Seminary, Check…Now What?
I was cleaning my garage out and I noticed by old tool belt I used for years when I worked construction. I thought about it and realized that that I purchased that tool belt back in 1998!
The summer after my first year in High School, I was 16, and I started my first job with nothing but some work clothes on my back. After working a few Weeks one of the guys on the crew told me that if I purchased a tool belt, a speed square, a measuring tape and a good hammer I could be used to do more than pick up trash and dig holes, so I used my first pay check to buy them at the hardware store.
That was a fun experience! I examined all the tool belts and tried to pick out one that looked like everyone else’s. I found a shiny Stanley tape measurer and a stainless steel speed square. Finally, I found a great hammer. It was pricier than I anticipated, but I knew it was a good one. I ended up buying a chalk-line and some extra chalk as well. When I went up to the counter, I still remember feeling embarrassed when the clerk commented “playing construction huh?” I retorted, “I work for Prairie Homes”. He probably thought I was younger than I was. I walked out and couldn’t wait to get the tags off the tool belt! I remember strutting up to the job site with my shiny new tools! Sure enough, it wasn’t long before I was wearing those tools out in under careful supervision!
As I looked over that worn out tool belt today, it reminded me of that experience.
When I got all those great tools, I had more potential to learn than I ever did before! Because I was equipped, I felt like a construction worker because I looked like a construction worker. But the day I walked out of that hardware store, I wasn’t any more skilled than I was when I walked in. The tools gave me greater opportunity, but they didn’t make me what I would be.
I tell that story because there is a misconception that is held by people who are equipped in seminary that upon leaving seminary they are now Pastoral quality.
When a man or woman decides to dedicate time in seminary, they would do well to remember that seminary offers the equipment for ministry, but it cannot teach you the skills of ministry any more than a hardware store can make you a construction worker. At best, you’ll walk out of seminary “playing pastor”.
Don’t get me wrong, your education is going to make the work you do in ministry much easier to learn, but learn you must. I had the tools back then, but I didn’t know how to apply the tools that I had. I didn’t know how to read plans or frame a wall with studs at 16 inch center, but the tools were the doorway to learn. I had to depend on experienced workers to walk with me. They showed me how to apply the tools, make them work the way they should, and accomplish the work.
After seminary, you are ready for the real training to start. Godly people are ready to show you how faith is applied, how teaching is applied, how the Word is applied. If you feel equipped, but still feel like you have no clue as to how all this works, that’s because you are equipped and you have no clue how this is supposed to work. Seminary is to the hardware store as the job site is to the Church.
You need to engage what you have, not on your own, but under the watchful eye of experience.
There are evangelists in the Church that can show you how to apply the gospel. There are counselors who can show you how to apply God’s word (Ephesians 4:11-13). There are people of faith that can show you how to apply your faith. There are people who are gifted in generosity who can show you how to apply your gifts with joy, and there are leaders in the church who can show you how to apply leadership with zeal (Romans 4:4-8).
We call these people ministers. They are servants created in Christ Jesus who have honed skills by the Spirit and lead by example. Seminary will not make you a minister. The Church, filled with the Holy Spirit will make you a minister. All there is left for you to do with the equipping you’ve been given is to engage in the discipleship that is only found within the body of Christ!
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” - 2 Timothy 2:1-2
When you come out of seminary, you are not a Paul; you are not a Timothy. You need to leave seminary in pursuit of a Timothy! If you are a faithful man or woman, that Timothy will entrust what they have learned so that you will turn and teach others also.
You have some shiny new tools. Now find the ones that can show you how to use them.