My Seminary Experience: Not Cemetery So Far!Posted: November 1, 2013
“Cemetery is a place to go if you are trying to get lost spiritually,” a jokingly but serious common comment I am accustomed to hearing when talking about getting a seminary education. For years I used to resist the idea of seminary training when talking to my ministry peers. The reason for the resistance was I could subliminally hear from these sometimes heated conversations, “If you haven’t been to seminary and you are a pastor, then you are “bootleg” (not the real thing)”. I knew that wasn’t true! The bible reveals that God calls and makes pastors, not seminary. A word of caution if you are attending seminary to “become a pastor”…seminary can be a rude awakening! There is a lot of rigorous training (writing, thinking, applying)!
I am a firm believer that it is the Lord Holy Spirit who teaches us all things when it comes to spiritual matters. If we know anything about God, the bible, how to live and treat one another, the credit should belong to the Lord (Holy Spirit). He uses all kinds of means to teach us about Himself, including seminary. I wish I heard that message back then. Maybe the confrontations I have encountered would have been a lot less from me. But looking back on the confrontations, there was always the understanding in my heart of God being able to use “tools” in helping us in building His kingdom. And seminary is a tool where Lord has allowed me an opportunity to learn even more.
I am currently a student of the Reformed Theological Seminary – Atlanta in Georgia and it has been the “opposite of cemetery” so far! It has been a wonderful experience because I’m taking classes that are connecting in mind with the people of Strong Tower Church. The two classes I am enrolled in are “Introduction to Preaching” and “Pastoral and Social Ethics”. As I sit in the classroom and listen to these brilliant professors teach, I can’t help but see specific people in our congregation to apply them to. My focus in preaching is continuing to mature. Not only am I eager to understand what the texts mean in it’s original context and see how that connects with our current context, but how must we live in light of the message. One sentence I read from a book I had to write a book review for class has struck me and is impacting my preaching. It said, “If you haven’t told us what to do in light of the passages you’re presenting to the people, you haven’t preached yet!” Just to hear that nugget was worthwhile for me!
There is one thing I have noticed from Scripture that should be apparent and obvious for any pastor…he must be one who is continually learning and growing in God, His word the bible, and serving people. The pastor of God should be one who is diligent in presenting himself approved of God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth – II Timothy 2:15. And God has created seminaries to help aid some pastors in continuing that effort. I’m thankful for the tool of seminary in helping me be diligent in handling the bible accurately as best as I can.
I have had the opportunity to serve the Lord in full-time ministry since January 1999. The Lord has used many people, conferences, and churches in helping me learn about Him, His word, and people.
Now, I have seen some preachers who haven’t been to seminary and I tell you what…they can flat out PREACH! I am a product of salvation through a preacher like that! Hearing these guys preach with no formal education reminds me of those dudes, Peter and John, in the book of Acts, where the people listening were amazed at their confidence in preaching, though they were “unlearned men” (no formal education) – Acts 4:13.
My prayer is that you will be encouraged and challenged by the things the Lord will teach me while attending seminary. Maybe some of you reading are wrestling through whether you should attend seminary or not. May these updates be an encouragement to you in your relationship with the Lord. Please pray that the Lord will continue to provide the necessary funds to complete the degree. Someone has volunteered to cover the cost of my first semester. Talk about confirmation in going forward in pursuing this education! Also pray that I will balance my time well in loving my wife Antoinette, training my children, pastoring Strong Tower, and being a good student. Remember, I haven’t been in formal school since 1998…15 years ago!
At least pursuing a Master’s of Divinity degree is not like me getting a degree in art. Art is not one of my favorite subjects. Going deeper in the things of God, for the sake of building up others in the family of God…I can eat that up everyday, like I enjoy those vanilla Frosty’s from Wendy’s…um um good!