I am writing to you to congratulate you and encourage you on your next great adventure in life. Seminary is a blessing from God to take part in. It is something only a select few ever get to endure and appreciate. In seminary, you will hone your skills in hermeneutics, apologetics, and preaching. You will develop lifelong relationships that can span hundreds of miles and countless ministry opportunities. Seminary will undoubtedly be one of the most challenging adventures you will ever embark on though due to the rigorous study and sacrifice that goes into it. Seminary will stretch you, challenge you, and sometimes leave you feeling wanting. You may even doubt your calling to ministry because at times you’ll have difficulty translating that one passage in Greek or Hebrew and feel like a failure for doing so. My friend, do not let this get you down. Do not let the Devil attack you in this way. The greatest piece of advice I can give you is to stay the course and lean not on your own understanding by fellowshipping with and joining a local church.
Join and Serve in a Local Church
Take notice that I said, “Join a local church” and not attend a local church. Seminarian, you must join a local church and engage in the local church and then serve in the local church. If you refuse to join and serve in a local church, then all of your studies and efforts will be for nothing. The local church is there not only for your benefit but for their benefit as well. How wonderful would it be to join a local church and serve in the nursery or children’s ministry? How encouraging would it be to be able to captivate young minds with the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ? The local church provides opportunities for ministry that you just can’t find outside of it.
The Local Church Needs You
As a seminarian you are most likely a future pastor or missionary on some level; therefore shouldn’t your priority be to join a local church and not just be a casual attendee? When you join a local church, you are making a covenant with that local church to serve her, to be held accountable by her leaders, and to be discipled. Just because you are in seminary doesn’t mean that you still don’t need to be discipled and mentored and rebuked along the way.
There will be the temptation to skip church because you need to study more for that church history midterm, but never my friend, never sacrifice your time with the local church for your personal gain and grades. The local church needs you just as much as you need it. It needs your youthfulness, your eagerness to learn, grow, and lead, but most importantly it needs your voice to add to the dozens or hundreds of other voices in communal worship of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do Not Forsake the Local Church
Do not my friend; I repeat do not forsake her. Do not think that attending church will happen after seminary is but a memory. Get involved now, and stay involved. Get dirty. Find a ministry to give all of your energy to so that the church thrives and survives. You are a pastor or missionary in training, and your first love is God, but your second love must be the local church. If your love is not first to the Lord and then to His church, you have no business going to seminary. If you do not love the church, then you cannot lead a church. I’ll repeat it again; you must have a love for the local church if you so desire to be a pastor or missionary one day. Therefore, join a local church while in seminary. Allow the local church to teach, guide, encourage, stretch, and point you to Jesus every time the doors are opened.
My friend, all the classes you’ll take and all the topics you’ll discuss will be for naught if you don’t join a local church. I’ve seen it happen time and time again where seminary students put all their energy into their studies and waste their Sunday’s away by just lounging in a common room without so much as getting out of their pajamas. They don’t put to practice what they’ve been learning all week long. They don’t experience the Lord with the fellowship of the body of Christ. They also don’t experience the joys and sometimes sorrows of belonging to a local church because they don’t make it a priority in their lives. Please, for the sake of your ministry, do not forsake her. Do not forsake the church. Love the Bride of Christ. Serve her. Put her first in your studies and life, and I guarantee you that everything else will fall into place naturally. Nothing can replace the fellowship of the local church. Please, I plead with you don’t miss this great opportunity.
James Forbis is a graduate of The University of Arkansas, a former Jr. High and High School football coach, and American history teacher. He is completing his M.DIV at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission Studies and Expository Preaching. He’s a self-proclaimed sweet tea connoisseur and Tex-Mex addict. Most Saturday’s you can find him cheering on his Arkansas Razorbacks, hiking or fishing, or reading up on his favorite subject, the Revolutionary War, or spending time with his wife.