Editor’s Note:

This is a brand new series we are doing to help those who are interested in going to, already in or who have graduated Bible College or seminary. The purpose of this series is to help you grow in the grace of God while you are preparing for, while you are attending and after you graduate from seminary.

*****************

If you’re called to ministry, there are few things better to give yourself to than an outstanding seminary education. Yet, there are also stumbling blocks and pitfalls along the way in seminary education. Right now there are thousands of young men entering seminary, as green as can be, excited about the academic pursuit ahead. If you know someone who is starting seminary, please share this with them. This is a four part series of invaluable lessons I learned in my five years of seminary education. These lessons are offered in the form of four admonishments.

Admonishment: Make Friends

Seminary is interesting because it is a mixing pot of people from all over the spectrum. It really doesn’t matter what seminary you go to there will be people that find themselves from an array of theological views. Seminary is an opportunity to learn how to discourse and dialogue with those whom you will disagree.

Unfortunately, we make quick judgments that are unfair, much like how alumni from different seminaries might make judgments of one another because of their alma mater. You’ll meet people from certain undergraduate institutions and you’ll immediately pigeon-hole them in a category. Try not to prematurely categorize someone. I made that mistake with what became one of my dearest friends in seminary. Even now I try not to make that same mistake with friendships with guys from other seminaries. Here is a brief anecdote to how I learned this invaluable lesson during my first days at Dallas Seminary.

We all moved into historic Stearn’s Hall on the same day. Eventually, every student in our hall made their way to the commons area and introduced themselves. Not long into the natural course of dialogue Daniel and I found ourselves on the opposite side of the spectrum on an issue. By the end of the evening we seemed rather irritated with one another. The next day, we stumbled into one another finding the last two seats side by side in our Introduction of Christian Education class. It was clear that both of us were skeptical of how this pairing would shape up. Towards the last half of class our instructor grouped us into fours to discuss some introductory matters of Christian Education. Daniel and I took our adversarial stance as we prepared to square off in our views on Christian Education. Daniel began by absolutely disagreeing with the professor’s viewpoint. Then he waited for my retort. To his and my chagrin we both absolutely disagreed with the professor.

Our chagrin turned to pleasant surprise. He then offered me one of his two chocolate chip cookies. During the fine day of Mitchell Dining Commons, the staff kept fresh baked chocolate chip cookies available for students. Those were the finer days at DTS when table fellowship was valued by the administration. This moment was the start to a critical friendship in seminary. Together Daniel and I would discuss our way through Scripture and theology. We worked out in the early mornings at Baylor Fitness Center. We double dated and we counseled one another through relationship conflicts.

I can’t go on without mentioning a couple other invaluable friendships the Lord gave me in seminary. First, there is Nic. Nic played equally a part in friendship as Daniel did. We debated. We agreed. We held each other accountable. We made each other better men. Both Nic and Daniel kept me honest. They called me out when I needed to be called out. We also pushed one another to learn more, work hard, and strive in serving the Lord.

Then there are the fine men that I met with for two years for spiritual formation at DTS. Every Th.M student must meet with other men for a two year Bible study to develop identity, community, integrity and ultimately a sound ministry mentality. God had His hand on me by how he selected the men for my group. One man, Chris, happened to be my best friend in life’s cousin-in-law. Another, Joe, my wife and I support through the Navigators. A third, Brandon, is now the man that I’m following into the trenches of ministry into Chicago as our team of five pastors and core group of 40 plants and proclaims gospel truth to the people of Chicago.

Beyond this there are the many men that I led in managing the Dining Department. I will forever stand grateful for the fellowship of guys like Ranjit, Jason and Nathan.

Finally, there are the friendships kindled after seminary. I never knew Nate Claiborne while in seminary. But through our blogging ministries, the two of us connected and it is a joy to have his friendship now.

You really never know how the Lord will use the relationships you develop in seminary for His greater good. Some of these men will become your best friends. They will be with you when you need them the most – in the good, bad and the ugly.

Treasure the friendships God gives you in seminary. Make friends not enemies. And forget the word frienemy – it’s for girly men.

This post first appeared at Joey’s blog and is posted here with his permission.