While At Seminary: Train for Godliness

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.

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9 Responses to While At Seminary: Train for Godliness

  1. Jerry says:

    The advice to become ingrafted into a local church is excellent.

    I saw too many of my classmates during my time at SWBTS (MDiv, ’89) who spent their Sundays drifting from church to church, wanting to hear interesting speakers, including seminary profs (!?!, didn’t they get enough during the week?). While I can’t speak for them, I know that one of the most important parts of my seminary education was my weekly interaction with godly laypeople and my local pastor. They felt free to hold me accountable, something that is easy to avoid, even while at seminary.

  2. Tony Kummer says:

    @Jerry: ditto

    Almost everything we learn in Seminary becomes twisted by pride unless we are in community with real people – yes even people who are bored by theology!

  3. Great post!

    I think another addition could be that if you are in seminary then you should be serving in some capacity in a local church. If God has called you to the ministry, then it makes sense that you should be using and sharpening those gifts he has blessed you with.

    The way I see it, you are in seminary to learn. You might as well get some OJT in as well. I have discovered it is better to make mistakes when you are supposed to be learning rather than when you are supposed to be the leader!

  4. I do not recall who I heard say this, but I recently heard someone say, “While at seminary, strive to be the kind of church member that you want to pastor.” You want to pastor a member who is humble, gracious, eager to serve, and unwilling to cause divisions. You want to pastor a member who is committed to your church and not jumping from place to place to get his or her music or fellowship “needs” met. You want to pastor teachable members, not members out to impress others with their newly acquired knowledge. You want to pastor members interested in the church, not the few profs who attend there. (I’ll stop now, before a whole new post emerges.)

    Travis Petersons last blog post..Being Divisive is Deadly. Are you? (Titus 3:10-11)

  5. Tony Kummer says:

    To tie those two ideas together: While serving in a real church and dealing with people who will disappoint you, it helps prepare you to be godly under real ministry stress.

    That is a whole different setting than seminary stress, and one that requires more grace.

  6. Bill Blair says:

    I would add: Treat your studies as an act of worship and not just some requirement to complete.

    It is an incredible privledge to be able to study and learn the things we are able to learn, but it real easy to end up complaining about what the classes require us to do. I try (don’t always end up here) to think about the requirements as opportunities to grow in my faith and as a way to help others grow as well. Thanks for the post!

  7. toney sauls says:

    i like the post and comments and could not concur more that godliness is a hard earned trait even here at seminary.

    i would add to it that one should not see their seminary studies as a burden -ever! in every class i have been in for the past 2.5 years there has been one or more students complaining about [fill in the blank] and so on. this has always stymied me. while i have had at least one professor who assigned what seemed like busy work, it appears that there is a constituent of students here ONLY because they need the degree and could care less what the actual course study has to offer.

    i myself had to wait a long time to get here and had to work my tail off after that to gain admission -my studies here are a true blessing. i suppose that it is my nature to see a syllabus as a challenge or better yet, a road map to an “A” in the course.

    without rambling, i guess what i mean to say is this is a small slice of life that we are not likely to ever experience again, so enjoy the fire out of it and suck the marrow from every class and sap every professor for their knowledge, wisdom, and ministerial experience.

  8. Tony Kummer says:

    @Bill Blair: I think I heard that same idea somewhere along the way, but I don’t buy it.

    Every time I tried I plunged into academic idolatry. So, I decided to treat my studies like God-glorifying work. Maybe I’m not sophisticated enough to walk the line.

  9. Pingback: 80% Will Leave The Ministry Within 5 Years | Said at Southern

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