I grew up in rural Missouri. Of the 30 churches in my local association, probably only five to six of those had full-time pastors. The rest were bi-vocational, and very few of those guys had any seminary training. This was normal to me. (I was in middle school before I ever had a pastor that had been to seminary.) Most of the pastors I had growing up were great men of God, that did a fine job shepherding our church without formal training. So I always figured, "What's the point?" Honestly, the only times I heard seminary discussed were with disdain. Seminary was where good young preachers went to be corrupted by liberal professors in ivory towers.
While I didn't pursue formal training the first several years of my ministry, I like to think I continued to grow as a Christian and as a pastor. I have always been an avid reader, and have been blessed with good mentors who helped me along the way. But about four years ago, I became aware of an opportunity to pursue a master's degree online through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. I signed up for my first grad class and, since that time, I have worked (very) slowly and steadily toward a master's degree in theological studies (all online).
While I have completed several hours of grad work, I had never actually been to a seminary until yesterday. I attended the "For the Church" conference at Midwestern these last two days, and just want to say that I was greatly blessed by the experience. The worship was rich and Christ-centered, and the sermons were biblical and stimulating. (I also got to attend an impromptu theology lecture, which was fun.) One visit doesn't make me an expert but, based on what I saw, good things are happening at Midwestern. There is a good spirit on campus, and the seminary community seems genuinely excited. I really enjoyed the atmosphere. Dr. Allen has cast a tremendous vision with his "For the Church" emphasis, and people are buying in.
Southern Baptists should be proud of their seminary in Kansas City. It won't be 15 years before I come back.