7 Things I DID Learn in Seminary

I’m a seminary dean who recognizes that seminary can’t teach students everything. In fact, I wrote yesterday about things I didn’t learn in seminary. On the other hand, some of the things I DID learn in seminary have changed my life:

  1. I wasn’t anywhere nearly as gifted as I thought I was. I started pastoring at age 20, and I was sure that was because I was so gifted. When I began seminary, I met many, many church leaders who were more gifted than I. I needed the humbling.
  2. I needed training. I knew I was called to preach, so I pretty much thought that was all I needed to know. I started seminary only because I thought I needed it to climb the ladder of ministry success; I learned there instead that to say I needed no more training was arrogance. My call to ministry really was a call to more preparation.
  3. I had no idea how to exegete the Word of God. I did know how to love the Word, and I knew how to holler it loudly. I also knew how to aim my arrows at everybody else’s sin. What I didn’t know was how to seriously, rightly, understand, teach, and apply the Word.
  4. I didn’t know how to answer the question of skeptics. It always sounded sufficient to say to others, “That’s what the Bible says.” What I didn’t know was how to handle the person who didn’t accept the Bible as an authority in the first place.
  5. I should not promise confidentiality. I know that one’s controversial, but I credit a seminary professor for giving me his wisdom here. The word of a minister matters, and we put ourselves in a risky position if we promise confidentiality before we know what the conversation will cover. 
  6. I need the discipline of study. Add class reading and course assignments to already full plates, and you have to learn to balance your time wisely. I didn’t realize how much I needed that discipline until I started graduate study as a full-time pastor. I still need that discipline.
  7. God always provides. As a young pastor, I wasn’t sure how I would pay for my graduate education. Looking back, I see that God was always faithful. Those memories help me to trust Him more now.  

Here’s my point. I do understand those pastors and church leaders who see no need for further training. On the other hand, I’ve learned that seminary was pivotal in my ministry growth. Given the increasing number of options for training today (certificate classes, online classes, etc.), I think we miss something if we ignore this possibility.

Seminary students and graduates, what DID you learn in seminary?

9 Comments

  • Mark says:

    I’m curious about your arguments for not maintaining confidentiality.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    It’s not that I never maintain confidentiality; it’s that I don’t make that promise upfront. My professor reminded us that there may be situations where it may be proper (even legally required, perhaps) to get someone else involved. He taught us to promise that we’ll handle the information RESPONSIBLY — and “responsibly” might necessitate involving others. To be honest, I’m not aware of that policy ever hindering my work. Thanks, Mark.

  • Russ says:

    Wow, where to begin. So far, How to read well. How to argue. The importance of clarity. To slowwww down when reading Scripture. To embrace history. The enemy is much bigger and more deceitful, but God is even bigger still. I have learned that I don’t know much and Finally, i have Iearned a lot obout grace.

  • Cynthia A Garman says:

    I learned to live in adult community – where we had all been uprooted from our “homes” to follow our calls. I also learned that my faith is not necessarily the faith of that student over there and that heads could butt heads.

    As to confidentiality, we know we are mandatory reporters in most states, that some things we hear may cause bodily harm or death to the person we are listening to or someone else. Confidentiality is out the window then. I’ve had to report and feel little guilt in doing so. I like the thought of handling information responsibly – thank you for the meme.

  • Dr. Tate Cockrell says:

    One of the most beneficial things I learned in Seminary was the importance of listening to wise, Godly, mentors in my life – to always be a learner.

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