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The Culinary School Versus Kitchen Trained Pastor

The following article is written by Rusty McKie and Ryan Williams


Some of the top chefs in the world took very different paths to get where they are. Many went to culinary school, trained under great teachers, and learned theory while putting their skills into practice in a controlled environment before they found themselves in a restaurant kitchen. Others never set foot in culinary school but started working in kitchens as dishwashers before slowly moving through different roles and by hard work, experience, and natural gifting, became head chefs.

So it can be with pastors as well. Some take a path to pastoral ministry through seminary while others exclusively local church train. In this three-part series, we will hear from two pastors: one seminary-trained and the other local church trained. Both have been pastors for almost eight years. They are friends who love one another but walked very different paths to become lead pastors of their local church.

Culinary School/Seminary Trained: Rusty McKie – Mdiv Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY), Lead Pastor Sojourn Chattanooga, TN

Kitchen Trained/Local Church Trained: Ryan Williams – No degree, Lead Pastor North Church, Albuquerque, NM


Why did you/didn’t you choose to attend seminary?

Rusty: First, I went to seminary to train in areas of study that I couldn’t learn from a conference or book — specifically, Biblical languages. I desired to know God’s Word the best I could because I figured if His Word infused my life, I would be better prepared to pastor.

Second, I wanted to sit under specific teachers — to steep in their teaching, soaking up as much from them as I could. The concentrated time with professors was a gift.

Ryan: The answer to this probably has more to do with me than it does seminary in particular. I spent a semester at Bible college and really struggled for multiple reasons, but mostly I felt such an urgency for the lost and burden for local church training that being, as I felt, “sidelined” in Bible college led me to pursue a local church internship for a more hands-on approach to training.


What do you wish seminary/local church training taught you that it didn’t?

Rusty: I wish I learned more in seminary about emotional intelligence. While the emphasis on intellectual and spiritual growth was present, the aspects of knowing yourself, caring for your soul, leading from your weaknesses, and walking by the Spirit were frequently missing. The most difficult parts of ministry since seminary are when I get stuck in the cul-de-sac of self. Ministry goes better for me and others when I can live out of my redeemed, Spirit-led self. Learning to lead yourself as you follow Jesus is essential to healthy pastoring.

Ryan: I wished I learned more in the local church about the specific tools available for more academic studies and language training. There are so many great resources out there for local church trained pastors who could benefit from gleaning from seminary professors and academics without actually attending seminary. Local church training can be so hands-on that you can miss the tethering to good theological training that is so important.

In the next post, we’ll cover the strengths and weaknesses of seminary versus local church training.

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