This is why your seminary study time should be off-campus

by on September 21, 2015

Yes, a lot of seminaries have libraries, or maybe even coffee shops on campus. Yes, you’re apartment, house, or room may have a nice desk with all your books around and money-saving ways to make your own coffee.

And yet, there are a lot of reasons why we should be willing to study, write, translate, and meet people off-campus. Not only does it give us some sort of grounding in the “real world” around “real people”, but I was reminded of a profound way it can often surprise us and remind us why we’re doing what we’re doing.

A few weeks back, I was sitting in the coffee shop across the street from my house, and at the table across the way was this young college-aged girl walking one of her friends (apparently from another country) through the story of the Bible and the gospel.

She seemed like a pro. She was teaching her friend the structure of the Bible, answering her questions, and having her read the Scripture text. She was talking about who wrote the different books and each of their stories. They were even hanging out in the Old Testament a bunch.

She wasn’t over-anxious, showy, or pushy; she was just hanging out with her friend. The friend seemed engaged and they kept laughing, sharing stories, and engaging the Scriptures. I couldn’t help but feel I was watching the Kingdom of God breaking all the more into this world–the future flooding the present.

The Christian woman wasn’t following some formula or proclaiming some rote sets of ideas or things this friend needed to “do” to be a Christian. She was proclaiming the Story. The Story of the Gospel. And this is the Story saves.

I needed the encouragement that day; the reminder that God is still active even when I’m not; that the church is so much bigger and more dynamic than my own corner of it. I hope one day in the New Creation I get to spend some time singing next to these two girls.

As an interesting post-script, there was also this guy sitting by himself at a different table studying his Hebrew for seminary, nose down, headphones in. Looking at the two tables, I had to wonder: who’s more doing God’s work right now?

I know, I know. Probably both, but it was interesting nonetheless. Moral of the story: get out of your bubble while in seminary!

About

Frequenting the coffee shops of Philadelphia while employed in social work and finishing up a Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies at Western Theological Seminary. He serves Liberti Church as a deacon and seminary intern. Paul blogs at the long way home and tweets as @PaulBurkhart_.