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Why you're at seminary makes a big difference

One of the things I love about being in seminary is the fact that in addition to learning biblical content, I am also learning a lot about theological education and a lot about my own attitudes toward education.

I have no aspirations to be a pastor. That's not why I am there. While I can't exactly say that I've looked at all the evidence for and against women in ministry, and have examined it enough to be really convinced one way or another, that is not my goal. I lean toward the fact that I don't think women are intended for the pastorate. Leadership is one thing, but the pastorate is another. Anyway.

Knowing that I'm not headed there means that how I receive the education I'm getting may differ from someone else. Case in point: while there are women in my classes, the overwhelming majority is male. The majority of them are headed for full-time ministry. In particular, there are young men headed for the ministry, and for them, in the forefront of their minds is "how will this affect my preaching?" More than once in both my Synoptic Gospels class and my Greek Exegesis, such issues have come up.

One occasion in particular, one guy asked how one of the more complex matters could be drawn into the sermon. To me, the question was a no-brainer: you don't take everything you learn into a sermon or lesson. Sometimes, it's more about how our thinking is shaped. The prof did an excellent job of answering the question. I have noticed that the practice of preaching is a matter of great concern for these youngs guys, and while I can understand that, I hope that many of them, over time, will understand the value of education for their sanctification.

Having a good skill set is valuable, but all skill sets require a foundation. We want to know why one thing works and something else done. When it comes to theological education, the process of learning to think is as important as bringing that knowledge to bear on a sermon or lesson. Teaching (and I suspect preaching) begins with the one who wants to know the truth, who wants to proclaim the Word of God, who loves it. Good teaching/preaching begins with someone who loves the study regardless of what it will "do" for him/her.

Since am not going to be a pastor, I don't think of what I'm learning in terms of "how will I bring to this to bear in a lesson?" I'm already aware that what I learn will be utilized in future teaching; it's obvious. For now, I just want to learn, no matter where God takes me. One of my male classmates on Monday asked me what getting an MDiv will "do" for me. I answered, "Give me more school." I don't think he got it. But he and I are headed toward different things. I do hope, though, that all students in seminary will at some point feel that joy of learning for its own sake. It's a good feeling.

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