- Grades Can Become Idols
Grades have the potential to be the “golden calves” of seminary. Of course, I must correctly qualify that every seminarian must do His best for the glory of God. Yet the temptation in seminary is not doing your very best for Christ, but the temptation is wanting to BE the very best. Some men sacrifice ministry, sacrifice their family, sacrifice their relationships, and sacrifice their holiness for the sake of the “A.” And I confess, the temptations for those were real to me. And it was quite the struggle.
Though grades are a good external incentive, they must be put in their place. They are just grades. Your GPA does not determine the quality of your preaching. Your GPA does not automatically make you a good pastor. And your GPA does not make you more holy. Grades don’t determine character. People in life and ministry will know you know your stuff not by your transcript but by how you apply truth in your life.
- Seminary Doesn’t Make the Preacher; God Does
Like many of my colleagues, I thought seminary would turn me into a carbon copy of the preachers I admired like John Piper, John Macarthur, and all the other Johns of Christendom. Sadly, that was not the case. I quickly learned that good preaching was a gift that many men did not have. With all my deficiencies as a preacher, it was an eye-opener realizing that the M.Div didn’t magically turn me into the preacher I wanted to be. The Lord taught me that I had to work at it and practice in order to hone the skills of preaching. And the place where I practiced preaching the most was in the context of the local church. That is where I was allowed to practice and where I received my greatest critiques and feedback. But this does not mean school lacked in instruction. Seminary did teach me much about preaching. Examples in chapel and the preaching labs really were a great blessing to me.
- Sanctification Is Not a Guarantee in Seminary
The thought is that seminary is filled with the holiest of men. People assume that every individual there is of high integrity and in close proximity to God since they are training for the ministry. Unfortunately, not all who go to seminary are living holy lives. Pastors are people too. And people sin. I learned that my personal holiness was a great responsibility at this stage of my life. Seminary was not going to live my Christian life for me. It also wouldn’t force me to keep up with my spiritual disciplines and devotional time with the Lord. Being a student in seminary does not guarantee a healthy relationship with God. Having a devotional life (like the one discussed earlier) does assist with the sanctification. But the battle against the flesh continues in seminary. For me, the battle against my own sin continued on through all of seminary. I thought seminary would magically put me into the holiness elite of Christianity, but I was reminded that it takes great discipline and reliance upon the Spirit to fight sin. Whatever struggles I had prior to seminary were the same struggles I had IN seminary, and it was humbling. So with the heavy demands of school, it would be dangerous for personal growth and sanctification to take a backseat. Holiness in seminary must be prioritized.
- Be about Learning and not about Checklists
With the boatloads of homework assignments, reading assignments, and papers, it was easy to get things done for the sake of getting them done. It was a struggle to turn on “cruise control” and just simply finish the work without the truth reaching my heart. Though I treasured a great amount of truth from my seminary classes, a better attitude and work ethic would have helped me absorb even more. Being a learner in seminary will take you far. Approaching every assignment with a teachable attitude will help you to develop and maintain the things that you learn. Take heed from Proverbs and be a learner from everyone and everything.
- Get Married.
This could be a blog entry in itself. The things I learned about marriage in seminary were things that I wouldn’t trade for the world. What I learned about my spouse is special to me, and these things have brought us to a great place in our relationship. I love my wife so much, and I wish that I would have spent my entire seminary career as a married individual. This of course did not come without its difficulties and hardships. But it was a learning experience that was vital in developing our maturity. My recommendation for men seeking to be in the pastorate is to be married, even if you are headed for seminary. My wife became a steady flow of encouragement and help in times of need. Doing seminary together as a team was much more rewarding than doing it myself. It is not good for man to be alone, even in seminary.
I know that everyone has their own seminary experiences, and everyone has their opinion about seminary, so I understand if you disagree with these statements. However, I felt as though the Lord had used both my triumphs and failures to sanctify me and prepare me for the future. And I would not have it any other way.
After I turned in my final assignment, I packed my stuff to leave the seminary for one last time as an M.Div student. I turned around to look at my surroundings and reflected on the first day of seminary. As I thought to myself, I reflected upon all the change in my life since I started those first days of classes. So I asked, “Would I do it all over again?”
The answer is “Yes.” I would do it all over again without any hesitation. I truly believed that God has used every event during seminary, big and small, to develop me. And my journey is not yet done. I still have a long way to go in my own personal sanctification. And though this may be true, I am thankful to the Lord for taking my life in this direction.
So much has happened in the past years. Even in the recent months so many things have changed. But the faithfulness of my God has remained the same. I also want to thank everyone who has had a hand in my life for these past years. Many of you have shown grace to me, and you have endured through hardships with me. In the end, I pray that all of my brothers and sisters will be able to say with me that we finished the course and finished it well.
May God see us through until the very end.