This is the second in a series of brief articles from students and graduates answering the question, “What do I wish someone had told me before seminary?”
When I started seminary in 2009, I didn’t know anybody who had done it before and was too thick-skulled to ask for advice. So while I think the following advice is worthwhile for anyone considering or already in seminary, I was slower to learn most of it than I care to admit.
1. Serve in a local church. Bruce Ware, one of my professors, says theology is meant to go from your head to your heart to your hands. In other words, in addition to increasing your love for the Lord (or, because it increases your love for the Lord), your theological education should benefit others. It’s wise, then, to find a local church where you can give of yourself and ensure your hands are keeping up with your mind. Don’t just find a church where you have a chance to teach; look for opportunities to visit the elderly and sweep the floors, too.
2. Read the Bible. The Bible will sustain, convict, humble, nourish, and strengthen you even when nothing else can. God’s Word will compose the content of your ministry, so make it a priority to regularly read, memorize, pray, and meditate on the Scriptures.
3. Prioritize your marriage. If you’re married, the last thing you want is to leave seminary with a degree and a shaky marriage as souvenirs. Faithful home leadership is a qualification for church leadership (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1), so, brothers, love your wives and remember that a husband goes home not to be served, but to serve.
4. Exercise and sleep. Students spend a lot of time sitting on their tail, so it’s important to get up and burn some calories. I was more energetic and engaged in the classroom when I exercised regularly. It may seem like a poor use of time, but it’s not. The same goes for the occasional 15- to 20-minute nap.
5. Beware of cynicism and arrogance. In other words, get over yourself (Rom. 12:3). Flee any temptation to look down your nose at church members who don’t spend their free time reading theology or whose prayers are too profoundly simple for you to appreciate. In Dangerous Calling, Paul Tripp wisely observes that Christian maturity is about what you are, not what you know.
6. Find out which professors to take. Get to know someone a little further down the seminary road and find out from them which professors to take for each class. It’s also wise to find one professor worth emulating and then take a bunch of his classes.
7. Learn the languages. You can grow in your ability to preach, counsel, and understand theology after you finish seminary. The chances are slim, however, that you will improve your language ability after you graduate. So dive into Hebrew and Greek during this most optimal time of your life.
8. Study hard and take the hard classes. Your future flock deserves better than a pastor who did as little as possible to graduate from seminary. To quote my high school track coach: “Nobody said it would be easy; nobody said it would be fun. Now get after it.”