An exciting journey consisting of difficult, humbling, tiring, frustrating, patience-testing, discipline teaching, sanctifying roads. Each of these roads on the seminary journey seem to teach the student a different lesson regarding ministry, following Jesus, and even revealing things about themselves. Last semester was my first full-time semester as a seminary student on the actual campus. Prior to this, I was serving at a church in South Carolina and doing seminary through a part time extension center. Although there are various means to a seminary education, accommodating the situation and convenience of the student, there could be insights, and nuggets of wisdom for each student, no matter their seminary occupation. As I officially begin another full time, new semester tomorrow, I can’t help but to look back on this previous one, and not only claim God’s faithfulness, but also note several things that I desire to improve on and I learned. I’m not claiming to know everything, as I’m EXTREMELY far from that, but the Lord has taught me a lot, as He continues to do, regarding seminary and ministry, and I want to share these things with my fellow seminary friends, or those thinking about pursuing theological education one day. Thinking through and typing these points was convicting to me personally, and an even greater challenge to live out what I speak of here. Now these points are relating specifically to seminary students, but can also be said of the daily Christian in any occupation or circumstance that is consistently growing in their Christian walk. You can take these or leave them, but I hope and pray that these practical steps that God has taught me and continues to, will encourage you in some way as the semester begins.
While in seminary…
1. Never lose sight of the needs of our broken, dark world. Immerse yourself into the world as a light in the darkness, and salt to the earth. I’ve observed something about some seminary students, and I can even lean in this direction if I stress myself out too much with school work. We become so busy with assignments, papers, reading books, lectures, memorizing the Greek New Testament, and obsessing over particular topics, that we easily drift away from the needs of the world, and become self consumed. Consumed in our personal theological growth, making straight A’s, trying to impress our professors and classmates, and loading up on credit hours. I mean let’s be honest, the average person walking on the street doesn’t even know what the word hermeneutics means. As much as we want to grow, and should grow, that does not change the needs that are right outside of your seminary campus. Discipline yourself, make yourself, and allow yourself to get off the campus frequently, and interact with the city that you live in. Don’t spend all of your time in the classroom or on campus. That is a dangerous temptation, and seems comfortable, but it will not give you the growth you need. A healthy balance of theological growth and interaction with the world will go a long ways in our future ministry. Love the lost, be broken for the world, and allow God to sanctify you in the practical needs as your grow theologically and spiritually. I immediately noticed that I had to interact with the world to appreciate seminary more and find the true value in what I’m doing. It’s for a greater purpose!
2. Take your seminary work seriously. Do your absolute best. Although we have to stay broken for this world, we also are called to do our absolute best. Colossians 3 speaks of working your best not for men, but for God, and 1 Peter 3 speaks of the importance of knowing why you have the hope that is within you. A seminary education is nothing to take lightly. There are people all around the world that would give anything for the chance to take the kind of classes that we take, and sit under brilliant professors. This education must be held closely with the upmost urgency, knowing that it is not only for our benefit, but also for the benefit of those that we will minister to and alongside of. And by the way, if you are not paying for your education, someone else is. We need to be good stewards of each class, assignment and deadline.
3. Plug into a local church. The seminary is not the church, and ultimately will not alone train you for local church ministry. We learn by doing. The knowledge that we gain needs to be applied somewhere, but it also needs biblical practicality. Every seminary student needs to be actively involved in a local church within their context. Whether that is on a staff position, volunteer role, bible study teacher, greeter, worship leader, etc. Don’t just attend and get fed, but offer yourself up to contribute to the church. You have amazing gifts that the church needs. Serve where God places you, and learn to love the local church and the people in it, the bride of Christ!
4. Stay humble. Just typing those two words convict me. Humility is a difficult thing to maintain through seminary. We are being fed so much intellectual truth and biblical information, that we are easily built up. I’ve seen all different kinds of seminary students the past couple years. They are diverse and collective. One frustrating observance is the student that wants to constantly debate, prove their intelligence, and talk about theology ALL the time. That doesn’t seem to uplift anyone other than yourself. Humility seems to be one of the keys in being an effective minister. People will follow someone that always points to Jesus and realizes their position. We must learn to constantly point to Jesus and our desperate need for Him, and not point to ourselves and the knowledge we have.
5. Surround yourself with community. The worst thing a seminary student could do is to isolate themselves. Hiding out in your room or apartment with just the TV on, video games, or even reading books constantly, is a dangerous thing. Community is not only biblical, but absolutely essential for Christians…and even seminarians. Seek and initiate community. Put yourself out there. Find community through the seminary, and find it through your local church. Be open to making new friendships, and learn how to journey through seminary with like minded people that are on a similar path. Not only is it easier with other people, but a lot more fun.
6. Never loose your joy. Stay in God’s Word. Abide and depend on Him. This statement seems so basic and obvious, but I’m learning that it is actually harder than it sounds. Seminary is such a demanding season, that it’s very easy to neglect your dependency for the Lord. School assignments and bible reading for class cannot substitute your personal devotion because it will lead to burn out. It’s extremely difficult to maintain a consistent quiet time alone, but especially when your studying and learning about God. A carved away, specific time to get into the Word is very important. It’s also key to remain joyful, even through the stress and business. Depending on Christ for every ounce of energy and motivation will go a long ways, and teach you that He can get you through any circumstance.
7. Keep it all in perspective. I wanted to close with this one because every other point could fall under this one. If we don’t have the proper perspective during our seminary season, then we will miss the purpose and motivation behind how we even got here. Seminary is not the end goal, and does not automatically qualify you to be great in ministry. Although it does help equip and train, it’s done in vain if you don’t cling to the purpose, which is to glorify God through His provision of you having the opportunity to study and grow in order to minister in what he calls you to. Seminary is just a season, and will not/should not last forever. If we keep the end goal in mind while we are on the seminary journey, our motivation, joy, dedication, diligence, and purpose will be firm. Perspective is key!
I hope and pray that this encouraged you and gave you excitement for a new semester. May it be a great one-expect God to teach you new things along the way!