Links upon bitly links from Twitter, numerous Facebook posts of ministry events, pictures of coffee, people, and discussions on Instagram, and then books, books, and more books; these are the behind the scenes things of a seminarian. Seminary is such an exciting time and one I don’t think there is a price tag—for me, it was invaluable. But, if I were to give a little advice, as if mine counted, here goes:
Time with Christ
Always find Word-time. It’s inevitable that you will be inundated with gobs of reading, but the reading time you get with Christ, the Word, cannot be measured or overstated enough. I would say that the one constant that I continue to this day, and prior to seminary, was my grounded routine of being in the Word. There is still nothing like it; to me, I feel as if the pages are braille and the words are balm to my soul. Even those days when I was expected to read the entire book of Hebrews or Romans in one sitting (for context); I still found that my regular schedule was imperative. Let me give you three reasons (as if there’s not more!).
Intimacy with God
This is the primary way that I hear God’s voice. Seminary has so many challenges and pressures (i.e. where to serve, how to serve, family time, worship, etc.). If the Lord is leading you to be a leader in ministry, you must be able to hear His voice and know it. As well, the intimacy with the Word helped me to know my walk was on the right track. Another tip is to read the Word in a systematic way, not Bible passage roulette, this will greatly help you know God’s impeccable timing. I read 2-3 chapters of the OT and 2-3 chapters of the NT, book by book, verse by verse, daily. This will bring you through the OT in one year and the NT about 2-3 times.
Understanding the whole counsel of God
By reading only what the seminary provides, you will gain a greater understanding of the Word, but without the Spirit of God leading and directing you in private teaching, you may be missing the whole counsel of God. Most seminary course work does not have the ability (time constraints) to thoroughly teach each book of the Bible (beyond a survey or overview). Therefore, a good, in-depth, verse by verse exploration, using the same tools you are learning in seminary, will give you greater insight into the whole of Scripture.
I believe this is vital because I believe in it with my whole heart. I believe the Word of God transforms the soul, from the inside out. Allow the Word to do what it is supposed to do—conform you to Christ. This is essential for a to-be-shepherd (Eph. 5:1).
Ministry and Mentor:
This was one area where I had such a struggle, as I was in seminary later in life and changed careers; needless to say, I was chomping at the bit to serve anywhere. But, my advice would be to get as much hands on time in the ministry, as you can. And not, wherever you can. I would advise finding a pastor who will invest in you. This may be difficult for a few reasons: (1) some pastors are introverts and some-what protective of the pulpit, congregation, and their position. It is honorable and right to protect the pulpit (to an extent) and the congregation, plus it’s Scriptural. However, there are many pastors who may not have had seminary experience at the master’s level and may find a seminarian, intimidating. (2) Pastors are busy people, always on the go; some are not good at scheduling their time. I believe mentoring and investing in others is a pastoral duty, but again, I’m not the introvert pastor or one to get intimidated—it’s all for the Kingdom. So, finding the right one is difficult. Pray, pray, pray about who God would put into your life—this relationship is between the two of you, it’s for accountability, character, life lessons, guidance, wisdom, and encouragement, do not underestimate it.
So, try and locate where you can serve that is teaching Biblically and where you line up doctrinally and theologically—this will help practically, later on in ministry. Also, try and find a mentor who you may envision being like in five to ten years. This does not mean that you idolize the person or want to be exactly like them (you will eventually discover your own preaching style), but that you see that the person has vision, godly attributes, and a sense of holiness, in which you would like to grow towards.
Theology to life
Ah, here we go! By now, you have taken several courses in theology and love the dialogue, forum debates (banter!), and discussions relating to God. I will admit I’m a theology nut; however, the regular everyday person is not. The modern person has no idea what soteriology or antinomianism is, and couldn’t care less. Does this mean that all of your study in antinomianism is for naught? No, to the contrary, learn how to apply theology to life—it will help tremendously once you’re in a pastoral role. How?
Pastoral counseling, to me, is vital for those who are seeking discernment, godly wisdom, and understanding. People will come to you for important decisions and questions. This happens to me in the gym, visitation, hospital, store, home, or at the church—it’s all the mission field. For the most part, you may find that the answers to these decisions are buried in the rich theology courses you took. For instance, what if someone asks, “Do I need to be saved,” “Does God really have control,” “Is the Holy Spirit a force or a person—why does it matter?” While you may never get those in-depth questions, you will get ones like: “My husband’s an unbeliever, what should I do?” or “My life is a wreck,” or “I feel so alone.” As you can see, the last three coincide with the first three I presented—they are steeped in theology, we just need to apply theology to life.
I pray that God will illuminate you and that you find all you’re seeking in Christ, and more. If you ever have a question, not that I will always have an answer, but I do believe in investing in others, so do not hesitate to ask. God’s grace and blessings to you.