Why are you at seminary?
If you are like most, you will say that you are at seminary in order to receive training for ministry. You are learning. You are working. You are thinking hard. You are doing what is necessary to get out of seminary and into a place of service to the Lord.
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7-8
As you think of your training, as the semester begins, let me give you this reminder: train for godliness. So many students come to seminary to build knowledge-an act which is certainly necessary. However, many students come to seminary and only build knowledge. It is very tempting to study and theorize about obscure principles while growing more and more conceited. The more you spend time in graduate-level courses pondering the deep things of God, the more tempting it is to think that you are smarter, wiser, and simply better than the average local church member. Beware.
Bodily training is of some good. Doubtless mental training is also of some good. But neither of these two kinds of training is training for godliness. You must learn more than religious theories and theological argument. You must learn to be godly. You must learn not only to define holiness, but to live holiness. You must learn not only to preach sermons, but to love those to whom you preach. You must learn not only to plan programs, but to live out godliness in secret. If your seminary time educates you theoretically but does not aid you in your own personal sanctification, your seminary training does not prep you for ministry.
How can you train for godliness?
- Read the Bible for growth and not just for class.
- Spend time with non-seminary, godly men and women in a local church.
- Seek out someone as a friend at seminary who is deeply devoted to growth in godliness and who is not simply a seminary know-it-all.
- Live with character at seminary. Do not be dishonest (even on reading reports). Do not break the code of conduct (even if you disagree with its standards). If you won’t live with integrity at school, you will set a pattern of failure for your future ministry.
- Get connected to a local pastor who is not a seminary prof and who is not starry-eyed about your seminary education. Let him show you what godliness in ministry looks like.
You can probably come up with 50 more, if so leave them in the comments.
Make a commitment to be trained at seminary for godliness, and you will find that you have done something truly worthwhile when you graduate. You must, absolutely must, take advantage of this glorious opportunity to grow in Christ (not simply to grow in your own understanding of how bright you are). Take it from a guy who has spent a few years in local church ministry, you will be glad for what you have learned in seminary; but you will treasure seminary if you are truly trained in godliness.
Travis Peterson is both a graduate of SBTS (2003) and a current DMin student. He has served as a pastor in South Korea and suburban Chicago. He is presently the pastor of the Olney Southern Baptist Church in southeastern Illinois, where he lives with his wife and 2 adorable children. You may visit Travis’ personal blog at http://travispeterson.blogspot.com.