Seminary Improves a Pastor’s Knowledge of Scripture
By: Northern Seminary
Recent Northern graduate Lisa Scheffler always wanted to go to seminary. But she never thought it could be an option for her. “Coming from a more fundamentalist background,” she says, “it was considered a waste of time and money to pursue a seminary degree. By the time I finally saw it as a possibility, I had three young kids. But as they grew, so did my desire to expand my learning.”
Eventually, Scheffler got her chance. She recounts, “I was writing Bible study curriculum for my church at this time, and really wanted to know and understand the scholarship I was reading more. I’d been following Scot McKnight’s blog for years, and when he posted about the MANT cohorts, I knew I had to be a part of one!” She enrolled in the MA in New Testament program at Northern Seminary.
Scheffler currently serves as Pastor to Women at a large nondenominational church in a far north suburb of Dallas, where she has worked for eleven years. Their city has grown considerably in the last twenty years, increasing from around 60,000 to 180,000. “Ministering to the diverse people behind those numbers has been challenging as the demographics of our community have shifted,” Scheffler says.
In her studies at Northern, Scheffler has learned much about ministry and the Christian faith more broadly. “The way I think about the Bible and our faith has grown and shifted in wonderful ways,” she says. “Going to seminary is like leaving a walled garden. For much of my life, my understanding of Christian doctrine was neat and tidy, like plantings arranged in neat beds, sorted and grouped. It’s lovely, but lacking. Seminary is like having the walls of your garden knocked down, revealing the wild and wonderful beauty that lies beyond. It’s an overwhelming and intimidating wilderness, but the journey through is full of possibilities.”
The faculty and students at Northern have also been a highlight of Scheffler’s experience. She particularly appreciates the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives represented there as a true gift. “Every professor not only taught me something new but expanded how I thought. And I have made lifelong friends at Northern. I can’t tell you how encouraged I’ve been by the people I’ve studied alongside. Especially as a woman who grew up in a very conservative context, having men and women encourage you in your gifting and value your thoughts and perspectives is invaluable.”
When asked for an example of how something she’s learned at Northern has influenced her ministry, Scheffler replies, “I could list dozens! But the classes on Romans I took with Dr. McKnight directly changed my approach to teaching Scripture.”
With her seminary program complete, Scheffler plans to stay at her current church for now. She says, “I’ve learned so much that I want to share with people! I’m praying for more opportunities to teach both men and women, so we’ll see where God leads!”