When I began my online seminary degree three years ago, I was a bit hesitant because I feared that the substance that the final degree “ the actual paper I would receive “ might not be as ‘weighty’ in the minds of those who had received a traditional degree from a brick and mortar institution.I also feared that places I might have opportunity to serve would not consider my Master of Divinity degree from an online institution a ‘real’ degree.I must admit that even now after completing my online seminary journey, I get questions from would-be seminary students about my experience at Rockbridge and inquiries for my evaluation of the value of the experience.I am so happy when someone opens the door for me to talk about it.
My first response to these questions is an answer that I came to when asking myself whether or not I should pursure training online.I had to come to grips with the ‘why’ of my desire to go to any seminary.When I enrolled in Rockbridge, my call to vocational ministry had been clearly affirmed many times and I had over 15 years of ministry experience.But I didn’t have any formal training to support the calling that was so clear in my life.This training was not critical for me to continue ministry as I felt confident God would open doors for me to continue to be his servant.Rather, the larger realization for me was my desire to learn more to be a more effective agent in His Kingdom work.
The other affirmation was my assessment of other training opportunities at my disposal.When I considered my options for training as a man with a family, serving in a ministry that I was certain God did not want me to disengage, and a budget that did not include Masters level training “ my options were limited to online offerings or some other type of distance learning.To help assess these options, I sought the counsel of someone who both valued continuing education and was a product of the traditional brick and mortar learning experience: my senior pastor who holds several degrees including two masters and a doctorate from Vanderbilt.
His encouragement to me was the value of the learning experience “ no matter what the final paper might suggest to others.We looked deeply into the mission of Rockbridge Seminary as well as other opportunities that were available to me.Our discovery was that the quality of the learning experience at Rockbridge would fit well my learning style and my available schedule to complete my training.But even more importantly, we found that the driving force and purpose of Rockbridge founders was not to provide a piece of paper at the end of an agreed learning cycle.Their calling was to provide quality biblical training that would prepare and equip ministers to serve God’s Kingdom effectively and efficiently.
Over three years later, I have absolutely no regrets about the choice I made.Had I not enrolled in Rockbridge I would still be serving at my current church and I would continue to be affirmed in my calling “ but I would not be as effective as I am now as a direct result of the investment I made in seminary and that it made in me.My experience at Rockbridge has made a significant difference in how I approach ministry in the local church and even how I engage my faith as a believer.
I am also watching other traditional universities chase the online learning model as pioneers of online learning continue to set the pace and confirm its validity.Although I believe that their motivation is driven as much by the opportunity of another revenue stream than anything else, the result for the learner is still positive.I am thankful that Rockbridge and other quality institutions are continuing to set the pace that will give way for opportunities for learners to get training.But more than that, I am so thankful for what it has provided in my life as a minister.So what value do I place on my education from Rockbridge?Invaluable.