Even though I’ve been in ministry for several years, writing, pastoring, preaching, I made the decision last year to apply at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. By some miracle of divine providence, I got in and by another miracle of divine providence, I finished a year. Because I’m doing this while I’m pastoring and writing, it will likely take me five years to complete my degree.
So what do I think after a year of seminary? Here are five reflections:
1) To attend seminary is a privilege. One of the frequent prayers we make in our formation group is this, “Dear God, thank you for the rich privilege to study at such a good seminary.” Most pastors and ministry workers around the world are not afforded the rich theological resources available to Americans. There’s a lot of complaining going on in the Church today about seminary, lot’s of questions about higher education, etc. But those of us who have been or are being exposed to seminary, do we realize the privilege we have?
2) Seminary is merely the beginning of lifelong learning. The purpose of attending seminary is to give those called to preach and teach the Word a season of intensive study and reflection. But this learning is only the beginning of a lifelong pursuit of God. So often you hear pastors or ministry workers say things like, “I didn’t learn this is in seminary.” I think we say this because we misunderstand the purpose of our education. Yes, it is to train us in teaching the Word of God. yes it is to provide some leadership tools. But there are many things we will learn in life that cannot and should not be taught in a seminary class. And that’s okay. That’s not your school’s role. In seminary, the best and most competent pour into you what they have, the body of truth passed from generation to generation, and it is the Holy Spirit’s job to shape your character for God’s mission.
3) To really study and know God requires serious discipline. The rigors of academic study force you to ask yourself, over and over again, “How much do I want to know God.” Because serious study of the Word requires discipline and focus. It requires your heart and your soul. It takes much from you. And yet, can you think of a subject which demands more study than the study of God and His written revelation? I’ve been impressed by my fellow seminary classmates. Guys who move across the country or world with their families and get up at ungodly hours in the morning to study Greek are guys serious about God’s mission. They’re not messing around. They’re about doing God’s work.
4) As much as you know, there’s always more to learn. It’s interesting for me to balance my role as Senior Pastor, husband, father, and seminary student. At church and at home, because of my leadership role, I’m kind of the guy people look at who is suppose to know things. Yet when I sit in that seminary class under a longtime professor, I’m just a student who knows next to nothing. This kind of humility is good for me. It reminds me that as much as I think I know and as much as I have read and studied, there is always so much more.
5) Studying theology is an act of worship. If there is one thing that studying at TEDS this year did for me it was to increase my passion for God. Yes, there is a level of theological study that can be divorced from personal piety. We’re warned about that constantly at TEDS. But done right, studying in seminary can be a rich time of personal growth. Perhaps it’s because I’m in the everyday throes of ministry and family, but seminary has only allowed me to know Christ more by knowing His Word more. To make the sacrifice to study theology intensely is an act of worship.
Bottom Line: I’ve loved my time at TEDS. I can’t wait for my next year of study. I’m grateful for this rich season of intellectual and spiritual growth.