Tuesday, August 13, 2013
This coming week students will be moving to Louisville to start their first semester of their seminary career. I, however, will begin my final semester. In my three years here I have made some observations about seminary students and wanted to write down some advice to new students. This is not all of the advice I would give, just what came to me this morning.
First, realize that you are here because other men and women have paid for you to be here. Southern in large part is funded not by your tuition, but by a huge number of people who will never walk on the campus, but who have for years and years given faithfully to the Cooperative Program. Older men and women who give, many out of the little that they have, so that you can learn Hebrew paradigms and eschatology. Honor their sacrificial giving by doing your best.
Second, understand that there are millions of Christians, many of whom are being persecuted, in other parts of the world who would gladly give much to be able to take these classes and sit under your professors. God in his great providence has allowed you to be here, so take advantage of this opportunity.
Acceptance into Heaven doesn’t require your Southern Transcript:
Not that grades are not important, but they’re not. By all means do your best. Work hard, study hard, but realize that it is ok to get a B as long as you have done your best. One of the most freeing things I have heard a professor say was, “For some of you it will be a sin to get a B, because you slacked off and didn’t read the assigned reading and you didn’t work in this class how you should. BUT for some of you it will be a sin to get an A, because in your pursuit of that A you ignored your wife, and you didn’t lead your family, and your dishonored God in your pursuit.” Do well, strive for good grades, but make sure your priorities are right.
We have really great professors at Southern. They are indeed wise and godly men who we can learn much from. But understand that they are men who still struggle. Many are pastors who might be coming into your class immediately following a meeting with a man who just revealed that he is leaving his wife for another woman, or maybe your professor’s family is going through difficult times and their home isn’t so harmonious, or maybe they sinned against someone and it is hanging on them. So, when a professor gives a dry and boring lecture that didn’t blow the doors off and make fireworks explode in your heart, show him grace.
There will be times when you will encounter another student who asks statements. Every time they raise their hand many will grunt and moan because you know what is coming. Just remember that you too are a sinner and you too do things that people grunt and moan about. Instead of writing a nasty Facebook post or tweet about “that guy” or leaving him a copy of the “When to Ask a Question” flowchart show that student grace.
Let your Yes be Yes:
The Student Covenant and Handbook are clear that, whether we are in class or on break, we are not to drink alcohol. You will not be the first person to complain about the alcohol policy at Southern, nor will you be the last. But to be a student you signed that you will abide by the covenant, so do so. If you do not like the student covenant and drinking or “christian freedom” are that important to you there are several other seminaries in the country that do not require abstinence from alcohol.
Love Your Church, and other Churches:
Join a local body and serve them. In the Louisville area there are a plethora of good churches; find one, join them, love them, and serve them. But don’t seek the high jobs. You should volunteer for nursery or to help mop floors or clean the bathrooms or visit the elderly. Ask someone what are the jobs they have a difficult time finding people willing to take, and then take those jobs. Don’t think that because you're a seminary student you automatically deserve a teaching position.
Too often I hear people extol the greatness of their church in such a way as if it is more superior than the others in the city. In some ways we sound like we’re saying, “I am of Highview," and another, "I am of Kenwood," and another, "I am of Sojourn." Are they not just churches? Each have their purpose, each are trying to serve God in their area, and none are better than the others. Instead of condemn the others because they are not your church, pray for them. Pray for your church, but also pray for the other churches in town. Think of how amazing it would be if revival broke out in the each of the Louisville churches!
By this I don't mean that you should have a devotional time, while you should, but I mean that you should approach your study for classes, tests, and papers as a means God will use to shape you into the image of Christ. There will be the struggle just to get things done and a sense of dread as the deadline approaches, but in your study when you find something that encourages, convicts, or corrects you pause and meditate on it. Allow it to soak in. Seminary should be less like a data download and more like a potter's wheel.
Seminary is great. I hope that you don't make the mistakes I did.