When Online Education is Best

by Robert Matz July 14, 2021

Online education has forever altered theological education. No longer is distance education a niche product operating on the fringes of the seminaries and divinity schools, rather it has become the dominant form of education in most evangelical schools. While some lament this development, online education is neither second rate nor less desirable for students. Indeed, like the New Testament Epistles, online theological education brings the truths of the Gospel to where believers are, in the local church.

Online theological education will often be best for students who are presently serving in vocational ministry. While those serving in unhealthy church contexts might need to consider moving, most churches need their pastors. When staff leaves churches, ministries are disrupted, relationships are severed, and gospel work is often reduced. If Paul could provide theological education to Titus and Timothy from a distance for the sake of the churches, what an opportunity now exists for pastors to learn for their church while within their church. When moving to seminary harms a local church, online education is best.

Additionally, online education should be the first choice for those who want formal theological education but do not desire to serve in vocational ministry. A few years ago, Dr. John Witt, a neurologist outside Nashville, completed his MTS at MBTS. Dr. Witt desired both to equip individuals in his church with theological training and to better prepare for evangelism and discipleship as part of medical mission trips. Moving to seminary would have hindered Dr. Witt’s present ministry, forced him to establish a new medical practice, and removed him from his present place of service in a local church. For Dr. Witt, and for many other professionals seeking to better serve their local churches, online education is best.

Lastly, online education is the preferable option for those being discipled well by their local churches. On-campus theological education is unique in providing students in-person direct access to well-known theological minds and proven practitioners. The residential model also provides a cohort of peers to refine one’s day-to-day walk with Christ. For a student who is being well-discipled in his local church, online education provides an equivalent educational outcome without the need to start the discipline process fresh.

There are, of course, many students who should consider moving to seminary or bible college: those needing more in-depth discipleship, those who would be well-served living around other committed Christians, those just starting out in life and ministry, and those considering a career in the theological academy. Nevertheless, for many thousands of Bible students, online theological education is not a second-rate option but is the absolute best option. At MBTS & Spurgeon College, we offer a world-class Biblical education, both on-campus AND online. We would love for you to join us.

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