Tommy reconstructs his censored comments 43

Tommy F emailed the following report on what happened at the Brad Cooper blog last week. From what I recall from reading the original discussion, his report here is substantively correct.

The gist of my various posts are below (3 were deleted from BCoop’s site). I have not made any attempt to make them either more polite or more pointed. This posting represents both the spirit and, to a large degree, the letter of what I wrote on BCoop’s site. In the originals, there were no offensive words, no expletives, and no personal attacks. In other words, there was no good reason to delete them. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Apparently 15,000 people don’t care at all that their pastor and his leadership team have 0 seminary degrees among them. Or perhaps they just don’t know, which is why BCoop needed to delete my posts. This is conjecture, of course. But, if the information was incorrect, he could have simply corrected it. If it is true, but he didn’t want it to be publicized, well that takes a slightly different approach, doesn’t it? I call it the enema approach to blogging (H/T: Ace Noble).

On a less personal note: I find it disturbing that a youth minister’s blog feels it necessary to delete posts recommending theological education. Are they against education? Theology? Or just the combination of the two? Seriously.

I confess that I think highly of ministerial education. Is it perfect? No, but I think if all things are equal a seminary trained minister has a wider breadth of knowledge and has shown the proper dedication of basic preparation for his/her calling. I think it’s clear that Paul had a high view of training, the parchments (the scriptures), and clear teaching when he advised Timothy. For a few passages related to this, see: 1 Tim 1:6-7; 1 Tim 5:22; 1 Tim 6:20-21; 2 Tim 3:14-17; 2 Tim 4:1-4; 2 Tim 4:13.

On to the tantalizingly delete-worthy posts:

1) Theblakebutler wrote:

“@ Tommy F- I believe you need to make a distinction between apostles and disciples here if you are going to split hairs and cause dissension.”

My response:

I should begin by saying that I am not trying to cause dissension. As I see it this is a difference of opinion and perspective: I prefer my church leadership to have deep theological training, while others, apparently … not so much.

Blake asked whether I should make a distinction between apostles and disciples. This distinction is important and vital, and I’m glad he brought it up.

From the angle of apostles and disciples, the argument against going to seminary relies precisely on not making a proper distinction. As I understand it, the argument (at its simplest) runs as follows:

The 12 (apostles) never went to seminary, so why should I/we (21st century disciples)?

There is a big difference between ministering with Jesus in the flesh for 3+ years, listening to him teach, watching him perform miracles, and observing how he dealt with people (both those sympathetic to Jesus’ ministry and those opposed), compared with the situation that Christians find themselves in today.

In fact, I would argue that it is impossible to parallel the experience of the 12 with any discipleship training that could be experienced today. The approach has to be different. Distincitons need to be made between 1st century followers of Jesus and 21st century ones.

I would argue further that the 12 experienced both ministerial on-the-job training while learning the requisite teaching required, and still they were stunned by the crucifixion, and were completely surprised that he rose on the third day. All of this, after following him for 3+ years.

Following the example of the 12 as a reason to avoid seminary is a fool’s errand. Too much time has passed, and Jesus is not walking the earth any longer.

On to the other substantive point made by theblakebutler:

“Tommy writes all of the time on other outlets about not preaching from the word, but I cannot find anywhere where getting a degree certifies and qualifies one to stand in a pulpit. Are you claiming that this should be an addendum to the Gospel? Yes we are to equip ourselves, but can a relationship with the father not simply be enough?””¨”¨

My response:

I do not think that a degree qualifies one to stand in the pulpit, but often it can prepare someone to know what to say and do, once there. But, more importantly a theological education trains one to know what is erroneous and what is true. In other words it has the effect of preparing one for what should be said (truth), as well as what should not be said (error).

Overall, it seems to me that those who say seminary is an option for full-time ministers are trying to divide what Jesus joined: teaching and training coupled with ministry experience.

2) BCoop was not impressed with my follow-up comment, and came back with this gem:

“NS has a rule”…. id beg you to not make assumptions — you know how that can be perceived…

My original reply to BCoop (before he hit the delete button) was:

NS gives advice to young people re: seminary every time they utter the word cemetery regarding ministerial education. In fact, NS has a unified message regarding theological education. They don’t think it’s worthwhile. BCoop, this is not an assumption. It’s a conclusion drawn from evidence:

1) NS leaders explicitly call seminary cemetery. Not exactly a glowing endorsement, is it?

2) No one on their leadership team has completed a seminary degree. No, not one.

I suppose it’s not a rule in the sense that it’s in their operating manual, but it’s a unified stance regarding language and hiring practice. And I am fairly certain that these two points communicate a level of expectation from the students who look up to them and seek guidance. The combination of calling ministerial education cemetery and not having anyone on the leadership team with a seminary degree communicates loud and clear to high school and college students how NS views seminary: “don’t go. Don’t waste your time. We didn’t.”

3) Spencer wrote:

“I’ve been in the trenches four years w/o a degree. i have a friend who is graduating from four years of bible school this month with a degree in youth ministry.

“i’d put my experience versus his academics any day.””¨”¨

I have a very simple two-fold reply:

1) Any Bible College that allows a ministerial student to finish without substantive ministry experience is not a very good one. If all s/he has is 4 years of classes, and no experience, then your friend should have gone elsewhere.

2) The posting relies on faulty logic. In the scenario Spencer presents, both individuals need to complete their training: he has 4 yrs of ministry, but no education. His friend has 4 yrs of Bible college, but no experience. Neither is fully prepared in my view.

When it comes to ministry and education, it’s not either/or. It’s both/and.

43 thoughts on “Tommy reconstructs his censored comments

  1. Seth May 7, 2009 11:25 am

    And I am still waiting to hear if NS is a healthy church? Why has no one answered me? Because it would mean that something they don’t agree with was healthy, that seminary degrees aren’t needed. If someone can tell me whether or not NS is a healthy church, and why they say it either way, it would just make my day.

    Also, If I waited until I was fully prepared to go into ministry, I would never, most christian leaders don’t ever feel fully prepared to go or fully prepared to plant a church, yes, even guys with seminary degrees, I have heard them utter those exact words. So not being 100% ready or prepared is ok, it helps me to rely more on God and the Holy Spirit than on myself.

  2. Micah May 7, 2009 3:14 pm

    “but if it was so important to be trained so much by people, I think it would have been mentioned in the Bible.”

    You mentioned 1 Tim 3:1-7 in an earlier post.

    This is really interesting. What do you think these peoples’ role in the church was?

  3. Micah May 7, 2009 3:22 pm

    I am called to ministry. For a long time held that the Holy Spirit was enough to interpret scripture. Then a friend once said to me

    “going to seminary is like going to medical school. If you want to be a doctor and don’t go, it’s very possible that you will help people, even save lives, but you will not know what to do in many cases too, and you will lose lives.”

    Do I believe that someone HAS to go to seminary to be a pastor? No. But the message of Christ is so important that anyone seeking to be in full time ministry should desire to have a greater, full understanding of the Bible. Seminary is the best means of this.

    And if you’re relying strictly on “the Holy Spirit’s interpretation through you” you are still relying very heavily on your own strength and experience, assuming that other “elders,” wiser people, are not of use. This is very dangerous.

    And so further formal, even academic study of the Word should be a desire, a necessary good for the cause of spreading the Gospel.

  4. Micah May 7, 2009 5:28 pm

    3 posts in a row is a bit much, and I feel a bit ridiculous, but oh well.


    on this point: “but if it was so important to be trained so much by people, I think it would have been mentioned in the Bible.”

    you might also want to research the relationship between Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Timothy, Paul and the churches in Ephesis, Phillipi, Corinth, Galatia, etc. and you might also want to look at Paul’s returning to the Jerusalem council to go before the original apostles to make sure he was preaching the right thing, because even though he was heavily led by the Holy Spirit, he still sought wise council.

    and on this “And I am still waiting to hear if NS is a healthy church?”

    I think people around here just find this to be is a funny question because… well… just read Duncan’s posts from the last two months…

  5. Seth May 7, 2009 6:08 pm


    You do make good points, and I enjoy when people bring it.

    No, I want an answer to the question, and I want to know why yall say it isn’t. is it just because they don’t have seminary degrees? if so, I feel that is a very sad and weak answer. And again, I still think someone can go to the Holy Spirit and recieve learning. if you say that seminary is more important than learning from the Holy Spirit that is very dangerous ground to stand on and quite frnakly, I learn alot from the Holy Spirit. I have not yet felt the call to seminary, and am still up in the air about it.

    I don’t want to read blog posts, I want to hear it from the man hinself, I want to know why he brings such persecution to NS and Perry, if it is b/c they don’t have seminary degrees, I think that is a weak argument based on everything else they have accomplished. the life changes I have seen, the salvations, the community being impacted, the gospel being preached, marriages being healed, I’m not a theological major or anything but i’m thinking that what they do, is pleasing to God, and I pray hard that one day I will receive all the persecution and criticizim that they are receiving, for that just means I am preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  6. Micah May 7, 2009 10:33 pm

    @ Seth

    “I still think someone can go to the Holy Spirit and recieve learning. if you say that seminary is more important than learning from the Holy Spirit that is very dangerous ground to stand on and quite frnakly, I learn alot from the Holy Spirit.”

    That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m not saying it’s more important. Neither was Paul in Galatians 2:1-2 when he went back to check his teaching with other believers. He learned a lot from the Holy Spirit too. But he understood the importance of checking himself as well. That’s the sign of a good leader.

  7. Tommy F. May 7, 2009 11:16 pm

    Seth: if it’s just the Holy Spirit and the Bible, and not seminary, further education, etc. then I have some advice:

    Stop going to church. Stop listening to sermons (from anyone). Stop going to Bible studies. And why would you lead one? Just tell them all they need is the Bible and the Holy Spirit.

    Sound like a good plan?

  8. Seth May 7, 2009 11:47 pm


    I do understand the importance of checking myself, I have a pastor uncle whom goes over the BIble study material I perpare each week. Also, my fellow friends who help me out with the Bible tsudy also review my outline. The outline goes through more scrutiny than most churches outlines for a sunday service, why? Because I do what to get it right. I also use multiple books as sources to make sure that what I plan on saying lines up with scripture.

    Tommy F.

    You make a good point, only problem, you advice goes against scripture. MY thought, doesn;t go against scripture, b/c the Holy Spirit is there to teach us and to guide us and remind us of all things. We are called into action, we are called to be part of the body. So when it comes to church, I think I will stick to the multiple churches I am following, when it comes to Bible studies, we are making an impact on the community, so again, I will keep doing it, as for you advice, I think its very unbiblical. Me saying that learning from the Holy Spirit, is bible based. So I think I will stick with what I am doing, thanks for the really bad advice tho.

  9. Blake butler May 7, 2009 11:53 pm

    I’m glad Duncan at least acknowledged me by my birth name in this post. And it seems that continued comments here accomplish about as much as tommy f. believe pn’s twitters accomplish.

  10. Tommy F. May 8, 2009 12:04 am

    Blake: I’m glad you’re amused. These posts often put a smile on my face, too. Why haven’t you replied to my comments to you? Let’s play.

    Seth: My last post is simply a summary of your position about seminary. Take it or leave it, it’s just your own advice.

Comments are closed.