“Today, we move to the books of First and Second Peter in our New Testament survey. Let’s begin by establishing authorship. First Peter chapter 1, verse 1, ‘I, Peter, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ ….’ There you have it. Peter is the author of first Peter.” And with these words from Dr. Maurice Robinson, my search for a seminary was over. After having spent four years in Georgia Baptist Colleges where the Bible was not taught as inerrant, it was refreshing to hear a seminary professor begin with an honest and faith-filled view of Scripture.
I chose to attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. My wife and I were newlyweds in the Summer of 2000. We had been married almost six weeks when we loaded up all of our belongings into a fourteen foot U-Haul (only taking up maybe half of the space in the truck). Our three years at Southeastern were wonderful. I was enthralled with my studies at the seminary. We made friends from all over the country and who have now served all over the world. Our daughter was born during our last Fall in Wake Forest. We had the best pastor (Bill Bowyer) and church family (Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church).
It has been more than eighteen years since I graduated. We left Southeastern ready to take on the world of local church ministry. When I think back to those three years in Wake Forest and at Southeastern, there are so many memories that come flooding back in my heart and mind.
If I could go back and talk to the me from 21 years ago, here are some of the lessons I would try to impress on the younger me. Some of these I did and some of these I did do while in seminary.
- Solidify the spiritual disciplines of personal Bible study and prayer.
- Make sure to grow as fully as God intends for you to in seminary. Slow down and do not be in such a rush to get through school.
- Take all of the counseling courses you can take. As a pastor, this would be most fruitful as everything I do from serving my staff/team, to pastoral counseling, to grief ministry to navigating leadership discussions, to listening to the church member’s real beef; it all would be enhanced with more counseling training. Maybe even pursue a counseling degree rather than the MDiv.
- Find the local church pastor who will meet with you to discuss the real side of ministry. Do not let the seminary classroom be the extent of your ministry training.
- Establish marriage and family rhythms that you can build on after seminary. Do not wait to get through with school to start doing family well, start where you are and do it well there.
- Learn hospitality. Invite your professors and their wives and your pastor and his wife to dinner at your apartment. This discipline will pay huge dividends in ministry. Get in the habit of hosting people in your home.
- Find a church home. Worship, serve, give and grow in the local church for the glory of God.
- Learn to love where you live. Walk to the campus from your apartment. Find a community outlet you can get involved with such as coaching in the recreation department, serving in a local non-profit organization, go to the community festivals and get to know people who live locally.
- Make friends outside of the seminary bubble.