I’m a seminary dean who believes in what we do. In fact, I think anyone called to ministry who has opportunity for further training has some obligation to at least consider this option. On the other hand, I recognize some things that are hard to learn in the classroom:
- How great the people of God can be. In fact, seminary sometimes so focuses on the critical that we miss affirming the people who make seminary possible for us in the first place. The people of God include knuckleheads, but most are really special people.
- How agonizing ministry can be. Stand next to the bedside of a non-believer who is dying while rejecting Jesus. Hold the hands of parents whose baby has died. Grieve with a teenager whose father has walked out. Hurt when a church leader turns on you. No classroom lesson can take you fully in these directions.
- How joyful ministry can be. Baptize a man whose life has been dramatically changed by the gospel. Celebrate the birth of a baby, whose parents dedicate him to the Lord – and who later follows God himself. Equip a young man to walk deeply with Christ. Rejoice at healings, answered prayers, and victories. Nothing quite compares to these joys.
- How hard it is to change lives. Some seminarians think they can just convince others of truth, and they’ll obviously get on board with God. Ministry, though, is about the heart as much as the head. Only God can change both.
- How confusing taxes are for pastors. I learned this stuff the way most of us did – the hard way, when the tax bill came in with all the penalties because I misunderstood in the first place. That’s a little late in the game.
- How important physical exercise is. Seminary focuses primarily on the head, often unintentionally to the neglect of the body. For too many ministers, one result is a poor witness by our being noticeably out of shape.
- How to pray well. We talked about prayer, but we didn’t model prayer so that prayer became part of our DNA. I understand that some say this is not the role of the seminary, but I argue otherwise. We must give attention to this discipline, lest we produce ministers more dependent on their training than on God.
- How ministry and my marriage fit together. Again, we discussed this issue, but you can’t learn it well until you’re living it.
Come back tomorrow, when I’ll tell you what I DID learn in seminary. It might surprise you. In the meantime, what would you add to this list? What did you NOT learn in seminary?