The Privilege of Seminary Training: Personal Spiritual Development

Anyone who has talked to a seminary student or asked his pastor about his years in seminary will likely hear stories about the many great challenges of those years. The work is often difficult, and the amount of work that is placed before the students can be overwhelming for even the most gifted students. Seemingly every student of the seminary has some story to tell of a painful practice preaching session or a graded paper filled with a flood of red ink.

While those difficulties and challenges are real, they are only a small part of the story. It’s a shame that the “headline” about seminary training that most everyone sees or hears is “DIFFICULT.” And if that is the only thing that comes to mind regarding seminary, that is an incomplete, and therefore, an unfair perspective.

What’s missing from that perspective is the wonderful privilege of studying in the seminary. If the difficulties, challenges, and sacrifices of seminary are great, the privileges and benefits of studying in the seminary are far greater.

Here are just a few of the personal benefits of seminary training:

  • As with all education, there is much growth in knowledge, and the knowledge imparted in seminary is of the highest quality, a spiritual, life-giving quality. The words of instruction in seminary are the words of eternal life, imparting knowledge of the one true God. There are many people who have the privilege of being students, but not all have the privilege of giving themselves to the study of the very words of God.
  • Seminary humbles The doctrines of grace humble you, showing you your unworthiness. The amount of work humbles you, showing you your frailty and turning your attention to God. The correction of professors humbles you, showing you your errors and ignorance. The truths expounded in the scriptures also humble you, by showing you your sin and leading you to Christ. In these ways and more, the student is humbled, and in this he is prepared to be a servant of Christ and his church.
  • Seminary training is also a wonderful means of sanctification. Sanctification is God’s work of making us holy, and that work is performed by the Spirit through the means of grace. Sitting under the faithful instruction of professors is no different than sitting under the preaching of the word in church. There is the true privilege of seminary training: the daily practice of engaging in the means of grace and growing daily in the knowledge of God transforms the student’s heart. The men who walk through the seminary doors on that first fall morning are not the same as those who walk out four years later. God works powerfully in the hearts of seminary students through their training, transforming their hearts so that they are ready to serve in God’s house.
  • What about those difficulties? They have their benefits too. The student grows in his ability to read and write. He learns how to communicate effectively. He learns how many hours there are in a day (not enough), and how to be most productive in the time he is given. The difficulties and challenges of the work teach the student discipline, perseverance, patience, and trust. They force him to labor with a conscious dependence on the grace of God for the needs of both body and soul.

Prospective seminary students should not be discouraged from pursuing the gospel ministry by the stories of how difficult the training is. Seminary is challenging, but it is such a privilege as well. And while no man should enter seminary solely for the purpose of personal development, it’s only fair that the whole story is told.

The benefits will begin early on in the training. Taking pre-seminary Greek early in the morning isn’t easy for everyone, but as one emeritus professor told me, “The study of the original languages opens up grand vistas of the truths of the scriptures.” He was right, and those vistas are beautiful, even life-changing.

The benefits continued throughout the four years of seminary. Every day, the scriptures were expounded to us. Every day we were confronted by some truth concerning our majestic God and his wonderful works. Every day, we were humbled, corrected, instructed, and built up by truths of scripture and given the tools to do the same both for ourselves and others.

The calling of the ministry is weighty, and the challenges of seminary are significant and sometimes difficult to overcome. But ultimately, the most difficult obstacles are often the most beneficial, for they teach the student to labor with a dependence on the grace of God rather than his own strength. In the end, the seminary student receives four years of heart-shaping instruction. That instruction, the Lord willing, will benefit both the students personally and the churches they serve.

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This article was written by David Noorman who has been declared a candidate for the ministry in the Protestant Reformed Churches of America.

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Considering the Ministry

You have probably heard it from your own pulpit. You have probably seen the announcement in the bulletin. You have probably read about it in the Standard Bearer. You have probably heard it discussed at Sunday coffee. You may have even prayed about it yourself. There is an urgent need in the Protestant Reformed Churches for more preachers of the gospel.

This is not a new need, but one that’s been around since Jesus told his disciples, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Jesus’ command in response to that “problem” was that the disciples would pray: “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” By God’s grace, our denomination, congregation, families, and individual members have heeded that command. Petitions for God to raise up more men to pursue the ministry are uttered regularly throughout our churches and families. And in many ways, we may be thankful that God has already answered those prayers.

I’m hopeful that none of this is news to you. And the point of this article is not to tell you the need, but to point you, young man, to the logical next step: Considering the calling of the ministry for yourself. Young men, single men, married men, middle-aged men, men with children or without, the time is now for you to consider the ministry. It’s time to consider whether or not the Lord is calling you to pursue that work in answer to your own prayers.

Some may call this obvious, but I say otherwise—from my own experience. During my synodical examination, almost all of my fellow students admitted that they had thought about the ministry at a young age. Some always desired that work, and for others it came and went. My experience was different—I had never considered the ministry. As a boy and throughout my teenage years I heard the discussions, and I listened to the exhortations of ministers and teachers. But, every time the subject came up, I convinced myself that the ministry was a task for other men, not for me.

My perspective changed by a work of God through ordinary means. In my early college years, I continued to hear the prayers of my pastor. I heard every single week as he asked God to raise up more men for the ministry “even from this congregation.” I was also approached by others who asked me if I was considering seminary. Sometimes these comments were made seriously, sometimes in jest. Whatever the case may be, God used those petitions, comments, and other circumstances in my life to move me to consider the ministry. When I finally did seriously consider, it did not take long for me to become convinced that God was calling me, at least internally, to pursue the gospel ministry.

Taking the liberty of applying my own circumstances to others, that is my advice: Men, consider it. Think about it. Pray about it. Talk to others about it. Give some serious time and effort to the task of examining your heart, your gifts, and the need of God’s church.

If you believe you ought to pursue the ministry, or even if you are uncertain, talk to your parents or siblings. Talk to your pastor. Talk to your elders. Stop in at seminary to talk to a professor. Talk to multiple people, and people who know you in different ways. And when you talk to all these people, listen to what they have to say. Whether or not respected brethren believe you should pursue the ministry is important. Professor Gritters’ Suggestions for Young Men Considering Attending Seminary is also a good place to start.

Not sure if this is your calling? Be assured this is not out of the ordinary. Most men take pre-seminary courses and even enter seminary with a great deal of uncertainty. Probably far more men take up an “ordinary” occupation wondering whether or not they should have pursued the ministry further. In either case, be confident that if God has set you apart for that “good work,” he will make it clear to you in one way or another.

Are you convinced the ministry is not your calling? Most will come to this conclusion, and you can still help the cause by encouraging gifted, spiritually-minded young men to consider the ministry. Don't push them into it; just encourage them to consider it. It is also important that friends and family of those who are considering the ministry have a positive attitude about ministry. The pressure of such a pursuit is weighty enough, and I am sure many young men keep their distance from the ministry out of a fear of what their friends and relatives might say or think. Speak positively about the office of the ministry; don't drive them away from it. 

The need for ministers is great, and the work of the ministry is a good work! Continue to pray for that cause in obedience to Jesus’ command. And men, don’t neglect to give serious consideration to this calling for yourself.

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This article was written by David Noorman who has been declared a candidate for the ministry in the Protestant Reformed Churches of America.

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