With graduation coming up and my senior testimony just around the corner, I began to reflect upon the past 3½ years. After a long journey, I have finally finished the M.Div at The Master’s Seminary. This place has been a home for me and for my wife (my former girlfriend), and it feels strange not being there anymore. We had so many experiences, we made so many friends, and were given so many ministry opportunities over the past few years. It was a wonderful adventure.
Since seminary had such a great impact upon me, I wanted to take this time to list the lessons and items that really stuck with me during those years. It is a list that is truly random and unorganized. But I do feel like each of these lessons fall into these three major categories: (1) What I Learned about Me, (2) What I learned about the Church, and (3) What I Learned about God. So forgive the lack of organization. These were items that I wrote down as they came to my mind. There were just too many lessons to fit this into one blog. So this will probably end up being a 3 part series.
My hope is that this would be beneficial to all who are in seminary or who will be considering attending in the future. The experience of seminary was so valuable to me, and I want to share just portion (maybe a large portion) of my experiences. I also hope that any of you can take some form of application to your own lives as you hear of the mistakes I made and lessons that I learned.
- The Importance of Serving and Loving a Local Church.
I love the local church. And my love for the church had grown tremendously during seminary. The purpose behind my seminary studies was to be better equipped in loving the local church. The church WAS why I went to seminary. And I do believe it showed me how to be a better servant to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I came to The Master’s Seminary (TMS) to be equipped to be a better preacher and handler of the Scriptures, and I feel as though my professors have guided me in the right direction. They would tell us that you don’t learn everything you need to know in seminary, but you do learn HOW to learn for the rest of your life in ministry. And I will treasure these things in my heart for the rest of my life. But serving in the church allowed me to practice all that new things that I learned. The local church was no distraction to seminary life. Instead, it was a wonderful supplement and a huge benefit. You can’t go through seminary without being part of a local church!
- The Importance of Discipleship and Accountability.
I know it may shock you, but you do struggle with sin in seminary. Yes, pastors and seminarians still sin. It is a reality. The accountability that comes with a church family is not an option for any pastor in training; it is of utmost necessity. I was blessed to be surrounded by men in whom I trusted, and they were instrumental in my personal growth in Jesus. And I don’t know where I would be without them. They answered the tough questions, they encouraged me in my hardships, and they pushed me when I needed to do better. The church encouraged me get the most out of my seminary experience, and I am grateful.
- The Importance of a Devotional Mindset.
I was told seminary could turn into “cemetery” if I did not have a devotional life. Some people may claim a dichotomy between what is learned in seminary and the application to personal life. They might say the study of the original languages is irrelevant, or theological concepts are not practical. But I would disagree with all of that. I believe that every part of seminary was practical for the Christian life. I learned that so much of it is more devotional and more applicable than others realize. My struggles came when I treated my schooling are merely academic rather than academic and devotional. Seeing everything as devotional helped me during the hard times in life. Sometimes things on the surface level did not seem applicable, but after studying them and meditating on them, they became great treasures of wisdom. Even when I felt the spiritually dry, things like statements from professors, lessons from church history, and even syntactical observations from Greek all had their potential for practical application. Surely a believer cannot survive seminary, or life itself, without a devotional approach to all he learns.
- The Busyness of Life Is Never an Excuse for Sin.
When school was rough and professors were tough, there was great temptation to sin. I had a tendency to relinquish responsibility over my faults and blame the unit count of the semester for my shortcomings. In seminary, some relationships were strained and my temper was short. However, I quickly learned that my busyness was no excuse at all for sin. Instead, seminary allowed the errors of my heart to surface, so that I could deal with them. This was progressive sanctification at its finest. Whether it was being impatient with people, constantly worrying, manifesting doubt, etc., I realized that there was sin in my life that needed to be purged. This was the Lord burning away such character flaws and sanctifying me through the process of seminary life. The lesson were hard to learn, and the correction was painful. But it was necessary for growth!
- Life Does Not Pause in Seminary.
My friends, family members, and church family understood that this time in my life was only a short period of time. So there was much grace being extended to me. However, I think that many can take this to an extreme by putting people on hold during school. Seminary almost functions as “monastery” with seminarians acting like hermits who seclude themselves from the world and its people. And there were many times where I failed and exemplified such a lifestyle. I could not ask people to wait for me nor could I stop living life with others because I was in seminary. There would be no benefit to living life in a bubble. It would not teach me anything. The lesson here is that life must be lived WITH others no matter how busy you are. Even in seminary, no Christian should ever shut himself out of the life of his loved ones, especially those from the local church.
- Knowledge Can Puff You Up Like a Balloon.
I do not regret at all the things I learned in seminary. But there were times where Mr. Pride peaked its head out to remind me that he was still there. With a newfound knowledge came dangerous pitfalls. With every prideful step came the dreaded “people comparisons” and competition with others. It was a great temptation. Thankfully, the Lord knows how to humble His children through life experiences, failures, and shortcomings. It is a way to stay grounded! I needed those wake-up calls to see that I was not the greatest of all time. God reminds you that you aren’t the trophy that pride makes you out to be. Pride needs to be killed in the midst of seminary if the man of God is to have any effective or God-honoring ministry.
This is it for now. I’ll be posting the remaining lessons in the next few days. Stay tuned!