Transitions are hard.

Since the turbulent 1960s college and university education has undergone substantial change, and so have the students. Journals and news magazines have chronicled this progress. But what of seminary education? Have the programs changed? Have the students? Are they, as with university undergraduates, concerned more with vocational training and less with scholarship and academic pursuits? Is the ministry “the epicenter of the work that God does in the world,” as pastor and part-time Gordon-Conwell seminary teacher Gordon MacDonald believes? To answer such questions CHRISTIANITY TODAY interviewed more than a dozen seminary presidents, several pastors involved in seminary education, and some professors.

Students Change

A decade or more ago, the purpose of students was to rebel—or so it seemed to professors and administrators. They asserted their idealistic beliefs impatiently and became restive at any sign of authority. Today students seem more intellectually pliable, more willing to be taught. And Christian students show a greater loyalty to the church as the tool of God. Many of them have moved from social activism to personal piety and evangelistic fervor. Students now consider the pastoral ministry a career rather than a cause. They enter seminary with a sense of call and a stronger sense of purpose and direction. Seminary students want to work for and through the church rather than MacDonald to change it.

Many first-year seminary students have changed careers to enter seminary and are older than students ten years ago. They bring maturity, vocational experience, and an earnest attitude toward the classical disciplines that their counterparts a decade ago, who came directly from college, ...

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