion,’” C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity. “I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means ‘the science of God,’ and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available.”

Those interested in lay theological study are the very people who are not satisfied with pat answers, who want those clear and accurate ideas about Christ that Lewis describes. They are armchair theologians, eager to know more, understand fully, explain better, speak clearer.

These are the kinds of people that Lutheran pastors want in their congregations, their Bible studies, and on their Board of Elders. These are the kinds of people that Lutheran deaconesses want teaching Sunday School, serving on Ladies’ Aid, and assisting with childcare: lay people with a deep and profound thirst for the holy things of God.

As a graduate of the the Master of Arts program at Concordia Theological Seminary, I can’t recommend that kind of theological formation for lay people enough! For the person who desires to understand the faith and the Church; for the academic who wants to teach or to study in-depth, the seminary’s MA program opens before them a world of resources—faculty, community, worship—second to none.

While at CTS, I watched professors eat lunch with students, invite them over for supper, visit them in their homes, and personally invest time in their spiritual growth and development. Faculty care for and about each student. Theological discussions amongst peers are as robust as they are in the classroom. They take place over hot wings, during a ping-pong battle, and in between studies. And at the heart of it all, students gather daily around God’s Word and Sacraments, praying the creeds and liturgy, unified in confession and belief. Learning side-by-side—with peers and pastors—about the faith from the very words of Christ Himself has a formative, life-altering impact.

Each of these unique aspects of the program equips students to be of benefit to the church. Some students become teachers, some scholars, some stay-at-home mothers, some magazine editors. All of this, then, leads to a simple question: Do certain aspects of theology or history intrigue you? Do you love being Lutheran? Do you simply wish to have a deeper understanding of the faith, of worship, of doctrine, of what it means to be Lutheran?

Then visit the seminaries. Talk with professors. Attend chapel. Go to class with students. Stay until your questions are answered. Pray for discernment.

The mysteries of the faith are profound, but not so deep that faithful lay people cannot understand them. The MA program  is the program that, for lay people, answers those questions, fills that void, gives structure to a questioning chaos, and provides the church with educated, well-spoken, and thoughtful Lutheran doctors, Lutheran chocolatiers, Lutheran landscapers, and Lutheran cowboys.

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5 thoughts on “why lay people should go to the seminary

  1. Who is to say that going the Seminary would be any different from here? You say they want laypeople there. I challenge your assertion. Even if laypeople could shell out the 10’s of thousands of dollars needed. Would they really be included? Or would they be excluded? If you’re not in with a group then you are out. I laugh because your assertion of equality is untrue. Church workers take care of their own first and foremost. Church workers do not want friendships with laypeople. It makes things complicated and anyway we don’t know what we are talking about.

  2. I just found this blog. Greetings from Eastern Iowa.

    Amen and amen! I earned an MA in Theological Studies at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Seminary in Tacoma, WA and found it to be very beneficial: I learned some Lutheran theology. (I have been a thorough-going evangelical for decades.) What a wonderful world has been opened to me.

  3. I got my M.A. in systematic theology and church history from CSL and have used it in, among other things, mission outreach to the blind. What a great Confessional grounding I received there and still treasure. Programs like Issues ETc. and Fighting For The Faith are a supplement the enrichment I received, wow, thirteen years ago. And, as a layperson, I am able to empathie with my pastor when things get tense for him since I was around so many pastors and future pastors while at the seminary.

  4. Seconded! Though my initial plans to go on to teach didn’t work out, I’ve never once regretted taking a two-year break from being a Lutheran software engineer to get my MA at CTS.

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