Every seminary community is slightly different, but some seminaries have one particular kind of strength. They bring a great diversity of Christians together in a place to study, grow, and pray together in their faith journey. Some institutions, like my own, have deep and rich denominational histories that can seem intimidating to people who come from a different background. Despite rich histories and denominational ties some of these seminaries value the dialog and growth that comes from diverse perspectives.
When I chose a seminary one of my major criteria was intellectual and cultural diversity. I wanted to go to a school that brought a variety of people from different denominations, nationalities, and ethnicities together to discuss theology cross-culturally. The Gospel was given to all people and its message transcends Europe, America, Asia, Africa, and even the Middle East. The Gospel needs to be studied inter-culturally because we have to challenge our own preconceptions with the power of its truth.
It is too easy to become stagnant in this or that worldview. I decided to go to seminary because I wanted to grow not just intellectually, but spiritually. Spiritual growth sometimes requires the uncomfortable encounter with that which is ‘other.’ The Truth of Jesus Christ is relevant for every culture, and yet every culture has a prophetic voice that can indict the ‘Krisis’ of sin and recognize the power of God’s grace in new and magnificent ways. Living and growing in a community that is both strange (in its multicultural identity) and familiar (in its commitment to Christ) allows a person to grow in amazing ways.
The second reason I wanted to attend seminary was to become a more proficient historian. I hope to one day become a bi-vocational minister who also teaches history at a small to medium-sized Christian college. I believe that Christian teachers and academics should not just be familiar with the subject matter of their discipline, but also the difficult and enriching elements of their faith. All too often I have seen pastors who failed to pick up a book after seminary or never went to seminary to begin with and fail to recognize its value. On the other hand, I have seen many professors and academics who are proficient in their field of study, but are embarrassingly ignorant of relatively basic elements of Christian theology or biblical studies. In Mark Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, he references what he calls “anti-intellectualism” frequently. In the end, he argues that active intellectual engagement is an important element of Christian discipleship. I chose to go to seminary because I needed to be engaged on an intellectual level to further my spiritual development.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I went to seminary because I felt called to ministry. Admittedly, I went to seminary somewhat scared of pastoral ministry. I was familiar with many of the challenges of the pastorate, but I knew that I had been called. Seminary is a chance for you to test the waters of your gifts and passions. It is a time for you to explore what your calling might mean. In my time at seminary I have learned that a “call” experience can mean a variety of different things. The form it comes in is not nearly as important as the fact that God has called you into service.
Ministry happens in many different places and the skills you learn in seminary can help you in many of these places. I have seen my peers go on to ministries in hospitals, prisons, the military, parishes, educational institutions, and non-profits. My particular seminary even has a field education placement with TimeMagazine and several of those placements have led to full-time jobs. The point is simple – if God is calling you, then follow.
My time at seminary has formed and shaped me in so many ways it’s hard to describe. I came assuming that I would limit my church ministry to the associate level and teaching. However, as I enter my last year I can see that God has helped me grow into a more confident place. My field education placements and classes have helped me realize that God may be calling me to a senior pastorate – and that’s okay! Seminary will enrich you, help you develop intellectually, and perhaps most importantly help you discern what ministry God is calling you to.
Written by Kadin Williams. Kadin is presently in his third year at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. He has served as an intern in American Baptist, Southern Baptist, and RCA churches. He is presently seeking ordination with the American Baptist Churches USA. You can connect with him at email@example.com.