It begins …

I just completed my first Doctor of Ministry (“DMin”) course at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, in Plymouth, MN. A DMin is not a research degree, like a PhD, that requires oodles of original research and a long dissertation. Instead, it’s a professional degree to equip a pastor to function at a high level in the nuts and bolts of everyday pastoral ministry. In that way, it’s similar to the MD that your doctor has, or the JD a lawyer holds.

I had great fun in the course. It’s in module format, which means I had to do quite a bit of reading beforehand and then attend class for four days, on campus. Like most doctoral programs, there aren’t a lot of students. In this case, there were five (including me). Each student did a presentation on a subtopic, then led a discussion on several points of interest from his specialized reading. All told, each student was responsible for leading the class for about five hours, as well as for participating in the discussions the other students led.

I had to read 13 books, which is about 2,500 pages. I had to write a 500-word critical book review on each tome, and prepare a written lesson plan for the presentation and discussion. My lesson plan was 44 pages, and about 10,500 words. My book reviews were a cumulative 6,500 words. So, I read about 2,500 pages and wrote about 17,000 words. For context, 17,000 words is about 68 pages in a normal trade paperback book.

The other students were an eclectic mix of conservative evangelicals:

  • One man is a traditional Baptist fundamentalist from the Midwest. He is very doctrinaire on the standard fundamental Baptist positions. He has a great heart and is clearly gifted for ministry.
  • Another man is in his mid-40s, and is worried about his church’s long-term future. He seemed to be a conservative evangelical, like me. I think this is a trend among younger pastors.
  • Another man was in his early 60s, very humble, very caring, very nice. He has been at his church for 28 years. He’s much nicer than I am. I can learn a lot from him.
  • Another pastor is very gentle, and looked like a grizzly bear. He didn’t say too much, but he has a very practical and realistic outlook on things. He had great insights.

So, the class was a good mix of personalities and giftedness. My contributions, for what they’re worth, were more theological than practical. All these men have more practical experience than me, so I didn’t chime in too much during those discussions. I preferred to listen and learn.

The best part of the class was the opportunity to wrestle through tough issues with other well-educated, well-read guys and bring the Scriptures to bear on real, practical ministry. Because all the students aren’t cookie-cutter copies of one another turned out by the same seminary, we have different attitudes, opinions and perspectives. The interaction, which was occasionally spirited, was invaluable.

Central Seminary is a great place to learn God’s word. It’s from the more centrist, balanced wing of Northern Baptist fundamentalism. I was particularly fascinated by the library, which is liberally stocked with ThM and PhD dissertations from great Baptist fundamentalist leaders of the past 70+ years – many of whom passed through Central for their postgraduate degrees.

I’m looking forward to more courses as I plug away at remaining seven classes for my degree!

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