For the past decade or so, I have had the privilege of teaching students at MB Seminary, part of ACTS Seminaries in Langley BC. Anyone who has known me for a long time might realize that I am an unlikely seminary professor. As a seminary student, I did not fit the typical profile of a pastor-in-training. What is more, I did not gravitate toward the discipline of theology, in which I know work.
I was a “fly by the seat of my pants” pastor’s son who had enough ministry leadership experience by age 21 to be able to make a go of most pastoral ministry tasks. I was smart, knew the landscape, and my ace in the hole was that I could rely on the Holy Spirit, right? What pastor has not memorized Matthew 10:19-20?
My decision to attend seminary was motivated by a pragmatic desire to learn techniques, tips, and tricks that would help me to stay on top of pastoral duties and lead more effectively (whatever that means). I took courses in leadership, expecting that they would help me get people in my future church to do what I thought they should do. And I studied the other parts of the curriculum so that I would know what they should do.
A lot has changed in my life in the 29 years since I graduated from seminary. A few decades of ministry experience in various pastoral and related roles, in at least four different denominational contexts, has taught me that my ministry preparation was more valuable than I realized, but not in the ways that I expected. And my further studies, a second master’s degree and a doctorate, gave me insight into how to do pastoral work that I did not expect they would.
I am not suggesting that my time in seminary was not time well spent, but I learned that there are more important things than having the right set of answers that I could offer if someone asked. Why, you may think? Isn’t it vitally important, especially for a pastor, to be able to give an answer to someone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you (remember 1 Peter 3:15?) Isn’t that the job of a pastor? To provide answers on cue and reassure others of the right answers?
Simply put, no. Not at all. Do pastors and other leaders with seminary training give advice, impart wisdom, and teach? Of course. But that is at best a part of what such leaders do. And there is another more important task; there is an important reason for this. Are you ready?
Tune in next week and I will let you in on the secret.