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.
- C. Walter wrote the first post in this series in which he gave five suggestions for future seminarians.
- Matthew Fretwell wrote the second post in this series on growing in grace.
- Dave wrote the third post in cultivating humility while in seminary.
- Griffin Gulledge wrote the fourth post in this series on a call to ministry.
- Dr. Brian Cosby wrote the fifth post on knowing your Bible.
- Zach Kendrick wrote the sixth post on understanding on motivations for going to seminary.
- Today Joey Cochran starts a four part series on advice to those entering 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: Don’t Lock Yourself in the Ivory Tower
It’s easy to get distracted and stuck in both your library and office during seminary. Whether you are a reader or not, you went to seminary because you wanted to learn. Likely you will pursue that avenue with great zeal. However, there is a danger to this. There is a gap that must be bridged between the theoretical and the practical. When seminary students become lost in theory without any practice, their study becomes fruitless. But when seminary students apply theory to a robust practice in a church environment, much will be gained.
1. Plug into a Church body Immediately.
Unfortunately, too many students start deconstructing every church they go to while in seminary. I remember meeting many students who never really landed in a church. They bounced from church to church for four years evaluating and critiquing every program and pastor they encountered. This is a toxic pursuit. As soon as you get to seminary, take one month to visit four churches and then make a decision and commit to it. Every church has its blemishes.
Become a member and a thriving contributing member that cares and shepherds souls. This is what you plan to do with your life. Start giving yourself to it now. If you’re bouncing from church to church as a member during seminary, don’t expect this to change as a pastor. You may find that your family will be moving from pastorate to pastorate every year of your brief stint in ministry. I imagine a wife can only stand for that for about four moves.
2. Practice the theories you learn.
Be involved in the life of the church. There is no role in the church below a seminary student. If I could do it all over again I would have taught in the children’s ministry rather than the youth ministry. First, there is something wondrous about taking complex doctrine and making it digestable for the simple, little minds in the children’s ministry. Second, as a parent now I would have been better prepared to answer the difficult questions that my children are asking.
3. Consider not filling a role in teaching for some time.
I think if I did my seminary time over again I would have spent more time scrubbing toilets, mowing grass and swinging a hammer in our church. I would have done less teaching and allowed what I heard in the classroom to simmer and marinade a little longer before I started teaching and instructing in the church. I would have focused more time and energy in developing relationships and less in developing curriculum.
4. Make quality time for your family.
If you’re engaged, married or have children you must protect time for your family. Seminary is daunting. You could study all evening and never see your family. Your family needs you far more than your books. Take a B or C if you have too. Nobody cares if you were a B or C student after seminary unless you plan to study a PhD.
Beyond making time, you must plan that time to be quality. You can be present in body but allow your mind to stray to your studies. This will be a temptation in ministry as well. If your wife is constantly saying to you, “Where are you?” There might be a problem. I encourage you to plan your quality time beforehand. Take fifteen minutes and think about things to share about or discuss. Have questions prepared to quiz your kids about what is going on in their lives. Don’t let seminary become your greatest interest. Then it becomes an idol. Be most interested in God. Be very interested in the health of your family. Then study well.
This post first appeared at Joey’s blog and is posted here with his permission.