For a number of years, the elders of Grace Community Church, pastored by Bible expositor and author, Dr. John MacArthur, had envisioned a seminary program that would train men for ministry in the context of a local church. In 1977, Talbot Theological Seminary helped bring partial fruition to that goal by initiating an extension center on the campus of Grace Church.
In 1978, Dr. MacArthur became a signatory on the historic Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, a document that helped define a faithful understanding of biblical authority for the church at large and for theological educators.
Dr. MacArthur became president of The Master’s College in 1985. Under his leadership and vision, The Master’s Seminary opened its doors in 1986. Its purpose was to train men of God, thoroughly equipped for Bible exposition and local church ministry, through an emphasis on careful biblical scholarship, pastoral training, and personal spiritual growth.
The seminary launched its inaugural year with ninety-five students and four full-time faculty members. These included Dr. Irv Busenitz, Dr. Marc Mueller, Dr. Charles R. Smith, and Prof. Donald G. McDougall.
The Master’s Seminary first received regional accreditation in 1988 with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
WASC stated in their February 1992 accreditation report: “The seminary has been very intentional in its development of an M.Div. program with few analogies in the U.S., distinguished above all by its almost single-minded commitment to the preparation of ordained pastors for leadership in the local church.”
The first faculty-written volume, Rediscovering Expository Preaching, was released by Word Publishing in May 1992 and focused on the vital importance of sound biblical exposition. A companion volume, Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, released by Word Publishing in Spring 1995, was also authored by the faculty and addressed practical issues in ministry. The MacArthur Study Bible appeared in Fall 1997.
The growth and advance of TMS created a need for a new facility to house the seminary library and faculty offices. The Equipping Center, including 23,000 square feet of library space, opened in March 1998.
TMS in the New Millennium
Since it started in 1986, the faculty has expanded from four to twenty full-time faculty members, and the student body has increased from 95 to some 400. The library has grown from a church library of just 7,000 volumes to a major theological collection numbering over 315,000 volumes. During this period of steady growth, the seminary has maintained its singular commitment to training men for a ministry of the Word. Over 1,400 graduates now minister on six continents, with 85 percent ministering in a full-time capacity. Alumni training centers replicating the vision of The Master’s Seminary are now operating around the globe in 18 locations.
The 2015 Summit on Inerrancy, hosted by The Master’s Seminary, promises to be one of its most important contributions to the church at large and to theological educators throughout the evangelical world. While many are abandoning historic Christian orthodoxy, the men of TMS–past, present, and by God’s grace, future–will continue to stand firmly under the authority of Scripture.