I grew up like a lot of guys in full-time ministry. I was in church every time the doors were open “ my mom made sure of it. I did my part as a good Baptist by visiting with her and helping out in ministries that had captured her heart. She was an excellent model of a good, Christian woman and laid a godly foundation on which I could base my life choices.
After navigating through some tougher times in my late teens and early twenties, I landed in ministry as a bi-vocational youth pastor. I found quickly that due to my rearing in church I was prepared for most of the questions I received from both young people and parents, and found myself being so thankful for the background I had that well equipped me to minister to others. What I didn’t know, however, was what I didn’t know.
I had heard older ministers and laymen talk about education among ‘preachers’ when our church was preparing to fill a staff role, and the conversation was always two-sided. Educated professionals talked about the value of an education and seminary degree while less educated men and women (who, I might add, were just as successful as their well-educated co-committee members) spoke of the need for a down-to-earth person who was educated by life experience and the church. I could best be described as the latter. In fact, I entered seminary after having served bi-vocationally for more than seven years and full-time for almost as many.
Having grown up around all kinds of ministers, I had a great deal of respect for their seminary degrees. In fact, the older I got the more cheated I felt personally for not taking the opportunity to experience the classes and seminary life I heard them speak of on multiple occasions. I felt that I had no ‘cool’ seminary stories or experiences from which to pull. But not one time did I ever feel like I was less equipped or prepared for ministry than those guys. In fact, I considered myself their equal. I did not have their training, but I was certain that I was called and that Christ was using me effectively for advancing His Kingdom.
When I began my seminary journey, however, all of that changed. It did not take very long for me to realize just how ill-prepared I was for so great a task as training, teaching, and being a pastor of any kind. I remember having this moment of self awareness where I realized just how little I knew before I began seminary and how little I was going to know after I received my degree. It was awfully humbling.
And then my mind shifted to the gifted individuals who had received extensive seminary training but had allowed me to enter ministry without the same experience. These individuals recognized God’s call on my life and set me free to do ministry under their care. When I realized that these men knew full well what I didn’t know, it made their willingness to trust me to serve God’s Kingdom as a trusted pastor all the more humbling. And the fact that they allowed me to serve freely under their care “ not as an hireling, but as an equal “ helped me see that the scope of their training and calling far surpassed the paper they had hanging on their office walls. These men understood the heart of Jesus and owned the responsibility of modeling His heart to those called to serve Him.
My seminary journey is now nearing an end, but my thirst for knowledge has not been quenched. In fact, the more I learn the more I have a desire to learn more. And the greater my understanding becomes of the chance others took on me when I answered God’s call on my life, the greater responsibility I feel to nurture the same in others. I am thankful for what I have learned and for what I have yet to learn and experience. But I am so much more grateful for others who allowed me to answer God’s call on my life long before I actually knew what I didn’t know.