Why I dropped out of Seminary

In my own personal spiritual journey I have been confronted with many internal thoughts and reflections about who I am as a person, father, pastor, husband, and friend. I started my seminary education over a year and half ago and have enjoyed my time taking classes but in the back of mind have felt that something was still missing. Although I value traditional seminary education, there is something that is still missing from the depth of learning that I was expecting when I enrolled in school.

I have taken Greek, Hebrew, Systematic Theology, and many more of the basic foundational courses that one takes in a seminary program. I have enjoyed these classes at times but once the class was over I still couldn't understand why I still felt like I hadn't addressed the real issue of why I went to seminary. After a couple of months of praying and listening it finally hit me like a ton of bricks. Just like any student who is taking classes in school, the ultimate question becomes when am I ever going to use this?

Here is my dilemma. I pastor a church in downtown Los Angeles where the poverty rate and homeless rate is higher than that of the state and the nation. I serve in an organization whose reason for existence is to see the empowered urban poor advancing the Kingdom of God in every city through the local church. I have a woman who attends our church who is homeless. I have members of our church who are undocumented. In light of my context I had to wrestle with the question after every class I've taken: When am I ever going to use this?

I can translate greek and hebrew but what good does it do for Greta who lives on the streets. I could talk about the providence of God, nature of God, the trinity, etc... from my systematics but how does that help me walk with undocumented members who are trying to navigate the healthcare system. I can tell you the history and context of the gospel of Matthew and talk about all of the interpolations and pericopes in the text, but it still doesn't help me address the plight of African Americans in a country that still doesn't want to address racism which is still crouching at the door.

Again, I think seminary education is good but maybe we ought to have more programs that are in context where we pastor and not with the idea of what church was like in the 19th and 20th century. Maybe there ought to be real programs for real people who deal with real issues in real hard communities.

I dropped out of seminary and enrolled in a program to get my second Master's (as if I needed more debt) in urban transformational leadership. I was drawn to this program based on a description of one of the courses that was called "Community Exegesis of the Gospel:Exegete Your Neighborhood." I started classes at the beginning of June and have enjoyed the two classes that I'm currently taking. The first class is about Entrepreneurship and how to help pastors and community leaders look at alternative ways of resourcing people in the community. The second class that I'm taking is called "Kingdom Economics" which deals directly with how to engage the urban poor in empowering them through economic development and financial literacy.

In a program like this, I can easily take what I'm learning and apply it immediately after leaving class. As a matter of fact my project in my entrepreneurship class deals directly with helping me develop my business plan for a boarding school that my wife and I want to start.

I dropped out of seminary because it wasn't making sense to me in the context in which I served. Maybe God will bring me back once I'm done with my current program. But until them I guess you can call me a seminary school drop out.
Peter Watts