What I learned in seminary that proved helpful in leading a church.
There’s a small printed card in the seminary cafeteria, in front of the apple basket: “Take only one apple. God is watching.” Another (hastily handwritten) card sits in front of the chocolate chip cookies. It reads: “Take as many as you want. God is watching the apples.”
That’s the way I heard the joke, anyway. And for a season in my life, that joke was how I thought about seminarians—they were witty, often used God in their witticisms, and loved to outsmart others.
The church where I spent most of my formative years didn’t have a high view of seminary. We thought it was for ivory-tower types who lacked the grit and urgency to do real-world ministry right now.
My views shifted during my undergrad years at a Christian liberal arts college and three years as a youth pastor working for a senior pastor with an M.Div. I vividly remember hearing a classmate in a biblical literature class say, “I don’t need to get grades. I’m going into youth ministry.”
Something in my gut snapped. If we’re to “love the Lord your God with all your mind” and to be “transformed by the renewing of our mind,” and if the mind is a gift, then one must steward it like anything else of value. I needed a plan to develop my thinking, whether in a formal environment or not.
About six years later, as a young church planter, I had a conversation with a friend in our congregation. He graduated from Harvard law school and was working for an esteemed consulting firm. If I wanted to reach young professionals in Detroit, he said, there was value in going back to school. After all, white collar people considering the claims of the gospel want to believe their church leader has put at least as much energy into his or her professional craft as they have. So in the interest of being a better steward and evangelist, I enrolled in a degree program.
I wasn’t a traditional student. Over 15 years, I enrolled in four different degree programs and managed to complete two. Aside from a crazy summer where I lived on campus and took five intensive courses in eight weeks, I wasn’t a resident student. When the seminary launched a distance learning M.A. for students who wanted to remain in the ministry roles, I jumped. I would commute to the campus in L.A. a few times a year, taking the rest of my courses online.
Here are four lessons I learned in seminary that have been oh-so-valuable for me as a church leader:
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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Leadership Journal