It is hard to believe that I graduate from Seminary today from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with my Masters of Divinity. It has been a long journey of 3 1/2 years with late night reading and paper writing. Having a family, serving as a full time pastor, and studying full time was not easy. Yet, God was faithful to get me through each day and to make it to this milestone. I’ve learned a lot over the past three years and I want to share with you some of those lessons I’ve learned.
1. The Discipline of Rigorous Study
I’ve always considered myself fairly studious, but Seminary intensified that. A pastor will spend a great deal of time a week in the study of Scripture to prepare sermons and lessons. Seminary helped me cultivate that discipline and deepen my intellectual abilities. With the myriad of diverse responsibilities I've been forced to get organized and efficient with my time, especially my time in study. The discipline developed these past three years to study God’s word even under the pressure of a deadline will be lastingly been helpful.
2. The Joy of Life Long Learning
As I have observed, it is so easy to stop learning after your formal academic education. There are college students who never pick up another book again after they are handed their diploma. One of the things I desire to do is to continue learning for the rest of my life. I want to continue to challenge myself to read challenging books and participate in intellectual endeavors. The exciting thing now is that those endeavors will be of my choosing. Seminary helped me see the joy of learning and studying.
3. The Value of Family
Completing seminary is not something I could have done on my own. Kaitlyn has been by my side the whole way encouraging me and getting me through. There have been many difficult nights where after a long day I have to lock myself away to study or read rather than spend time with my family. During these 3 1/2 years I learned to value my family even more and I love the time I get to spend with them.
4. Theology is for the Church
I learned a ton in seminary. Yet, I’ve learned more about how to care and love God’s people by pastoring in the local church throughout seminary. Although education is vital for pastors to learn how to rightly divide the word of truth, there are certain things that a class room will be unable to teach you. Learning how to communicate with people, counsel them, and pray for them are all learned best when serving a local church. I’m thankful for my church, Forest Hills Baptist Church, for letting me continue to learn how to shepherd as I have served and loved them. It was wonderful to be able to take the intellectual stratospheric jewels in seminary and bring them to messy every day life as I’ve taught them to my church. Theology is for the church and it has been wonderful to do theology within the context of the local church during my seminary education.
5. The Tools I Will Need
I’m convinced that higher education’s purpose is not just to fill you with knowledge, but to give you the tools to succeed. Seminary has done that for me. When I begin a new sermon series or have a deep theological question, I know the resources to take off my shelf. I know which theologians and writers are more beneficial than others. I have learned how to think through for myself and reason when I find myself in a theological quagmire.
6. Love My Savior More Deeply
Many fear that if you go off to seminary, somehow you’ll become all head and no heart. Some think well trained theologians are unable to love Jesus or that formal education can ruin a pastor. I just simply have not found this to be true in the slightest. Over the course of my seminary education I have grown much more deeply in love with Jesus. His wonderful grace and love have grown in sweetness and beauty over the past 3 1/2 years. As my knowledge of Christ has increased so to has my love for him. This above all has been the greatest thing I’ve learned, to richly love my savior and serve him with all my heart.
I’m not sure if my Masters of Divinity is my last stop in the world of academia. Yet, I do know that I am so thankful to have attended such wonderful seminary and to have the privilege and responsibility of a solid theological education.