what’s wrong with this picture?

I was searching for something else just now, and I came across this advertisement for online education. Does anything in this picture bother anyone else, from an educational perspective? Would you want this man to be your pastor? (Before anyone accuses me of being sexist, I said “man” because in the picture it looks like he is the one taking the class). How well will this man learn Hebrew, Greek, and theology? Remember that this man’s paper and exams may be graded by Gary Meadors. What chance does he have of even passing this course?

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  1. This is the myth that online programs wish to perpetuate – that one can enjoy their current lifestyle while getting a degree in their spare time. Students of theology know that one cannot excel in their courses while going on a picnic with family members that won’t leave you alone.

  2. I think their son is too young to start college, his parents are pressuring him too much. He even looks unhappy! Also, there is the problem of online courses not generating sufficient amounts of student loan debt. The major banks in the US won’t be happy.

  3. I’d just like to know how he’s getting WIFI in what appears to be a wide-open area.

  4. @Adam – I know – pesky family members!

    @Mike – So Gary Meadors is grading papers from his condo in Florida now? What devotion!

    Personally, I think the whole family would be happier if they weren’t lyinhg on a downward slope. Oh, is that supposed to be a metaphor for a degree from Liberty?

  5. Study of the languages is good, but not essential – in my book. I was a Christian Ed major, so didn’t study the languages. A seminary classmate [who shall remain nameless!] switched majors. Dr. Wood confronted him, since the Chr. Ed major didn’t require languages. His reply: “Dr. Wood, do you believe in spiritual gifts?” “YES” “Well, then, you study the languages and write books, so I can read them and know what the languages say!” NO Response from Dr. Wood on that one!!!!

  6. Any online degree takes more time, effort, and money while promoting “work full time and complete your education.” The marketing is misleading whether one is studying nursing, business, or theology.

  7. Liberty’s online MDiv degree – depending on focus – does require language courses, and since Calvin has a rigorous online Hebrew course and Moody has a very rigorous Greek series, it is possible to get quality language education via the online environment. As is true with every educational endeavor, the student will get as much out of the course as he or she is willing to put in. I would rather have a pastor who worked hard and studied diligently through an online program than one who simply coasted by in the back of a traditional classroom. That being said, I do think that a valuable aspect of education is the interaction with peers and professors in the classroom environment, but as I do know a couple of very compentant and gifted people who are currently completing their MDiv’s through Liberty’s online program, I cannot dismiss the quality of the education simply because it is online.

  8. Over here in the UK the fields are just full of people using their laptops too. There have been several accidents caused by collisions with tractors, etc. Not to mention the increased workload at PC World removing all kinds of bugs from laptop motherboards. This kind of advertising is just plain irresponsible!🙂

    Seriously, I understand the point of Mike’s post, having signed up for and paid for an on-line learning I missed the classroom interaction that I had in College.

  9. I’m not sure I live in the same universe as you Jonathan. Languages were the hardest part of my MDiv and there is no way I could have done them online. I know, I tried to do Greek on my own before I started, it didn’t work. And I haven’t seen anyone coast through an MDiv in a traditional classroom.

  10. I wonder if this man is someone’s pastor? I wonder if he is a kind, loving man who is faithfully shepherding the congregation entrusted to him? I wonder if one of his congregants stumbled upon this post if they might be confused as to why the man they love was being denigrated?

    I wonder if someone’s been in the ivory tower for too long?
    😉

  11. Mike, I share your concern. Over the past years I’ve seen the same trend towards online seminary among those preparing for military chaplaincy. My greater concern is that many of them admit that it is ‘easier’ for them to attend an online school. I don’t know that ‘easiness’ should be a factor in choosing how and where to prepare for vocational ministry.

    Now, I contrast this with another aspiring pastor I met who is basing his choice of seminary on the faculty who teach, the institutions reputation, and the challenge that the school will present him. In my estimation, his approach is far healthier. He values face-to-face interaction with professors and students, more still he values the challenge that seminary will present.

    Now, I will say that I think schools like liberty have a place. Several military members in my congregation are attending liberty to help them prepare for lay ministries. They serve as Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, and various other rolls in our congregation and this kind of education suits them. In fact, most of them admit that if they were going to go into full-time vocational ministry they would attend a traditional in-residence school.

    What is more striking is that in my conversations with these men, they admit that the quality of the education they are receiving may not be the best. One gentleman I was talking to just last week was sharing that he was receiving grades on his papers and assignments that he thought were too high. More still, he shared that the on-line discussion format was not sufficient when dealing with major theological issues and debates facing the church. In his words, ‘Sometimes people need to be told to their face that they are bordering on heresy.’

    So, while I do think schools like these can serve a roll in preparing lay ministers, I certainly share your concern for those preparing for full-time ministry!

  12. Really, David? I’m pretty sure that this is a stock photo from something like Getty images, but if a parishioner actually thought that this is a snapshot of how their pastor studies, then they should be concerned. Wouldn’t you?

  13. I wasn’t really asking about the photo… I’m pretty sure it’s a posed shot, too.

    My question was about the guy in the post.

  14. David, I’m not following. I was only ever referring to the picture–and how difficult it would be to gain an education while lying in a field with your wife and toddler (by the way, I don’t think I can see that better because I have the vantage of an “ivory tower.” I think it’s obvious even to those of us who are on the ground). Anyway, I don’t know what “guy in the post” you mean.

  15. Your question, “Would you want this man as your pastor?” changes the tone of the post. You ask your reader to read the rest of your words in terms of “good pastors do this…/bad pastors do this…”. the “guy in the post” is a bad pastor because he is studying in the field with his family.

    and the subtle undertone is “good pastors go to seminary (and don’t study in fields or with their families around).”

    but maybe… there are some good pastors out there who didn’t go to seminary?

    and if i may personalize… i studied my way through seminary on the couch, surrounded by my wife and kids. i don’t think that made me a bad pastor?, but i think it made me a better father and a better husband.

    … of course, that may also explain my poor grades in your classes!

  16. David, why don’t you go back to trolling the Pyro blog? Are you the new Randy Buist?

  17. Let’s not be too harsh on David. He does make some good points about Mike’s assumptions with this picture, even if he may have misunderstood the intention of Mike’s post.

    I think all of us agree that everyone who is taking seminary classes – at least those who take their classes seriously – wishes that s/he had more free time and wanted to be a better spouse/parent/friend/whatever. The issue, I think, is the integrity of Liberty, giving potential students the impression that completing a seminary does not require giving up time with the family and missing out on opportunities. The cost for being a minister in the church of Jesus Christ is high, and the price begins in seminary – and not just because of tuition. To make potential students believe that seminary fits comfortably into existing routines is just dishonest. And that to me is worse than sacrificing academic quality – it is sacrificing integrity.

  18. Jonathan,

    What assumptions do you think I was making about seminary? All I intended to do was express dismay that theological education was taken so lightly in this picture. I refuse to own whatever underlying messages you and David assume were in my post. If there is any projection going on here, I think it’s a projection on me (e.g., I’m in an “ivory tower”).

  19. Mike,

    The assumptions I take issue with are (1) that online education is necessarily inferior to traditional education and (2) that this person is somehow unfit to be a pastor based solely on a perceived laxidasical approach to seminary. This is odd to me specifically because it doesn’t gel with my personal experiences with you at GRTS. You go out of your way to be flexible with students and extend learning opportunities outside of the traditional classroom setting. It seems that you are a proponent of finding educational solutions to meet students’ needs without compromising academic standards (and I can attest to the fact that you have rigorous standards for all your students). Is it more difficult to get a quality education via the online environment? Yes, but it is not impossible. Some of my friends have completed Western’s online MDiv program and received stellar educations. So I don’t think the question “Would you want this man to be your pastor?” is a fair question based solely on this picture (unless the pastoral setting is a subtle endorsement of natural theology, in which case my answer is “Nein!”). The question of whether Liberty is accurately portraying seminary life is more appropriate, and the question of what all goes in to affirming a call to ministry is critical. I believe your intention was to spur discussion on the first point, but it may have been too cleverly masked by your humor. I think we would do well to add the latter point to the discussion as well.

  20. just to be clear… my only issue was with the question, “Would you want this man to be your pastor?”

    i certainly understand the sacrifices of theological education and value the education i received from GRTS and Mike (who was about my third favorite prof in my time there…).

    I just think that statement changed the tone of the post… but, I also tend to be a bit contrarian…

    (and i am typing all this with a smile on my face, because I love you Mike)

  21. The first thing that came to my mind when reading this post was, “factual statements that are self-contradictory”.

  22. In fact, I think the hubby was studying koine Greek and sharing with his wife how altering a single Greek vowel can change you from being “Herod’s son” into “Herod’s pig.”

  23. My biggest problem was he is using a Mac!

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