Dr. Eric Smith founded The Pillar Seminary to address several persistent and wide-ranging problems in the local church, its leadership, and how its leaders are trained. Prior to the launch of the seminary, and during his time in ministry, he saw the local church suffering and losing people because of fundamental inability to make disciples. He saw that the leadership of the church was also suffering. On average, they were leaving ministry after four years of struggling to address needs they were ill-equipped to handle.
Within the academic wing of the church, which is traditionally responsible for equipping church leaders, he observed systemic problems tied to these sufferings and failures. First, seminary training is out of date, having widely been built for an early or mid twentieth-century world that no longer exists. Second, the curriculum reflects a higher concern for right answers than right abilities, which is not helpful for practitioners. Third, seminary training comes at a high financial cost, saddling those who serve the church with debt.
So, in December of 2013, after consultation with several local ministries, Eric decided the time was right and launched The Pillar Seminary, built from the ground-up to address these problems. In March of 2014, Eric invited Dr. Scott Booth to join the project, with whom he had been discussing these issues for many years. The two worked together to conduct interviews with ministry leaders across the country, without regard for denomination, age, or gender, to design an ecumenial curriculum that would serve the core needs of the church. In the Fall of 2014, The Pillar Seminary launched its first semester with twelve students and two faculty.
After the first semester, Eric and Scott were not satisfied with the results in terms of efficiency, scalability, and diversity. To address efficiency, the educational approach was changed to a flipped classroom, wherein lectures are pre-recorded and class time focuses on allowing students to practice desired skills with professors. To address scalability and diversity, they began offering a fully interactive online platform. This allowed students from across the world to work together on class projects under the shared interest of being better at reading the Bible and leading their ministries.
In the Fall of 2015, student enrollment had doubled and Dr. Donnell J. Moore joined the team. He began to rework the Leadership Program in the direction of the practicality of a DMin for students at the MDiv level who are already in ministry. At the same time, The Pillar also brought on its first full-time administrative staff.
In June of 2017, The Pillar Seminary celebrated its first graduates. In the Fall of 2017, student enrollment continued to rise, and included the first international student. Dr. Daniel Lowery came on full-time to take over the New Testament side of the Bible Program, and the Institutional Development department was created. In the Fall of 2018, the student body grew to more than sixty students from across the United States, Thailand, and the United Kingdom, men and women representing many denominational traditions.
God is raising up people with a passion for the local church and a vision for what she should be: A disciple making power house. Professors and staff have joined the team, committed to pouring themselves out to the students. Joining us in the mission are a board of wise men and women who provide godly counsel and oversight, students determined to represent God and build His kingdom in their local ministries, and an army of donors committed to growing the kingdom by growing its leaders.