What Sets TMS Apart?
We founded the The Master’s Seminary for the local church. We wanted to provide our local church, Grace Community Church, with churchmen qualified to preach the Word of God and care for his people. To do so faithfully meant equipping these men with the tools to faithfully interpret Scripture so as to know the mind of God and apply it to their lives and ministries. Such responsibility necessitated a faculty and degree programs that upheld the primacy of the local church, expository preaching, personal holiness, and global missions. As it was in 1986, so it is today. Theological training at The Master’s Seminary is founded upon and set apart by these four distinctives. Now in our third decade of training, our vision has expanded from serving our local church to serving local churches around the world. When our students come to The Master’s Seminary, they come with the desire to serve their church. They leave with the ability to do so.
The Local Church
The vision of the new, young pastor at Grace Community Church 50 years ago was to preach the Word and to train the men of the church. He was convinced that if men were trained, the church and its families would grow and mature. He began with a small, Saturday morning men’s Bible study. This Bible study grew and grew as the men were taught basic Christian doctrine. As the men of the church matured over the years, the church began to shuttle them down to a local seminary for further training. Eventually, so many men were seeking theological training, the elders decided it was time to start a seminary on the campus of Grace Church. The conviction of the elders was that the seminary should support and foster the growth and life of the church. The seminary existed for the maturity of the church; its goal was to create church-men.
The mission of this maturing pastor had not changed; it had actually simplified. His heart for the church was still to preach the Word and to train men. These two strands became one in the purpose of the seminary: to train men to preach the Word. The seminary became something of a brook beneath the church, providing new life and nourishment to the body in the form of more and more well-trained men for the church. The Master’s Seminary became a living laboratory for the church—a place where the pastors and elders of the church could train up men who were called to ministry.
If you were to attend Grace Community Church today for a Sunday morning worship service, you probably would not even know a seminary existed. But during the week, the campus transforms into a seminary. The pastors fill the lecterns, and students are taught the biblical languages, historical theology, theology, and preaching. But these Hebrew and Greek and theological scholars are also church-men. Students walk out of the classroom and onto the campus of their local church, and they sit under the preaching and teaching of their seminary professors on Sunday mornings. The goal of this marriage between seminary and church is to forge churchmen who are interlaced with theological precision – a pastoral precision. Many seminary students find internships or lead Bible studies in the church. They grow close to church families, and they have the opportunity to attend elder and leadership meetings. We love the local church, so much so that we wanted our seminary to live on the campus of one, that way there would never be a question of why it is we do what we do.
In each generation, God is raising up choice men to serve and shepherd his church. In the sixty-sixth chapter of Isaiah, the Lord makes clear the man or woman whom He will use, “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Is. 66:2). In a day when the church is largely led by personality and business-growth models, the heart of The Master’s Seminary is to invest in humble, faithful men who tremble at His word. Our selective student body and location on the campus of a local church gives us the opportunity to do just that.
Each week, small groups of students meet with a professor to discuss current events, ministry scenarios, and personal growth. In these groups, students are given the opportunity to develop personal relationships with professors, leaders in the church, and other fellow students. In weekly chapel services, students gather under the preaching of faculty members, alumni, and special guests. This is a unique opportunity for students be fed the truths of Scripture by men who went before them. The emphasis upon personal holiness remains in the classroom as well. Hebrew grammar lessons are graced with real-world pastoral applications, counseling courses are taught by those who have counseling appointments later that day, and preaching classes are led by those who understand the importance of holiness for pastoral ministry. Professors are not content to let the classroom remain purely academic because they know that ministry is not purely academic. The heart of our faculty is to help men of God learn to love him dearly through his Word.
Expositional preaching has become a vague and foggy stamp of approval for pastors and churches, but a tangible definition has been almost as difficult to establish as finding a church that implements it. And it seems that different people mean different things when they use the term “expository preaching.” Some may mean that the preacher preaches verse-by-verse through books of the Bible, others may mean that he gives little-to-no personal illustrations, others may measure it by its proximity to the style and methods of John MacArthur. But regardless of the criteria, it seems like an all-too-subjective definition for an all-too-important topic.
The mission of The Master’s Seminary is to produce preachers—men who can boldly, precisely, lovingly, and expositionally articulate the Word of God to the people of God, week in and week out, for the rest of their lives. This the highest calling of man, and as such, it requires rigorous preparation.
John MacArthur defines expository preaching as “preaching in such a way that the meaning of the Bible passage is presented entirely and exactly as it was intended by God. Expository preaching is the proclamation of the truth of God as mediated through the preacher.” Steve Lawson considers expository preaching “the true nature of preaching. It is the man of God opening the Word of God and expounding its truths so that the voice of God may be heard, the glory of God seen, and the will of God obeyed.”
Preparation for such a task begins in the first year of the M.Div. with courses on the intricacy of Hebrew and Greek grammar, the sweeping narrative of the Old and New Testaments, and studies of the heroes and heretics who have come before us in historical theology. This preparation culminates in preaching labs, where students are given the opportunity to synthesize all that they have learned and preach every other week to professors and church staff who help to refine and sharpen their preaching ability.
Our prayer is that our graduates, whether serving as pastors, professors, missionaries, or lay servants of the church, would think the thoughts of God after him, and would be equipped to faithfully love his people through the ministry of the Word.
We want to see every tongue, tribe, and nation reached with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, “How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14) We train men who will go to the nations and preach the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even those not personally called to the mission field are equipped to support the Great Commission in their local churches.
We are blessed to have three missions organizations on our campus to help graduates strategically move into different parts of the world equipped, supported, focused, and in community in order to promote sustainable ministry in harder-to-reach contexts. The Tyndale Center for Bible Translation is an emphasis within the M.Div. program where students are given the opportunity to take courses in linguistics and translation theory alongside of the standard courses. This program aims to produce pastors-translators, men who are trained not only in linguistics, but also in the biblical languages, theology, and pastoral ministry—Bible translators who have a heart to plant and shepherd local churches. Our heart is to see Scripture translated by those who have a high view of Scripture. We want to see not just more faithful Bible translations, but more faithful Bible translators. We long to see the day that our graduates can translate the Word of God for an unreached people group, and then stand to preach that very word to the unreached.
Grace Ministries International is the sending agency of Grace Community Church and helps our graduates to prepare and go to the mission field. And The Master’s Academy International helps to bring seminary to those who may never have the chance to come to Los Angeles for schooling. TMAI sends TMS graduates to 14 different countries to train indigenous church leaders.