If somebody asked you to sum up your seminary experience, what would you say? Two years ago I left behind my successful career in IT (Information Technology) to attend seminary. It was a great experience—but that’s not to say it was perfect. But I learned a priceless lesson.
Like every seminarian, I quickly discovered that my expectations of seminary being a cross between a non-stop worship experience and a little bit of heaven were, well, a tad misinformed. If you’re considering seminary, somewhere in your heart right now you think that is exactly what it will be. I’m sorry, but it won’t be.
Seminary can be a very positive experience, but it’s not a trip to theological Disney World. In fact, you may not even finish your degree. In my case, after two years I ran out of money and the Lord provided for me to return to IT support and lay leadership at church. It was hard at first, but there’s no question that I’m better for the experience and I love what I do.
So what did I learn?
Well, before I answer that, let me suggest a few probing questions to ask yourself:
- Do you love the church members where you’re at in seminary, or do you see them and the church as a means to an end? (You are going to church, right? Don’t laugh–some who go to seminary because they feel called to church ministry don’t go while in school!)
- Are you single? If so, are you pure in your singleness? Purity, of course, is not just a single person’s charge, but there’s a reason Paul warned Timothy to “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace” (2 Tim 2:22). Purity matters.
- Married guys–are you more loving? Are you leading your family well? Married gals–are you taking care of your family well? Has your love for, and communication with, each other gotten better or worse since starting seminary? If worse, God has not called you to seminary.
- Are you a better neighbor? If you’re not loving your neighbor now, why do you think you will later?
- Are you punctual? You can’t expect to be allowed to be late when conducting a wedding or funeral. You’re not a child anymore, it’s time to be on time. I would add here that having a daily routine for prayer and Bible study are nonnegotiables.
- Which do you prefer, the seminary “bubble” or the dynamic life of the real world? Seminary may seem idyllic, but we’re not truly Home yet. If you don’t like the world now, you won’t like ministering to it later.
Seminary is not about books and papers. Those are the last things it is about, but the things most students focus on the most. It’s not about amassing a data bank of ideas and opinions about God and the Scriptures. It’s not facts and figures, it’s fruit. It’s not names and dates, it’s commitment and holiness. Seminary is only part of the bigger picture: Life. And life is about being forged into a tool for service for the Master’s use, however He sees fit and running well until He calls you and me home.
Seminary is a wonderful opportunity God gives to some. If He has given you the opportunity, even if only for a season, take it seriously but also enjoy it as the gift it is. My professors and classmates taught me more than I can ever tell. But what I learned above all else is that what you learn isn’t nearly as important as who you become.