The New York Times ran an interesting article today that discussed the fact that enrollment at Protestant seminaries is up, but that a rising percentage of graduates are choosing vocations outside of the pastorate. This trend is particularly pronounced among younger graduates. The Times reports: “These seminarians, particularly the young ones, are less interested in making a career of religion than in taking their religion into other careers.”
The article focuses on mainline denominations, primarily Cander School of Theology at Emory and the United Methodist Church. It is interesting that enrollment is up at some of these more liberal seminaries while, at the same time, the overall numbers in their denominations are on a precipitous decline. Perhaps it isn’t any wonder that many graduates look for vocations outside of the church. After all, it seems that most of these denominations, by virtue of rejecting biblical authority, seem to reject any authoritative role for the church, maybe even its importance and significance.
But I believe the trend may also hold in evangelical seminaries, and suggest that it is not a bad thing. The Times article indicates that the trend does hold, but that those rejecting pastoral ministry pursuing para-church service. I know several people who have graduated or are attending seminary who are moving towards vocations outside of the church. I wonder if evangelical seminaries welcome such students, who don’t necessarily possess a “call to ministry” (where, of course, that “call” is interpreted as a particular calling to some sort of vocational church ministry).
I think a part of the reason is a recognition of the fact that one need not be in “full time Christian service” to be engaged in the work of the Kingdom. The call of every believer is to honor God and serve Him faithfully in every field of work. The hard and fast barrier between the “secular” and the “sacred” largely represents a false dichotomy. (I blogged about this issue here in a more substantive way.)
HT: Dee Reju