For me, seminary was not something I walked into lightly. On one hand, I had always dreamed of an experience where I could pause and critically reflect on my own Christian faith. On the other hand, seminary seemed like it was preventing me from actually doing the work God was calling me to do. Why go off and learn when I’m already doing ministry?

As a third year student, the end is near. No, I’m not referring to a certain Nic Cage movie that just came out. I’m referring to the end of my wilderness experience in seminary. As I sit here contemplating the end, I am asking myself – why? If someone were to ask me why I attended seminary, or why they should attend seminary, what would I say?

If you feel a call to ministry or service, here are a few reasons to consider getting a theological education:

You don’t know what you don’t know.

This old adage has proven to be true for me over the past three years. At Candler, we talk a lot about our embedded theology: that is, theology that is passed on to you, but you have yet to critically engage it to determine if you truly believe it. Seminary has definitely caused me to evaluate the things that have been passed on to me throughout my life.

Even beyond my embedded theology, there is so much I didn’t think about before coming to seminary; church history, feminist theology, paradigm shifting views of the Kingdom of God, responsible exegesis, and the list goes on. Back home in Arkansas, these weren’t necessarily needed day to day in ministry, but now I can’t imagine being a responsible minister without all that I have learned here at Candler.  

Come to learn what you don’t know.

30 for 3

One time, someone much wiser than I told me that our preparation for ministry seems quite backwards when read in light of Jesus’s life. I always feared seminary would get in the way of actually doing ministry. To leave the work I was doing and go off to a different area of the country for three years seemed to compromise all the hard work I had done in the local church community in Arkansas that I loved.

But look at Jesus. Jesus spent 30 years preparing for 3 years of ministry. This makes my 3-year seminary experience seem so small. In many ways, I look back at my three years of seminary and realize that the three year break was worth it! Our culture wants us to jump right in, and seminary offers a chance to truly prepare for the work you feel called to. What’s the rush? After seminary, there will be plenty of time to work and continue learning on the job. Furthermore, you will have been educated and informed to do ministry well with integrity.

Come to prepare for a lifetime of ministry.

Go to the wilderness

I recently heard a preacher say, “God doesn’t want to do something with you until God does something in you.” The preacher then went to describe how the Israelites were taken through the wilderness (God working in them) before they arrived in the Promised Land (God doing something with them).

I believe this can be said of seminary as well. I don’t know what God may have planned for me, but seminary provides a space for God to do something in me before God does something with me. Often the wilderness can be a place of revelation. God reveals Godself to Moses in the wilderness. In this sense, seminary is the wilderness in which clarity of who I am and who I will be can happen.

Come let God do something in you before God does something with you.  

Trust a bigger picture

Being at seminary is an exercise in trust. Because seminary may drastically alter your life, you have to trust that God is guiding you to something incredible. Seminary can be a place to fine-tune your unique role in the grand narrative of God’s Kingdom. I was afraid of stopping the ministry I would do for fear of seminary being a step back from the work I was already doing. Now I realize that I wasn’t trusting God. I wasn’t trusting that God needed me in the wilderness so that God could do something bigger in my life than what I had previously thought.

These are brief reasons to consider seminary. They are certainly not exhaustive nor the only great reasons someone might consider seminary. If I were to give advice to my-three-year-ago-self, the advice would be, come and see. Come and see what God can do. Go visit a few seminaries and hear from professors and students. It will teach you a lot. Go see what seminary can be for you, and perhaps you’ll begin to see why it may be your next step.