Are you planning to begin your seminary education this fall? Allow me to encourage you in several ways as you prepare to begin a journey that will leave an indelible mark upon you and your family.
Do Not Trade the Local Church for the Seminary Campus
Many times people leave home and arrive on their seminary campus where life is exciting and books are abounding. This may seem like a little piece of heaven on earth to a zealous seminary student, but I want to encourage to think a bit differently from the beginning. Yes, you should get involved on campus and make friends that will follow you through your days of ministry. Yes, you should consider the different student groups and activities offered on campus, but whatever you do—don’t trade the local church for the seminary community. I will never forget how many people I saw in seminary who were far more committed to seminary than they were a local church.
Most seminary students arrive on a campus far from their home church. It would be good to spend a good number of weeks visiting different local churches near your home in an effort to be engaged in a local church during your seminary life days. You need community, leadership, accountability, and the ordinary means of grace in order to flourish as a Christian. While you may start your search online and by word of mouth on the campus, don’t make your decision merely based on those factors. Visit the church and worship with the congregation. You may want to make an appointment with the pastor and discuss your desire for membership in the church, or if they have a membership class you may want to go through the class in order to understand who the church is, what they believe, and ask questions along the way.
You Can Serve God Now
Allow me to encourage you at this juncture to realize that God can use you now—not just when you graduate with a diploma. Your gifts are for use and refining now—not merely after graduation. As you search for a local church to join, don’t merely join the one where all of the seminary professors attend. You will likely not be given any opportunities to serve—especially in any teaching role. Look for a local church where the Bible is preached faithfully and where you may be given some opportunities to engage and use your gifts for the glory of God.
If you do join a church with a considerable number of professors and students, don’t relax. Look for opportunities to engage in further discipleship and in due time pray for open doors to serve and exercise your gifts. In the meantime, as new members—there may be other ways to serve your local church in more practical ways as you immerse yourself in the body life of the church and make friends. Whatever you do—don’t use your time in seminary to coast through your time in your local church. Learn, worship, and serve.
As I was preparing to leave for seminary with my new wife, she provided me a Christmas gift that has remained one of the best gifts of my life. She wrote a letter to many respectable pastors requesting them to write a letter to me that would encourage me as I prepared to begin my seminary days. She then compiled those letters into a book and I continue to reflect on those letters to this very day. One reoccurring theme showed up in many of the letters which stated, “I am envious of you” or “I am excited for you.” One such letter read as follows:
May the Holy Spirit give you enough problems to keep you trusting, enough hurts to keep you broken, and enough victories to keep you praising Him. Only God can take nothing and indwell him so he can be more than a conquerer.
As I reflect on my time in seminary, I am grateful for the time of intense learning and study that was afforded to me. I am likewise grateful for the many friends that I have to this very day. However, as I think about those men who sat next to me in class and shared meals with me on campus—I can think of some who did not finish. Always remember that there will be a Satanic goal for your ministry to not finish well. Hundreds of pastors walk away from the pulpit every year and you must commit now that you will not waste your seminary days in the years to follow. Persevere to the end for the glory of King Jesus.