Tony Kummer at Said at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary lists 10 blessings of being at a Seminary. God has allowed me to share in the ministry of Toronto Baptist Seminary since July 2004. I wonder if our students share the sentiments that Tony expresses here. I’ve added my brief comments in italics after each of his statements.
What’s So Great About Seminary?
1. It’s a great privilege to be instructed in God’s Word by godly men. The best professors are those who love the Bible and love God’s people. Such pastor-scholars are abundant at Southern Seminary. I am grateful to God for colleagues who unashamedly love God’s word and God’s people.
2. It’s one way to become competent in many skills useful in ministry. You can’t learn everything in the classroom, but there is much you can learn. Seminaries don’t call or produce leaders. God calls leaders and we are given the privilege of having a part in their training.
3. It’s an opportunity to make lifelong friends who will encourage your ministry. This is something I was slow to figure out. Making friends is much more helpful than making the grade. Neglect friendship and you neglect the “iron-sharpening” offered to you by God through friends.
4. It’s a intense experience that will train you in perseverance, a quality essential for pastors. If you can learn to manage the pressures of seminary, you will be more prepared to survive the pressures of the pastorate. I’ve watched students collapse under pressure. Some drop out, in fact I have often wondered if the years of training don’t weed out those who don’t have the character to last in ministry.
5. It’s a safe setting for theological reflection and to confirm the reliability of the scriptures. On the many secondary issues, students will often try on several positions before they settle on a firm conviction based on God’s Word. As much as possible, this development should be done outside the pulpit. Woe to students and faculty who “jump all over” those who are expressing their doubt, who acknowledge an uncertainty in some particular area. “Be merciful to those who doubt!”
6. It forces most students to live in greater dependence upon God. I’m always amazed at the young couples who move across the country to attend Southern. This type of faith and sacrifice will produce pastors who are willing to serve in hard places. In Lamentations we are reminded it is good to bear the yoke when you are young. If we serve “by faith” we must live “by faith.” Can we honestly sing, “I’ll go where you want me to go….”
7. It’s a time to clarify the mode of ministry to which God is calling you. Many young men come to seminary with an open-ended sense of God’s calling. As they step out in obedience, their path becomes increasingly clear.
8. It’s a chance for younger men to gain valuable maturity. Those extra three years of following Christ are one of the greatest benefits of coming to seminary. It sometimes feels like a holding pattern, but spiritual maturity is measured in decades – not years.
9. It’s a system that screens out many who are unqualified for the ministry. There are many students who withdraw from seminary, often questioning their fitness for the pastorate. While this is sad, it would be much worse if their unreadiness was discovered after they entered the ministry.
10. It’s a time that eventually will come to an end. Yes, even the marathon timetable will eventually reach its objective. As I approach graduation, the time spend on my degree seems increasingly short. I suspect it will one day seem a very brief season of my life. How true – one cannot stay forever inside the “ivory tower walls.” Ministry must be entered into – humbly, gratefully and with uttermost confessed dependence upon God.