The purpose of this series is to help students whether they are preparing for, attending, or have graduated from seminary to grow in the God’s grace. To read the rest of the articles in this series click here.
There is a saying that says seminary is a cemetery. In some ways, I agree with that statement and in many ways, I disagree. I spent five years in Bible College and seminary from September 2007 to May 2012. Before I went to Bible College and seminary, I spent a great deal of time reading all sorts of theology books and even studying biblical languages. You could classify me as a “Bible and theology nerd” because I truly loved studying the Bible and theology and still do!
People’s experiences in seminary are as different as the person. There is no set formula for growing in grace while in Bible College or seminary. Some people, while attending school, work full time at a secular job while others are full-time Pastors or serve in some other ministry position.
Regardless of your occupation, Christians are commanded by God to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Seminary is an incredible time of focused study. If one uses their time in Bible College and seminary well, they can go out with a well-rounded understanding of the gospel.
Seminary Students and Graduates are Generalists
Some people think seminary graduates know all the answers. Since completing seminary in May 2012, I am often asked for my opinion on a variety of issues. Often I let people know as nicely and gently as possible, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember”, followed up with, “I will look into that and get back to you.”
Some people consider seminary graduates to be experts. When I sense people have this general idea I try to emphasize to them seminary graduates are people. As I tell these people about seminary, I let them nicely know, we take survey classes on the Old and New Testament. In addition, to these classes, we study biblical and systematic theology, biblical languages, church history, and many other practical classes. In short, seminary graduates get a broad knowledge of a variety of theological and practical topics. Seminary graduates are generalists, not specialists.
Dear seminary student or graduate, it’s okay for you to admit that you don’t know the answer. It’s okay for you to tell people what you’ve studied and at what depth. It’s also okay that you are continuing to grow. People may expect you to know the answers but it will go a long way to building godly character in you by being honest with people. Also, people will respect you for your honesty.
With that said commit to studying the issues, you aren’t as familiar with and read widely from a variety of theological perspectives. This will help you to deepen your knowledge and understanding of theology. Lastly, make sure you are regularly reading, studying, meditating, praying, and applying the Bible to your own life.
Humility and Relationships
Since you’ve been to seminary many Christians will be intimidated by you. Some pastors who haven’t gone to seminary will feel insecure around you and think you are a know-it-all. One of the reasons among many that people are intimidated by seminary students is people don’t like to feel like they don’t have any knowledge about a subject. This is especially true in relation to those who have been Christians a long time. Often seminary students give such in depth answers and use such strong theological language it makes people feel like they don’t know anything at all about their faith. That’s not a position anyone likes to be in.
When I graduated seminary I was guilty of what I described above. I would often use too many theological words. I wasn’t as relational and focused on caring about people as I am now. Seminary affords you seminarian an opportunity to grow not only in your knowledge of what you are learning but also in your ability to communicate it.
Let’s be clear here seminarian you are not God’s gift to theology. There will always be people who are smarter than you who know more than you in this field. Take a posture of a servant like Jesus, be teachable, be humble, and be available to minister the gospel to people.
Practical Advice to Seminary Students
Dear seminary student and graduate what I described above are one reason, among many, why you must be in a good Bible-believing church under godly pastors and elders who love the Lord, the Word, the Gospel, and the people under their care. Such men are worthy of imitation (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Dear seminary student, as you sit under the Word being preached, be careful not to critique your Pastor. While you may be more knowledgeable on a particular subject, be mindful of your need to submit to the preached Word.
Now is the time while you are in seminary and in your local church to learn from how the pastoral staff and church leadership preach and minister to God’s people. Learn from other Pastors and elders you come in contact with at other congregations. Become friends with people in your classes and learn from them.
Read widely on respected conservative evangelical blogs and Christian books that will assist you in growing in the truth of Scripture. Grow in appreciation for God’s varied gifts among His people. Find a godly mentor to help you grow in grace. All of these actions require a tremendous level of humility. The more you know the Bible, the more you’ll understand God’s grace. In turn, this means you should hate your sin and daily turn from it to Jesus.
I’ve now been out of seminary four years. During that time God has used a variety of circumstances in my life to humble and grow me. During my time in Bible College and Seminary, I got mostly A’ and a few B’s. While I “knew” the answers, I’m still growing in learning how to apply sound theology to my own life. Ultimately, theology is meant not to reside only in our minds but to impact the whole of our lives. Theology is for all of life.
Don’t try to use people to “build” your ministry. Don’t use seminary as a time to fill your mind without your affections being stirred up or without your life being transformed by the gospel. Instead, use your time in Bible College and seminary as a time to grow in the Word, in the grace of God, and in serving God. By doing this, you will use your time in seminary not for yourself but for the sake of the gospel and for the edification of God’s people.
There is no better reason to go to seminary than for the purpose of strengthening local churches. As a Bible College or seminary student, I pray it is your sincere desire to glorify God, to spread His fame, and advance His gospel among the nations for His glory. Seminary is not a cemetery. Instead, it is a place and a time in your life for you to be humbled, and to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.