Look before you leap

Amanda Olson —  November 1, 2012

Today’s post is by guest writer Elliot Ritzema:

Elliot is an editor at Logos Bible Software. He is the editor of 300 Quotations for Preachers and 400 Prayers for Preachers, a major contributor to the Faithlife Study Bible, and a regular contributor to Bible Study Magazine. He grew up in North Carolina and earned a BA from the University of Richmond and an MDiv from Regent College. He has spent time teaching English in eastern Europe. He is happily married to a girl from the Pacific Northwest, and he blogs at elliotritzema.com.

GoingtoSeminary_LeapBefore deciding to go to seminary, prospective pastors ask themselves a number of questions: Has God called me to go? Can I afford it?

One question I would encourage you to ask yourself if you are considering seminary is, “Have you thought about where you are going to end up?”

Of course, we don’t know where, geographically, we might be called to serve. But in my experience, too few seminarians (myself included) think about the denomination or tradition they want to serve in.

I do not regret the time I spent at seminary at all. I spent four wonderful years learning from professors who loved Jesus, His Church, and their students, and I gained many lifelong friends in the process. The only thing I would change about my seminary experience is this: I would have gotten more out of it if I had had a strong tie with a denomination before I went.

I grew up (and am still gladly a part of) the evangelical subculture in the United States. From an early age I learned to love Jesus and the Bible, and I developed a strong desire to be a part of churches that emphasize both, no matter their denomination. As a result, during my life I have been part of churches from seven different denominations and have also been deeply impacted by two different parachurch organizations. By the time I enrolled at seminary, I wanted to serve the (big-C) Church, but I had no idea which church tradition I wanted to be a part of. As a result, I spent a lot of time at seminary asking advice on the subject from anyone who would stand still long enough to listen to me—both professors and fellow students.

I am now four years removed from seminary, and I have landed in a church (and a denomination) that I am committed to and love. But I can’t help but think that my seminary years would have been less fraught with uncertainty if I had spent time establishing ties with a tradition I wanted to be a part of.

Of course, seminary was still a transformative experience for me. And who knows? Maybe I never would have ended up where I am without going through the seminary experience first. But in hindsight, I think my time in seminary would have been better spent if I had a better idea about where I would land before I started.

Amanda Olson

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