Interview With Dr. Steven Lawson About the Ligonier Academy D.Min. Program
Last July, Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies welcomed its inaugural class of D.Min. students. One of the first courses offered, on the subject of preaching, was taught by Dr. Steve Lawson. Dr. Lawson is the Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama and the author of fourteen books, including Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call to Expository Preaching, Faith Under Fire, The Expository Genius of John Calvin, Foundations of Grace 1400 BC-AD 100 (volume one of a five-volume series), and three titles in the Holman Old Testament Commentary Series (Job, Psalms Volume I, and Psalms Volume II).
Dr. Lawson was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about the Ligonier Academy Doctor of Ministry program.
How adequately prepared for the pastorate are most seminary graduates today?
The answer depends upon the individual and which seminary he attended. But on the whole, most graduates, I believe, are ill-prepared for the task at hand. Upon leaving seminary, many men are better suited to be a professor than a pastor. A fundamental principle of life is: like produces like. As this relates to ministerial training, a professor will most likely produce a professor. While scholastic studies, such as the original languages, biblical backgrounds and the like, are necessary for ministry, this knowledge does not automatically qualify one for pastoral ministry. For most graduates, there remains a wide gap between their seminary training and the daily demands of local church ministry. Critical issues such as philosophy of ministry, preaching, worship, pastoral care, and evangelism and missions must also be addressed if a man is to be properly prepared for the pastorate. These subjects must be addressed, and by men for whom these issues are more mere theory.
Why should pastors continue to study throughout their lives?
If pastors are to be spiritual leaders, they must be life-long learners on many related subjects. If there is to be a steady output pouring from their ministries, there must be a continual input that is flowing into their lives. This being so, effective pastors must be continually growing deeper in their grasp of many strategic areas if they are to advance in ministry effectiveness. Without continuing education, a low ceiling is often placed over their pastoral leadership. In such cases, a pastor will most likely become stagnant and stunted in his personal development as a shepherd. But if a pastor will commit himself to continued study, he will, most likely, see his ministry skills enhanced in a significant way.
In your opinion, what is the value of a Doctor of Ministry degree?
The Doctor of Ministry program provides excellent training in these areas of ministerial deficiencies. This degree is geared not for training academicians for the classroom, but, primarily, for equipping pastors to labor in the trenches of daily church work. The D.Min. is uniquely focused upon developing the practical skills needed for effective ministry. The studies are conducted in small classes with other highly-committed men who are pursuing the same goals. This small teacher-student ratio promotes a healthy interaction between professor and students. A high level of motivation is cultivated among the D.Min. students to really learn the subject matter chosen for them. The aim is not upon pursuing theoretical issues or minutia, but upon the vitally important, practical matters facing every ministry. The design here is to be equipped for a lifetime of successful pastoral ministry.
What is your opinion of the Ligonier Academy Doctor of Ministry program?
The Doctor of Ministry program at the Ligonier Academy is the finest program available today. I am convinced of this. This assessment begins with the faculty. Any school is no more, no less, than the men who comprise its teaching team. Ligonier has pulled together a collection of world class instructors, the finest faculty anywhere in the evangelical world, with men like Drs. R.C. Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson, R. Albert Mohler, D.A. Carson, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, and others teaching. They are known throughout Christendom as accomplished leaders, published authors, and revered experts in the related fields. No other school can match the faculty at the Ligonier Academy in the Doctor of Ministry program.
Any thoughts on your experience teaching one of the inaugural classes in the Ligonier Academy D.Min. program?
I was privileged to teach one of the very first D.Min. classes at the Ligonier Academy, and I can say, first hand, that I am extremely impressed with this institution. The new campus, with its close proximity to St. Andrews’ Chapel and the Ligonier Ministries headquarters, provides one of the finest learning environments imaginable. The beauty and aesthetics of the Ligonier setting serve to enhance the learning experience. The cloistered campus, removed from the busy city, provides a retreat-like atmosphere that encourages serious study and close dialogue with the professor and other students. The professional staff at Ligonier makes the entire experience top-notch. There cannot be a school better positioned to deliver excellence in post-graduate theological studies than Ligonier Academy.