Sixty years ago, the Church of the Nazarene established Nazarene Theological Seminary (NTS) expecting and hoping that a denominational seminary would train "more and better preachers" to serve in the Church.
NTS: Accomplishing the Mission
by Ron Benefiel
September/October 2005
Why seminary? How does a seminary education help men and women prepare for ministry? What is the role of Nazarene Theological Seminary in the church?

Sixty years ago, the Church of the Nazarene established Nazarene Theological Seminary (NTS) expecting and hoping that a denominational seminary would train "more and better preachers" to serve in the Church. The impetus for the seminary is expressed in our mission: "to prepare women and men to be faithful and effective ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to offer itself as a theological resource to the Church."

Over these six decades, thousands of NTS graduates have prepared to serve as pastors, missionaries, evangelists, chaplains, and educators. Further, those from NTS have instigated theological inquiry and dialogue in the Church of the Nazarene, and in the wider Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. At NTS, we constantly ask ourselves if we are effectively accomplishing our mission-both to prepare women and men to be "faithful and effective ministers of the gospel," and to be a "theological resource to the church."

We polled a few experienced pastors, recent graduates, and current students about NTS's impact on their personal spiritual formation and their overall ministry preparation. We think you will find their responses interesting and helpful.

Why did you choose to attend NTS?

Even though I received a very good undergraduate education, I knew pastoral ministry would include certain challenges that NTS would better prepare me for. I never considered anywhere else to go for my graduate education. -David Busic, senior pastor, Bethany First Church of the Nazarene (Bethany, Oklahoma), NTS Alum ('93).

NTS was the place where the missing pieces in my theological foundation were put into place. Growing up in the church, shaped by loving parents, teachers, and Christian examples, I had begun the structure. But it took a place (NTS) and gifted teachers to help me shore up and complete the foundation so I could build a life of ministry. -Randy Craker, superintendent of the Northwest District, NTS Alum ('78).

When I came to visit NTS, I realized I would receive a quality education as well as a pastoral focus-it drew my heart in this direction. -Jeffrey Purganan, current NTS student.

I wanted to develop my understanding of the function of pastoral ministry in the context of my Wesleyan-holiness heritage. I was also encouraged that as a part of the Church of the Nazarene, NTS would attract many of like-faith experiences from all over the country (and world) coming to study. The friends I made at NTS are still my friends and colleagues today. -David Sharpes, senior pastor, Fairview Village Church of the Nazarene (Fairview, Pennsylvania), NTS Alum ('88).

I had already been pastoring for several years before attending NTS. I decided to go to seminary to deepen my understanding of holiness and the gospel so I could preach and teach in a more comprehensive way to my congregation. -Larry Lott, senior pastor, Blue Hills Church of the Nazarene (Kansas City, Missouri), NTS Alum ('93).

How did NTS prepare you for ministry?

I graduated from NTS in 1977. The quality and depth of ministerial preparation I received has served me well for 28 years. I have been able to weather the changing tides and fads of ministry because of the solid theological foundation given to me at NTS. I shudder to think of my ministry apart from NTS. -Dan Boone, president of Trevecca Nazarene University, NTS Alum ('77).

NTS provided me with invaluable and lifelong resources of friendship with faculty and fellow students. I learned to integrate various disciplines with an eye toward impact ministry. -Lyle Pointer, NTS Professor of Evangelism, NTS Alum ('71).

NTS actually connected me to the field and provided me with both intellectual and practical experience-this connection is still serving to help me in my current assignment: starting and leading an urban compassionate ministry center. NTS is where I developed both a heart and head for urban ministry. -Chuck Sailors, president, Kansas City Urban Youth Center, NTS Alum ('00).

For my education as a minister, NTS has been a place where knowledge and application are closely tied and mutually enhancing. I've gained proficiency in and familiarity with a wide range of subjects, but most formative has been the encouragement to put my learning into practice in a local church context. Sitting in my high school Sunday school class, responding to a teen's question about a Bible lesson, I find I have to really wrestle with the "stuff" I've learned. At those times I realize that what I've learned really does make a difference, and I can be used in the formation of Christian lives. -Kara Lyons, NTS Alum ('05).

How has the NTS community contributed to your spiritual growth?

NTS provided me relationships with professors, staff, and students that have strengthened my faith and helped me to grow. It was wonderful to sit in class and know that my professors had strong personal faith-a faith that translated into what they taught, how they taught, and how they mentored me. The relationships I built at NTS have been invaluable as I have started ministry. I call friends who are also pastoring, and we share our ups and downs and support each other as spiritual sisters and brothers in prayer and encouragement. -Olivia Metcalf, pastor, Atwater Church of the Nazarene (Atwater, California), NTS Alum ('04).

Without NTS, I would be dangerous (in ministry), and, worse yet, I would not even recognize that. NTS helped me put myself into context-NTS helped me understand that I live within God's story of redemption and that I have a role to play within His story. As such, NTS showed me that I must not view myself in isolation, but rather must view myself as part of the community of faith. -David P. Anderson, NTS Alum ('05).

My life is deeply embedded in NTS so the seminary contributes to my spiritual life in many ways. Our chapel services, richly varied in their styles, consistently call me into God's presence, where I experience comfort, conviction, and challenge. The moments of prayer that begin my classes, our faculty and committee meetings, and our frequent times of eating together bind me into a community of shared love and vision, connecting me to the work of Christ and the Church around the world. The heart of our curriculum is knowing God even more than it is knowing about God. Our conversations-whether with students or in faculty or administrative meetings-turn frequently to the grace of God, the love of God, the holiness of God, and to our response of obedience and worship to Him. The climate of NTS is such that I frequently commute to and from work with a song of praise in my heart or a prayer on my lips. The resources for spiritual growth at NTS are abundant, diverse, and delightful. All you have to do is avail yourself of them. -Roger Hahn, NTS Professor of New Testament and Dean of the Faculty, NTS Alum ('76).

What advice would you give about the possibility of attending NTS to those who feel a call to ministry?

I encourage all women and men who feel called to full-time ministry to pursue all the training possible. I emphasize the relationships that develop between students and faculty-many will last a lifetime as they become colleagues in ministry. I see NTS as a place for pastors to clarify and confirm what they believe, and to learn how best to communicate that faith to others. I also believe that as NTS professors, our roles are to strengthen students spiritually, relationally, and emotionally so they will better know and understand God, other people, and themselves. This will lead to healthier more effective ministers. -Judi Schwanz, NTS Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling.

I strongly suggest attending NTS! I cannot imagine what kind of minister I would have been coming straight out of undergraduate education, compared to how much more the Lord has refined me through the community of believers at NTS. A Nazarene seminary education is such a blessing. It's also an opportunity for us to prepare ourselves to be the best leaders we possibly can be to carry on the ministry of the Church of the Nazarene in the world. -Kimberly Tharp, associate pastor, Nall Avenue Church of the Nazarene (Prairie Village, Kansas), NTS Alum ('05).

While I know little about other seminary communities, from my experience, I can assure prospective NTS students of quality academic challenge, authentic community, and pastoral preparation in the context of our holiness tradition. -David Sharpes

I highly recommend that those called to ministry attend NTS because a seminary education broadens your understanding of ministry-it increases your vision-making it larger and more comprehensive than ever. -Larry Lott

I believe that if you've not had any theological training, seminary is an absolute must. You need a foundation. For those who received good undergraduate theological training, NTS helps focus the picture. It sharpens the focus and moves your vision from just seeing a sign to seeing the sign clearly. The importance in attending NTS is two-fold: You will be trained to think within the tradition in which you will be ministering and you will establish a relational network-the colleagues, friendships, just the connectivity you get from attending NTS is important. NTS has a renewed focus to train pastors and ministers-not just create critical thinkers, scholars, and teachers. -David Busic

My question for a student who is considering going to NTS or another seminary is simply this: "Do you plan to pastor a Nazarene church?" If the answer is "yes," then I say, "If yourre going to be a Nazarene pastor, you need to go to Nazarene Theological Seminary. At NTS you will receive strong theological underpinnings that will help you in your day-to-day ministry. You will have an overview of the Church of the Nazarene that you could never receive in another seminary. The combination of practics courses that are taught in the seminary and your involvement in the local church will prepare you to be an effective minister of the gospel in the Church of the Nazarene." -Keith Wright, superintendent of the Kansas City District.

I have encouraged anyone who feels a call to ministry to prepare as thoroughly as they can-this includes both receiving a liberal arts undergraduate degree and a master of divinity degree from NTS. We expect our pastors to be capable of understanding life from a very broad perspective, and we expect them to have theological depth to make the gospel accessible to all kinds of people-and to do so in a Wesleyan-Arminian context. In order to achieve this, in my mind, the preference is that our ministers receive a seminary degree. -Jesse Middendorf, general superintendent, Church of the Nazarene, NTS Alum (M.Div. '73 and D. Min. '99).

We've all been ministered to by God's servants who have never set foot inside a divinity school or seminary classroom. But I have invested three years working and studying as a seminarian. Why? Allowing God to make me into the most able and most equipped minister (whether as an educator, a senior pastor, a chaplain, etc.) is a form of worship. I submit my abilities to the Spirit's guidance through His servant-educators . . . and poring through piles of books. In 1945, the wise General Superintendent J. B. Chapman said at the founding convocation of Nazarene Theological Seminary, an institution he worked diligently to bring into existence, "Doctrine is not a goal within itself. The goal is God and right relations to Him . . . . But doctrine is like a highway that leads to the goal. It may be possible for some to reach the goal by way of by-paths, but more will reach it if the road is well-marked." It is at NTS that I have found my eyes opened to God's road-signs, both for me and for my brothers and sisters in the Church of the Nazarene. -Kara Lyons

What is the role of NTS in the life and journey of the church?

I see the NTS community, particularly the faculty, playing a key role in guarding the mission of the Church of the Nazarene. The ability to articulate our mission with theological clarity and precision, in the context of the historic Christian Church, is vital. -Jeren Rowell, senior pastor, Shawnee Church of the Nazarene (Shawnee, Kansas)

I'm convinced that the church needs NTS more now than ever before. We need pastors who have passion for the Kingdom of God and the desire to win lost and broken people to Jesus Christ. NTS creates a climate by which people can grow and develop and be at their very best for the Kingdom of God. -Keith Wright I believe that NTS has two major roles to fulfill: to uphold and proclaim the doctrine of our church and to produce good ministers. Both are equally important. -Carla Sunberg, former missionary and director of Theological Education, CIS; pastor of Evangelism and Discipleship, Gracepoint Church of the Nazarene (Ft. Wayne, Indiana), NTS Alum ('04).

NTS is a theological compass for the Church of the Nazarene. Her graduates are prepared to hold the church to its core doctrine in the midst of cultural and moral change. NTS was founded 60 years ago to be the "central seminary" for the Church of the Nazarene. Its synergy with the church's International Headquarters enables it to be an advocate for, and servant to, all of the church's ministerial educational institutions. As such, NTS serves the church's growing network of schools of religion and theology as it equips today's divinely called men and women to minister and lead in the Wesleyan-Holiness theological tradition. -Gordon Wetmore, president emeritus, Nazarene Theological Seminary, NTS Alum ('59).

NTS was called into existence for a specific purpose-to declare and model what it means to be the holy people of God. -Ed Robinson, president of MidAmerica Nazarene University, NTS Alum ('76).

All pastors who come through NTS will be a little more prepared to do a better job in the church where they are assigned. As a result, each one will create a healthier church. To think that NTS can be a part of this is incredible! -Judi Schwanz

My experience in this office [Board of General Superintendents] the last 4 years has indicated to me that the leadership development for the Church of the Nazarene globally depends heavily on NTS. The depth of theological insight and understanding, as well as the broad range of practical ministry, helps make NTS graduates widely represented in leadership across the Church. The Board of General Superintendents regularly uses the faculty of NTS as a theological resource. We value their insights and their judgment. We are directly involved in the selection of NTS faculty and feel that they are a valuable resource for the theological stability of the church. -Jesse Middendorf

Because life is a journey, our stopping places matter. Where we choose to exit and stop for a time to enrich our minds and hearts is vitally important. Our Wesleyan heritage-which shapes our worldview-won't be found in many stopping places. To have an exit marked NTS, where for three or four years young men and women can pull in to think deeply and have their hearts shaped, will make a difference on the journey they undertake and will ultimately impact the direction of the church. -Randy Craker

Nazarene Theological Seminary-serving the Church for 60 years by preparing women and men to be faithful and effective ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ron Benefiel
is president of Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City.
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