So You Want to Go to Seminary: Seven Words for Aspiring Pastors

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In recent months I’ve had the joy of talking to a few young men who are thinking about seminary. With that in mind, I want to share seven words of advice that come from my own experience, which inlcudes choosing a seminary, going through seminary, helping found a seminary, and now teaching at that seminary—Indianapolis Theological Seminary.

These words of counsel are not fool proof, but hopefully you will find them faithful.

1. Your church, more than your seminary, will shape the formation of your theology.

When I went to seminary, it became immediately obvious who the most mature students were—they were the ones who had gone through a pastoral internship at church just down the street from our nation’s capitol. Immersed for a semester or more in this church, these brothers had thought deeply about the church and had been shaped by the pastors and the community found therein. As a result, they came to seminary with a great understanding of the church and pastoral ministry. Moroever, their theological training built on a solid foundation of practical and practiced church ministry.

At the same time, there were other students who sat in the same classes and believed the same doctrines, but whose experience in the local church differed. As a result, this second group tended to maintain the pragmatism of their churches, even when their theology, defended in class, did not match the church’s methodology.

Certainly, there are other healthy churches beside the one highlighted above, but the point remains: Where you go to church matters. And, in my limited experience, where you go to church will shape your views of ministry more than the classes you take in seminary. So, as you go to seminary, do not forsake the local church or ignore the way that your local church will confirm or deny the faith you profess.

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Pre-Engagement: 5 Questions to Ask Yourselves (RCL Booklet 1)

What could be more delightful than answering questions with and about the one that you love?  To the young couple dreaming about a life together, few things would make them happier than to answer questions about their love.

Yet too often, too many couples go into engagement and marriage unprepared because they did not know the right questions to ask.  Sadly, many marriages have suffered and others have broken because of unforeseen challenges that could have been avoided or softened by a thoughtful season of question-and-answers prior to engagement and marriage.

To help facilitate this inquisitive discussion, pastor-counselors David Powlison and John Yenchko have provided couples looking to marriage with an insightful diagnostic in their 36-page booklet, “Pre-Engagement: 5 Questions to Ask Yourselves.”  In “Pre-Engagement,” they lay out five questions, and give young lovers much to think over as they make plans to enter into a covenant legitimately broken only by death.

Here are the five questions.

  1. Are You Both Christians?
  2. Do You Have a Track Record of Solving Problems Biblically?
  3. Are You Heading in the Same Direction in Life?
  4. What Do Those Who Know You Well Think of Your Relationship?
  5. Do You Want to Marry This Person? Are You Willing to Accept Each Other Just as You Are?

Of course, these questions don’t get to everything, but with the follow-up questions that supplement these main questions, Powlison and Yenchko do a superb job getting to the heart of each couple.  Moving their readers to consider more than their personal love for one another, they challenge couples to consider marriage in its larger framework (see Ephesians 5:22-33; Luke 14:26).

So, if you are getting married, doing marriage counseling, or anticipating a phone call from a child or grand-child saying “He asked…I said yes,” let me encourage you to pick up, read, and pass along this little book with 5 Questions.  For yourself or for someone you care about, this set of diagnostic questions could save years heartache and ensure a well-informed, biblical process of answering the question, “Is he (or she) the one?”

May the Lord bless those who are getting married this summer, and may God use this book to help others discern the wisdom of popping the question or answering in the affirmative.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss