I just finished the last day of my two-week doctoral cohort at Covenant Seminary and I’m sitting in the lobby after praying, hugging and giving farewells to my fellow colleagues, thinking about the entire experience. Some initial half-baked thoughts:
- Learn from those outside your tradition. Covenant is a Presbyterian (PCA) seminary. I am not a Presbyterian. I’m not really familiar with terms like session, presbytery, Book of Church Order and a whole host of other things particular to this denomination. But that’s okay. In fact, being around believers from a different tradition can be incredibly beneficial because they can help us identify blind spots unique to our own traditions. For instance, after just the first day of class, in observing the world in which my Presbyterian brothers and sisters live, it didn’t take long for me to recognize my own church’s shortcomings and areas of needed growth. They had strengths where I had weaknesses. I was both encouraged and convicted. I doubt it would’ve happened had I not been around those from a different tradition from me.
- Vocational ministry is hard. It’s hard on you spiritually, emotionally and physically. It can age you quickly, make you rethink your life and pull at your insides in a way few things can. I was struck by how many students courageously shared about tough decisions facing not only their church but them personally – decisions which may very well dictate whether or not they remain in that church. Yet amidst the struggle, they hadn’t given up hope. If anything, they were at seminary to further press in to God and his work of grace in their lives…and in their ministries. I was blessed by the tenacity of their faith.
- Grace is a wonderful glue. Even though I’m not a Presbyterian I am a follower of Jesus who is trying more and more to give himself over to the gospel in all things. I found in my cohort a band of brothers (and sister) who yearned for the same aim even though we have different backgrounds, passions, ethnicities, nationalities, etc. That’s why I felt just as much at home with my very diverse colleagues at Covenant as I would at a staff meeting at my church, an Acts 29 Network Boot Camp or a conference with The Gospel Coalition. It’s amazing how when you’re around those who seek to be gospel-centered the non-essentials become just that…non-essentials. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important. It simply means they aren’t all–important. We’re more excited to be around each other because of the gospel of grace than repelled by our differences. In fact, grace actually makes our differences attractive and one more reminder that Jesus has come to rescue all types of people.
- Seminary is a gift. I’ve always found it somewhat ironic that many who champion abolishing seminaries are those who have seminary degrees. Seminary grads bagging on seminary is kinda cool to do now. It’s also kinda hypocritical. Correction, make that grossly hypocritical. That is, unless you actually have an alternative solution that you don’t only propose but are really working on or supporting. Now to be fair, I know quite a few who hold this position and are following through with their convictions by creating alternatives to seminary. To them, I salute and give my utmost support. But we must remind ourselves why seminaries formed in the first place – to provide a centralized location to train ministers whose churches didn’t have all the resources needed for adequate training – which essentially meant every pastor of any church. Has that need changed? Not for most churches. Do seminaries get it perfectly right? No. Do they need to grow, change, adapt and even in some cases, close? Yes. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t needed. I think seminaries are one of the few legitimate parachurch organizations in the world. They (at least in theory) are to come along side and help equip the local church to fulfill her mission. Being at Covenant has reminded me of how appreciative I am for their contribution to the kingdom of God and the local church.