I remember Wednesday nights, cooking dinner, then packing Thursday’s sack lunch, Thursday’s sack dinner, and Friday’s sack lunch. Friday night’s dinner would have to wait until late that night, when we’d finally arrive home from our weekly seminary marathon. My husband and I were both working full time and in seminary full time, working four 10s, then driving the 1.5-hour commute to class, attending a 6–10 p.m. course, then sleeping at my brother’s house thirty minutes from the school, returning early in the morning to attend class eight hours straight from 9 a.m.–5 p.m., then driving the two-hour rush-hour commute home. I remember thinking that was hard, but then we added two kids to the mix.
That was hard
So we sold our belongings, rented out our house, and moved in with my parents in order to finish school and avoid debt. It took me four years and my husband six, but finally we finished. I cried at graduation. All the early mornings and late nights, battling morning sickness during exams, giving birth five days after finishing finals, writing papers during baby’s naptime, praying for provision when tuition came due. The whole experience was a test—of faith.
A close friend of ours is one semester from finishing his seminary degree—after seven straight years, going slow in order to avoid burdensome debt. He has worked faithfully serving tables at a restaurant, supporting his wife and young son, to finish his theological training and enter pastoral ministry.
Everyone said he was crazy.
He graduated with honors, and went to work preaching God’s Word and shepherding God’s people.
That was almost 60 years ago.
For almost 60 years this man, JQ Hunter (now 93-years-old), has been faithfully serving Christ. Making disciples. Preaching the Word (still!). Speaking truth and life to the lost. He has been faithfully loving his wife, his children, his family. He recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his lifelong service in the ministry. Here is the legacy of a faithful seminarian.
Why is this so outstanding? Because only 1 out of 10 pastors will actually retire as a minister (source). Because stories of burnout and moral failure are more common than lifelong faithfulness. Could it be that we are not truly committed to the ministry? Mike Ross, senior minister at Trinity Presbyterian Church, says this:
If the “gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Ro. 11:29), then the man feeling called to minister ought to be very sure of that calling before he heads off to seminary. . . . A man ought to listen to Jesus Christ the Caller in this sacred calling: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Nor is he fit for the ministry of that kingdom. So “if you can do anything other than pastor,” I suggest you try it. In fact, even if you can’t do anything but pastor, try something else for a season. For once you grab hold of the sacred plow, there can be no looking back.
It is encouraging and inspiring to hear the story of a seminarian who faithfully ministered his entire life. Enduring sacrifice and struggle during our seminary season is one way we can test our calling and be sure we truly want to embark on this lifelong journey of ministry. I believe that at the end, it will all be worth it.
We pray God gives you the strength to choose His calling above all else. We pray that as you enter the lifelong ministry calling, you keep your eyes fixed ahead and stay faithful at all costs. It’ll be worth it, amen? Thanks for reading.