After 17 years, why go to seminary?

At the end of this month, I begin classes at The Master’s Seminary. After seventeen years of serving in church ministry (with about 14 of those as the primary preaching pastor), I will work to obtain a Master of Divinity degree. It will take three years as a “full-time” student to complete my coursework. I say, “full-time,” but I will also remain the “full-time” senior pastor of Anchor Baptist Church. I suppose that makes me “double-time” – or perhaps just “out-of-time.”

Some of my friends (including my wonderful wife, Lindsay) can’t conceive of 3 years of graduate school as an exciting prospect. But I am thrilled about the opportunity! So, why am I enthused? And, why am I doing this now?

There are many reasons, but I’ve narrowed down my list to three.

Confidence in the Bible

Leading the charge is my growing confidence in the Bible. Not that I just started being confident. The Bible is perfect without question because it is God’s Word. In Bible college, I learned this a foundational principle: “The Bible is the final authority in all matters of belief and practice because the Bible is God’s Word.” The longer I try to serve the Lord, the more convinced I am.

Over the years I’ve preached approximately 2,000 messages from the Bible. Each time, I aimed to be faithful to the text of the Bible. God continually uses His Word to shape my thinking and my life. The more I understand and apply the Word, the more I realize how unique and irreplaceable the Bible is. There’s nothing like the Word to guide my life and ministry.

I must learn it more so that I can know, love, and serve God more.

Awareness of my Insufficiency

Continued study convinces me I have much to learn. To correctly apply the Word to pressing issues of today, Scripture must first be understood in its original context. I’m looking forward to immersing myself deeply in the Biblical languages. I want to comprehend thoroughly what the original recipients of God’s Word would have understood. Also, I want to ensure my understanding isn’t novel – it should be well-informed by the conversations about God’s Word throughout history. Three years of seminary training will do much to equip me in these areas.

The Kindness of God

I am also thrilled to get started on my M.Div. because of God’s kindness to me. Just over four years ago, we moved to the Los Angeles area to plant Anchor Baptist Church. I’m within driving distance of The Master’s Seminary where John MacArthur serves as President. It is a tremendous privilege to be able to study under a faculty that is committed to the faithful exposition of the Scriptures.

Please pray for me as I get started. This semester I’ll be taking Hebrew!

If you’d like to help out, here’s a list of required books that I haven’t purchased yet. I don’t have a complete list yet, so I’ll be adding to it continuously: required seminary books on Amazon.

Research Confirms: America Needs Evangelizing!

The Pew Research Center polled over 35,000 Americans from all 50 states concerning their religious beliefs. The results are both eye-opening and not surprising.

70% of Americans profess to be Christians

According to the study, “Christian” includes things that are definitely not: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, etc.

Only 25.4% of Americans identify as “Evangelical Protestant”. What exactly is that? According to the study, “Evangelical Protestant” includes the following types of churches:

  • Baptist – 9.2% (SBC – 5.3%; Independent – 2.5%)
  • Methodist – 0.3%
  • Nondenominational – 4.9%
  • Lutheran – 1.5%
  • Presbyterian – 0.8%
  • Episcopalian/Anglican – 0.3%
  • Restorationist (Church of Christ) – 1.6%
  • Congregationalist – 0.3%
  • Holiness – 0.7%
  • Reformed – 0.3%
  • Adventist – 0.6%
  • Anabaptist – 0.3%
  • Pietist – 0.3%
  • Other – 0.3%
  • Nonspecific – 1.5%

How many of these “Evangelical Protestant” churches are actually preaching the gospel? It’s hard to say, but a quick look at the list above makes it clear that all do not. If “Evangelical Protestant” = actually saved, then 75% of America is lost.

America: A World Leader in the Unevangelized

The population of the USA was about 318.9 million in 2014.

If this data is correct, 81,000,600 people in the USA identify themselves as “Evangelical Protestant.” For simplicity, let’s assume each of these 81 million people is genuinely born again.

That would mean there are 237,899,400 people in our country who will probably go to hell. In America.

It’s hard to put numbers like this in perspective. But consider this, there are only 3 other countries in the world with a total population bigger than the number of lost people who live in the United States: China, India, and Indonesia.

Did you get that? Only three countries even have the potential to have more lost residents than the United States. As the third largest country in the world, we are also home to a vast number of unevangelized.

About the Statistics

Most of the data comes from:
The Religious Landscape Study surveys more than 35,000 Americans from all 50 states and analyzes the relationship between religious affiliation and various demographic factors.

Population figures come from Wikipedia.

What have we Done? Is it Enough?

May God give us zeal not to waste our lives, but spend them for the salvation of sinners!

And now permit me, with all earnestness, to plead with you on behalf of Christ and Christ’s Holy Gospel, that you would stir yourselves up to renewed efforts for the spread of his truth, and to more earnest prayers, that his kingdom may come, and his will be done on earth even as it is in heaven. Ah! my friends, could I show you the tens of thousands of spirits who are now walking in outer darkness; could I take you to the gloomy chamber of hell, and show you myriads upon myriads of heathen souls in utterable torture, not having heard the word, but being justly condemned for their sins; methinks you could ask yourselves, “Did I do anything to save these unhappy myriads? They have been damned, and can I say I am clear of their blood?” Oh! God of mercy, if these skirts be clear of my fellow creatures’ blood, I shall have eternal reason to bless thee in heaven. Oh! Church of Christ! thou hast great reason to ask thyself whether thou art quite clean in this matter. Ye say too often, ye sons of God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Ye are too much like Cain; ye do not ask yourselves whether God will require your fellow-creatures blood at your hands. Oh! there is a truth which says, “If the watchman warn them not, they shall perish, but their blood will he require at the watchman’s hands.” Ah! there ought to be more of us who are preaching to the heathen, and yet, perhaps, we are indolent and doing little or nothing. There are many of you, yea all of you, who ought to be doing far more than you are for evangelical purposes and the spread of Christ’s gospel. Oh! put this question to your hearts; shall I be able to say to the damned spirit if he meets me in hell, “Sinner, I did all I could for thee?” I am afraid some will have to say, “No, I did not; it is true I might have done more; I might have laboured more, even though I might have been unsuccessful, but I did not do it.” AH, my dear friends, I believe there is a great reason for some of us to suspect whether we believe our religion at all.

– From Spurgeon’s Sermon: “Gospel Mission”

Pray for the Lost

Oh, if you have the hearts of Christians or of men in you, let them yearn towards your poor ignorant, ungodly neighbors. Alas, there is but a step betwixt them and death and hell; many hundred diseases are waiting ready to seize on them, and if they die unregenerate, they are lost forever. Have you hearts of rock, that cannot pity men in such a case as this? If you believe not the Word of God, and the danger of sinners, why are you Christians yourselves? If you do believe it, why do you not bestir yourself to the helping of others?Richard Baxter

Spurgeon on a Determination to Preach the Gospel

Stop preaching! Stop preaching! Let the sun stop shining, and we will preach in darkness. Let the waves stop their ebb and flow, and still our voice shall preach the gospel, let the world stop its revolutions, let the planets stay their motion; we will still preach the gospel. Until the fiery center of this earth shall burst through the thick ribs of her brazen mountains, we shall still preach the gospel; till the universal conflagration shall dissolve the earth, and matter shall be swept away, these lips, or the lips of some others called of God, shall still thunder forth the voice of Jehovah. We cannot help it. “Necessity is laid upon us, yea woe is unto us if we preach not the gospel.

— Charles Spurgeon in Preach the Gospel, preached on August 5, 1855