Imagine a very little boy sitting on his father’s lap, watching a basketball game. The father talks with the boy about the game as they watch, telling him all sorts of things about the players and the rules and things like that. Most of these things make very little sense to the very little boy, but the father’s love for the game is impossible to miss. And so the very little boy decides then and there that he will be the best basketball player ever, so that his father will talk about him and about basketball, and be very proud of him.
So the very little boy begins to practice shooting the basketball on the rusty old hoop in the driveway. Every day. He asks his father to teach him different drills to get better at basketball, and the father does so with a laugh and a smile. Of course this is very much like precious treasure to the very little boy. So he practices the drills every day, rain or shine. Sometimes the father shoots hoops with the very little boy. One day the very little boy’s friends see him practicing, so they ask if he wants to play a game with them. He says maybe later, because he has to practice. And that is his answer, always later, always some other time. And soon they stop asking. He becomes very good at shooting the ball into the hoop and doing the drills that his father taught him. Time passes and soon the very little boy is now only a little boy, and is old enough to play on the school basketball team.
By the end of the first day of practice, the little boy is very frustrated. Everything is different. The drills are unfamiliar and hard. But maybe its he just needs to play in a game. By the end of the first week is the first game. The little boy tries to play, but everything is even more different and harder than the practices. The men with the whistles, the other boys on his team demanding that he pass them the ball, the little boys on the other team that keep taking it from him. Why doesn’t his practice help him? Why is it so hard?
I am the son, grandson, brother, nephew, and friend of pastors. And before coming to seminary, I worked in an assortment of ministry roles in multiple churches, bible camps, and colleges. With that said, even I, with the breadth of experience that I have been unfairly blessed with by a very unfair God, am nervous about how I will perform in ministry after I graduate. The equipping I’ve experienced at Dallas Theology Seminary has been a heady rush of rich instruction. And if I don’t put that teaching to use DURING my time here in seminary, then I am a foolish little boy who can do a few small things, but who has no idea how to play in a real game.
We need to make sure, those of us attending the blessing that is seminary, that we are not just practicing for perfection, but that we are actively using our practice during this time of learning. For some of us, like me, we don’t have the time or financial freedom to take on some of the bigger ministry roles that some of my friends have. But I can, and do, stay in touch with a younger brother in Christ who is struggling with his walk. I am a part of a small group at church with my wife and our leader (a fellow seminary student) has allowed me to lead a discussion every once and a while. Because if we get caught up in the practice only, if we buy into the acidic allure of academia alone, not only will we not be ready to lead in any ministry setting, but whatever good habits and natural ability that we’ve accumulated will be lost . Because the classroom is largely a structured, predictable environment.
Real life isn’t.
Real life ministry is messy. It is tough. There is no way to fully prepare yourself for it beyond staying in it, working through it, refusing to run away from it, and trusting that no matter what happens, that, as written in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible). Don’t let yourself get caught up in the world of academia, in the repetitive comfort of the predictable rituals of practice.
School is a very, very useful, wonderful lie. But in the end, it is still a lie, a wonderful game that we play to prepare ourselves for the real world. Please, don’t lose touch with the world outside of seminary. Don’t close the door. Don’t hide. Don’t let the comfort of learning erode your understanding of what it means to “do.” We need to stay connected to real life ministry, to the Great Commission.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:19-20 (HCSB)
By Colby Anderson. Having just recently discovered the joys of coffee, pickles, sharp cheddar cheese, and fatherhood, you can find him attending Dallas Theological Seminary in pursuit of a Masters of Theology, which, of course, comes secondary to the continued pursuit of his Beautiful wife. And all of this under Christ, even the pickles. If you’re curious, he sometimes has time to think aloud at more-than-bread.blogspot.com.