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Megachurches have become one-stop centers, with food courts, sports leagues, and automotive repair shops alongside concert-caliber praise bands and strong preachers.

Next up: seminaries.

Mars Hill Church, the Seattle megachurch of high-profile pastor Mark Driscoll, will launch the Resurgence Training Center this fall. Dubbed "Re:Train," the degree-granting graduate program is part of a strategy for preparing leaders to plant 1,000 churches.

At the same time, popular pastor John Piper's Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis—which has had a pastor-training institute for 11 years—will start offering master's degrees as Bethlehem College and Seminary.

In an era when nondenominational churches are popular, such seminaries suggest that megachurches have become "mini-denominations," said Bill Leonard, dean and church history professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They have their own literature, Internet technology, church-planting ministries, and K-12 Christian schools, Leonard said.

"Many have nurtured a significant number of individuals toward ministry and want them trained on-site," he said. "Some see this as a 'full-service' church that addresses every aspect of Christian service and training."

Many aspiring pastors are willing to forgo the prestige of attending an established seminary to obtain "the specific theological focus that most church-based seminaries offer," said Tim Tomlinson, president of Bethlehem College and Seminary.

"The church-based theological seminaries like ours are more intent on offering a theological and philosophical worldview that is consistent with the teachings and writings of the well-known pastor-theologian with whom the seminary is affiliated," ...

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September 2009

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