The studies of the seminary student are no light things. The responsibilities of the average student include hours of reading (mindless reading doesn’t get you anywhere in this world), numerous classes, research papers, theological discussion forums, modules, and summer intensives, all while usually working a full-time job. Efficiency comes at a high price. Cutting corners becomes easier, and maintaining an excellent spirit becomes harder. This reality obliterates the ignorant assertion from the one who may say, “Oh if this other career doesn’t work out for me then I will just be a pastor!”
The goal of this article, though, is not for the reader to pity the seminary student. We prefer prayer over pity. The goal of this article is to answer the question, “How is God glorified by the seminary student?” It is a simple thing for the seminary student to get so focused on the end goal, which is being a well-prepared pastor, that it is easy for him to lose sight of man’s chief end to glorify God. I know this because I myself have often lost sight of glorifying God in the middle of training for the pulpit. Hours are spent reading the Institutes of the Christian Religion and countless Greek words are parsed so that one day I can be a knowledgeable pastor, but training to be a pastor in and of itself is not glorifying to God if He does not consume my mind in these endeavors now. If my mind is not filled with Him then my mind will be filled with myself.
Even with all these years of study, I find myself battling the reality of this question: What if I spend all this time training to be a pastor and God never allows me to become one? This question has crippled me for some time now. God could search and see me sacrificing other activities such as video games, time with friends and family, along with numerous other things and still He could possibly never allow me the opportunity to become a pastor. O how depressing this reality can be.
We as students do not run this race that is called seminary, cross the finish line, and then automatically see the pulpit waiting for us their once we get our “degree”. God does not owe the pulpit to the hard-working seminary student. God does not owe us anything. Not to mention, seminary does not qualify the future-minister over other pastors who have no seminary training, believe it or not. I thank God for the Paul Washers and Matt Chandlers of the world who humble students like me that think a Master’s degree is an extra badge that somehow thwarts the man of God with no such training. All of this school for the sake of the pulpit could actually be in vain be that it not lead me to being a full-time minister; hold that thought.
All of these thoughts have run inside my head to the point that on several occasions I have run from my calling to be a pastor. My poor wife has had to see the darkness of this spiritual battle that I have had, often leading her to tears. When the seminary student who has a love for preaching the Word of God to the people of God imagines the future as best as he can and sees that he may not be a pastor, discouragement will come to him. This line of thinking from the student, though, comes from an immature and nearly sinful understanding of how God is glorified by him in his walk through school.
One day, as I was translating 1 Peter 2, I came across the phrase, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received,” (verse 10). I began to say out loud to my wife standing by, “I must preach this, I have to preach this!” I started envisioning the joyful, God-given opportunity to shepherd a flock and preach books like 1 Peter verse-by-verse to feed God’s sheep. Then I fell back into the pit of discouragement, remembering that this may never happen, for God may not actually give me the opportunity to be a pastor.
Ericka responded with the key response that all seminary students must hear, “You should not get down on yourself that God may not allow you to be a pastor. Instead, you should remember that you are a child of God now and glorify God because of those great truths you are studying.” By these words of my loving wife, I was humbled to the bone and saw how prideful my thought processes of my future ministry could be. Not only that but I was encouraged, for doubts of my future ministry were immediately replaced with joys of the salvific work God has already done to me. How great is the truth that once I had not received mercy, but now I have received mercy!
So fellow seminary student, God is not glorified if you make it through school and make it into the ministry (statistics say that’s a big if, by the way). God is glorified when your mind is consumed with Him and His goodness from the things that you study in the here and now. God is not glorified when you imagine yourself preaching through the infinitely valuable passages of Scripture. God is glorified when the Holy Spirit raises your affections for Himself through your diligent studies. This is for Christians in general, don’t let your hard work put your mind on you but on Him.
The point I am trying to make can be summed as follows: The seminary student who is so caught up on his future ministry that he no longer meditates on God’s greatness in the present is like the missionary who is so caught up in the future land he will live in that he can no longer see those perishing without hearing the gospel in the place that he currently lives in.
How could we as seminary students hold and study the life-giving Word of God and not bow before the King and worship now because we are too focused on what we can say about it ten years from now? Such a man should see his own pride and kill it for the sake of his walk with the Lord or even consider humbly pursuing another career. May we as seminary students not study now so that we have much material to use for our preaching; may we study now so that our well has been dug deep into the depths of the riches of Christ Jesus.
May we as Christians not study the Bible and theological books so that we can win a debate or sound smart in some way to our peers. May we study so that we can see God and say with the Psalmist more and more, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water,” (Psalm 63).
Cole Dixon is a seminary student at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He is originally from Yazoo City, MS but currently lives in Conway AR. He has been married to Ericka for 4 years and is seeking to be a missionary overseas.