I rarely consider myself a wise man, unless the topic is Braves Baseball or grilling a steak. As I enter my last year of seminary, I figured it would be fun to write a note to those coming in, though I doubt they'll even read it. The "new kids" that roll in are so fun to watch. Sometimes its the "fun kind" like watching a baby giraffe fall down, and sometimes its the great kind, the kind where men and women whose hearts are captivated by Jesus, desperately want to change the world for the sake of the gospel. If you do these things you may not become a great preacher, but it will make your time in Charlotte a little more fruitful, and you may even make a few friends a long the way. I'd love to take you out for lunch, but then again I'd love a new Tacoma and an igloo made of burritos, but what I can promise you is that I'd gladly sit and talk and answer whatever questions pop up. So take it from a dude who has been there, Seminary is alright, but its hard, and it should be. Make sure to have fun.
- Some questions are better left unasked. There is going to be a huge temptation to want to know everything about everything, and in a perfect world that would be great. However the world isn’t perfect and neither are the profs. There isn’t a warm body in the room that doesn’t have a thousand plates spinning, and trust me they are crashing left and right in the form of shoestring budgets and dirty diapers., and folks just want to go home. Save them for breaks, GMail, lunches, “coffee fellowships”, or just toss them away all together. Your classmates will let you know real quick if you break this one.
Dive headfirst into a great church- One of the most wonderful blessings of seminary is that you get a front row seat to what the Lord is doing in his bride. She may be freckly and full of warts, but She is being refined and renewed into something beautiful. There are frazzled moms, saintly granddads, bankers, and blue collars who know more about life than you ever will. They may not read Calvin’s Institutes but they will love you more than you’ve ever been before. To the point that it may even embarrass you a little, and trust me, when October hits you like a throat punch you will want the sweet embrace of someone miles ahead of you to point out the landmines of life, and remind you just what exactly you are studying for….. the gathering and perfecting of the Bride of Christ.
Your wife will become your hero. I’ve seen dear friends fall more deeply in love with their wives than you would ever think possible during any other 3 year stint. Make sure you are loving them as well as you know how, and pointing them constantly to the one who loves them better than you ever could. You’re going to fight, you’re going to cry, and you’re going to mess up. So is she. Seminary is hard y’all. Make friends, go on dates, and please don’t joke about how terrible things are at home. Give Satan a match and he’ll burn the whole thing to the ground. There’s a pretty good chance that you married way way up, continue sweeping her off your feet like you did in college. Remember she fell in love with you because you love Jesus more than you love her. You can and will botch an exam and when you do, she will still think you’re the best guy in the world. Your professors and classmates won’t love you that way.
Cultivate Friendships- Never at any other point in your life will you be around a group of dudes like you’ll find in the halls of RTS. The whole gamut is represented from cargo shorts to cardigans, and the common thread uniting them all is the love of Jesus and his Church. There will be “book” guys and bros, braniacs and bachelors, fathers and foreigners , and it would serve you well to get to know them. Take the time to listen. Go get coffee or toss a baseball, just don’t think you will be able to do it alone. You won’t, and you were never intended to do so.
You’ll want to quit- Chances are if you met someone who told you how perfect seminary was, they are lying. But for some reason you listened and signed up anyway. Know that you will want to give up, often. In many ways it will make you want to throw up, but it also provides a great comfort. The Deceiver doesn’t want this message getting out that there is a God who forgives sins and moves into the lives of hopeless rebels, and brings them home. It’s what he did for you, regardless of how high you scored on the Bible Exam, you still need his grace, and you will need his comfort. Rest heavily on Jesus
Don’t make “seminary” jokes. No one cares.
Jesus was a friend of sinners. – There’s a bubble that exists at your time in seminary, and in those 3 years you’ll forget how to talk to people. But people are why we are here. We are proclaiming the only hope for a fallen world. Go on visits with your pastor, volunteer with Young Life, feed the homeless, talk to the maintenance folks at your apartment, make a cake for your neighbor, and have people in your home. The lost will never come to our church if they aren’t in our home. You are not too busy.
Remember that Jesus loves you. The one thing I’m certain about right now is that Jesus loves you. He loves you whether you have MDiv at the end of your name or not. He is with you and he is for you and there is no greater comfort in life or in death than knowing that your Heavenly father has the hairs on your head counted. His eye is on the sparrow, and you are worth more than they are. He doesn’t merely tolerate you, He loves you and he likes you. Drink deeply of his Word. Forgiveness is there every time you need it. There is grace for the question asker, the bachelor, and the brainiac.