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.
Throughout the “Dear Seminarian” series, we will talk a lot about how to grow in the grace of God and how to remain focused on Jesus as you grow in the knowledge of the Word and the gospel. Today, I want to talk to you about loving God’s people.
One goes to seminary to be trained to handle the Word of God with skill and precision. Along the way, seminary students learn a great deal about biblical languages, church history, and many other theological topics. Undergirding all of this information and knowledge must be a love for God’s people. Without this understanding, seminary becomes another exercise to build our minds without growing our hearts. In other words, seminary is a place to learn to be able to share what we learn with others in ways they will understand.
Love for Christ’s Church Comes from the Gospel Itself.
Jesus bled, died, rose, ascended, and now serves as our High Priest, Intercessor, Mediator, and Chief Shepherd over His Church. This truth alone should compel us to not only sit in class or in a chapel meeting to hear sermons. Instead, it should compel us to hear, apply, and be freshly impacted by the preaching and teaching of the Scripture.
Seminary Is Meant to Build up the Local Church
Seminary does not exist to serve as an end to itself; rather it is a means to build the Church. When this truth gets out of whack, all sorts of problems happen such as seminary professors and students who overlook the need for biblical community tend to focus instead on the acquisition of knowledge in the classroom environment.
This is a very real problem in many seminaries around the United States where seminary students are detached from the community of God’s people and professors sit in their ivory towers never submitting to the leadership of a local church. Love for God’s Word should compel love for God’s Church and His people. If not, we are fooling ourselves into thinking that academic accomplishments mean more than the gospel, something Scripture depicts as the height of foolishness.
Love for God’s People Should Compel Us to Service
Many people in our congregations are hungry to learn more about the Word of God but don’t have the tools. As seminary students, you don’t need to give an “informational dump”. It is more appropriate to be yourself, go with the flow of conversations, being mindful of the level of understanding of those you are instructing.
It is also necessary to understand some might feel intimated because you are a seminary student. People often, whether rightly or wrongly, view seminary students as those who know more about Scripture than everyone else.
If individuals have questions about your seminary experience, do not be afraid to answer those types of questions. With that said, keep the conversation as simple as possible, being careful not to elaborate on every bit of theological detail or knowledge you have accumulated. It is vital to be mindful of your audience in these instances. From my own personal experience, I can tell you it can not only be awkward, it can also cause some people to feel even more intimidated.
As a seminary student, you will need to find ways to be intentionally humble. One way you can accomplish this is by answering people’s questions with the necessary depth and simplicity without compromising the message. In other words, if you get to the heart of the issue as quickly as possible, you will properly edify the saints, showing love for God’s people. Love God’s people by serving them, being energized by the grace of God.
Find a Godly Mentor
Since you are in seminary learning the Word to include the “how” of church life and ministry, I encourage you to find a godly mentor and pastor. These godly men will serve you by helping you to think through issues, both the difficult and the seemingly mundane.
Don’t be defensive with them. Be transparent, laying your heart out there. That can be scary for some, but those in seminary need mature fathers in the faith. Find godly men with lots of experience in ministry and life to learn and grow from. Pick their brain about doctrinal and theological issues. Learn from their experiences.
This will require humility and you may disagree at times with these men, but show respect to them because their experience and knowledge are far greater than yours. In doing so, you are showing love for God’s Word, the gospel, and His people.
I urge you to continually grow in passion for the Gospel and the Church for as you do, you will progress in the grace of God. In the process, know that others will see your growth even if you can’t and praise the God of all grace for His work in your life.