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An Important Lesson Seminary Cannot Teach

Posted by on Feb 29, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

The title of this article may strike you as an attempt to degrade seminary or tell you that seminary is not important nor necessary. That is by no means the case. This article is not about putting seminary down but rather is an attempt to help you understand the role seminary plays in your life and ministry.

Being in seminary teaches us how to quote scripture and study the Bible. We learn the original languages, theology, apologetics, and Church history but are never really explicitly taught that these lessons are designed to inform our understanding of God and Christianity and are not necessarily designed to be regurgitated to counselees or suffering congregants verbatim. What I mean to say is that explaining 5 point Calvinism versus Arminianism or discussing the ontological nature of God and Humanity, may not be the most effective way of empathizing with someone who just lost a loved one in a car accident.

Perhaps learning how to sit with someone who is hurting is taught in Practical Theology courses or in a Pastoral Counseling class, however when it comes to practical ministry, experience (or rather our ability to process experiences) is one of the best teachers.

This makes volunteering at a church or engaging in ministry in some form or another a vital role alongside seminary education. Unfortunately, these experiences rarely count for credit. Nevertheless, practical experience combined with seminary education has the potential to become a very powerful conduit for significant Kingdom work.

Being properly educated and trained informs our understanding of Christianity and the nature of God and humanity. Seminary teaches us that God is holy and righteousness and that we are sinful yet forgiven by this holy and righteous God. Seminary teaches us that the Bible is reliable and has been preserved throughout the centuries. We are taught that truth is objective and not relative, which is important to understand in a highly pluralistic culture. These truths that we learn inform our own faith and identity and makes us more effective at being an instrument of life transformation.

By understanding that the addict has real forgiveness in Christ, we are given hope that their life can change. By understanding that the lost can find their true identity as a child of God, we can help direct them. By understanding how Atheism, Buddhism, or Islam are fallacious worldviews, we can have confidence in Christ and exhibit this hope and faith to others. However these truths are the end and not necessarily the means.

The means is empathy and deeply understanding what it feels like to hurt. When we can understand pain and suffering we are able to give grace and when we give grace, the broken find acceptance. Acceptance gives way to leadership and respect and with those we are able to gently guide the broken to their restoration in Christ. These things are best learned in context of an actual situation. Unfortunately there are no shortcuts to this. Rarely have I ever found a shortcut that turned out to be better than going through the “grind.” Perhaps the “grind” is itself the way we learn to empathize and understand.

By Joseph Siacunco. Joseph is a Masters of Divinity Student at Denver Seminary located in Littleton, CO. He currently works at Mission Hills Church in the Finance Department and is a Certified Public Accountant. He has worked in Accounting since 2004 but also serves at his church in other ways including teaching and preaching.

Why are Biblical Languages required for M.Div students?

Posted by on Feb 22, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

This is a common question I receive from people when I tell them I’m an M.Div student. Most argue that they can simply go to a Bible Dictionary or read a commentary to figure out what a word means in the original language. If you are an M.Div student or planning on enrolling in an M.Div program yet are struggling with the Biblical languages or wondering why you need to take them, please allow me to take a moment to explain a few enlightening things I’ve learned as well as offer some tips on how to survive the languages.

Understanding the original language is key for doing proper exegesis
As you may know, a critical component of seminary is Exegesis or what I like to call, “The art of interpreting the text.” A key piece behind doing proper exegesis is of course studying the history behind the passage, which includes understanding the culture. What I have found is that understanding the original Biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) helps give a first person perspective into the culture of the time. For example, Hebrew is a very dynamic and colorful language. There are several word plays that appear in Hebrew that are typically not seen in the English Old Testament. Jonah is a prime example of this. So knowing the language informs your understanding of the emotions behind the text, which helps you understand the message the author was really trying to convey. Another awesome example is the Genesis 12 and the use of volition in the text…something not generally heard in the English translation.

Understanding the language is better than using Logos or a Biblical Dictionary
As I mentioned, a common argument I hear for not needing to learn the original language is the availability of Dictionaries and software. Perhaps this is a personal gripe of mine but logic seems to follow that the existence of software such as Logos or the availability of Biblical Dictionaries blatantly demonstrates that languages are important to learn. What I mean to say is that someone had to learn the languages in order for those resources to exist and personally, though those resources exist and help make research easier, I want to be able to verify what they are saying as well as avoid taking for granted the work of others. One major point most professors stress in seminary is to not rely on Biblical Software or Dictionaries alone but rather use them to verify the research you have done yourself.

Personal Transformation
This may come as a surprise to some but being able to translate the Biblical text as they were originally written (or at least with 95% accuracy to what was the original text) and speaking the text in their original language is personally transformative. I personally found reciting Deuteronomy 6:4-9 in Hebrew to be one of the more formative aspects of seminary. This aspect of learning the language is likely different for everybody but I can testify to the transformative effects of learning the languages.

Practicality
Knowing Hebrew and Greek may not always present practical applications in counseling sessions or even in sermons but personal insight into the language informs your understanding of how the text applies. Knowing more about Scripture can only help you apply it to life not inhibit you.

As you go through your journey of learning biblical languages, here are 5 survival tips

Stay on top of vocab!!!
I suggest creating flashcards and reviewing new vocab each week as well as vocab from prior weeks. Failing to stay on top off vocab will be extremely detrimental to your ability to enjoy the language and consequently learn it. The more frustrated you are at translating (because you forgot the vocab) the less likely you will want to learn the language.

Before the term starts, learn the alphabet or alephbet (Hebrew). They won’t really test you a whole lot on how the languages were developed so spend more time on learning how the language works.

Here is an insight…the most difficult part of the languages is being able to parse verbs (for Hebrew and Greek) and nouns (for Greek only). So if you can read ahead in your text book before each class (if its not already required), you will be better off to absorb the information the professor presents.

Form a study group and test each other. Languages, especially Hebrew, are an oral language and you are more apt to retain the information if you practice it a loud.

My last tip is prayer. This may seem like a cliché but I cannot stress enough the importance of inviting the Holy Spirit into your time of studying the languages. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you will prayerfully receive insights into the language that were not known before. As you gain insight the enjoyment of the languages increases ten-fold and with it the ability to retain the information.

By Joseph Siacunco. Joseph is a Masters of Divinity Student at Denver Seminary located in Littleton, CO. He currently works at Mission Hills Church in the Finance Department and is a Certified Public Accountant. He has worked in Accounting since 2004 but also serves at his church in other ways including teaching and preaching.

Seminary = Sacrifice

Posted by on Feb 16, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

For those who are toying around with the idea of going to Seminary, you will need to understand one thing: Seminary is a sacrifice.

I haven’t stepped foot on campus yet (I start at Denver Seminary this coming August) but the sacrifices my wife and I have already made just to get there are more than I anticipated.

My wife and I, along with our three children are down to one plastic tote of clothing each. Yes, you read that correctly, each of us has only one tote of clothing we will be taking with us. We’re running garage sales for the next month in an effort to earn more money to pay for moving. We are re-evaluating everything we own to decide whether or not we really need it.

We’re also sacrificing our families. We know that we will miss major milestones in our family’s lives. We know that we won’t see them until major holidays (if we can afford to come back). We realize that moving to a different time zone will create issues with our communication.

Our lifelong friends are also being sacrificed. I’ve had the same group of friends for almost 20 years now and when I move out to Denver, they aren’t coming with me. Sure, I’ll be able to call them, but it won’t be the same. My wife has an amazing group of friends that she is beyond close to, and we’re moving away.

All of this sacrifice, and I haven’t even stepped foot onto the campus!

Then I have to remember that more sacrifices are coming once we get there.

My current job has me working from 5:30am until 2:00pm. I am able to be home with my family for a much bigger chunk of the day than most people. We’re giving up our schedule. Balancing family life, school and work will be a major challenge. Trying to give 100% to three completely different areas of life won’t be easy.

With all this sacrifice, why do it?

The simple answer: God said “Go.”

I’ve known that Seminary was on my path for a long time, but prior to now the timing never felt right. I also had to wait for my wife to be completely on board. I couldn’t do this without her.

*Side note: Men, if you’re wife isn’t 100% on board, wait. If God has called you to go, he will confirm that in your bride at the proper time. I waited almost a year, and it wouldn’t have worked any earlier.

I also fully understand that the sacrifices that we make now won’t be that bad in the long run. My family and friends will always love and be there for me. The things we get rid of now will not be missed. God is going before us and is preparing the way. His way and His plan are better than staying in my comfort zone.

If God has called you to go to Seminary, follow your call and go. Remember that your sacrifice will put you in a better position to minister to a world that needs Jesus. The world needs your gift, refine it and then use it!

By Michael A. Murphy Michael is a husband and father to three children. He and his wife will be moving their family from Michigan to Colorado to attend seminary this fall. Mike and his wife, Denise, blog together at theevertree.wordpress.com

The Witness You Leave When You Move to Seminary

Posted by on Feb 9, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

My husband and I are in this crazy whirl wind of preparing for Seminary. Right now we are living in two different states for half of the week. I am living at my parents with our three children and he is working and living with his parents. He comes to see us on the weekends. We will be doing this for two months to save money before the big move. While living with our families I have really thought about our witness to the people we will be leaving behind after our move to Seminary.

We have been told how brave we are and what a witness that the Seminary step of faith is. A hint of truth, I suppose; however, as I check my motives, following our “dreams” for God isn’t about us or our courage. It is about how we treat the relationships that the Lord has given to us.

As we leave behind friends and family, I really think that our witness is how we leave these relationships. We can’t be everything to everyone, but there are a few ideas and things to focus on before we go and start a new community of friends.

– Are there any relationships that you are leaving that need reconciliation? If so, your acts of forgiveness or confession are more of a witness than following your dream to Seminary. The Gospel is about Grace and reconciliation. So I encourage all of us to act on our end to give Grace in the hard relationships you are leaving. Relationship chains follow us wherever we go. Let those go. There will be so much more freedom in the huge Seminary move. If there are any harmful and unsafe relationships – Forgive in your heart, and remember you are a child of God, and your value rests in no other relationship.

– Remember the family and friends that have helped you get to this point? Maybe this is not the case for you; however, for our family, we have had so much support and encouragement for our move to Seminary. Take some time to really think of the people that have encouraged and supported your move. The encourager and supporter is God’s gift to us. Take an evening to write thank you cards, or make a phone call to really let them know how much you appreciate their support.

Again, remember that our witness is not by the things we accomplish for God, but for the people we love with no condition.

I encourage you to make right what needs to be made right. To let God heal any relationship wounds that can’t be done on human terms, and to put a little time and effort into letting your support system know how much their role is as important in the Kingdom as your Seminary degree. I put this out as a challenge to myself as well, because, oh how thankful I am for the friends and family we are moving away from.

God Bless!

By Denise J. Murphy Denise is a mother of three young children and passionate about people stepping into their individual calling. Their family will be moving from Michigan to Colorado this fall so her husband, Mike, can attend Denver Seminary. Mike and Denise blog together at theevertree.wordpress.com.

How to have a job and go to seminary

Posted by on Feb 2, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

So you’re in seminary and faced with the hard reality that it’s EXPENSIVE! Sure there are scholarships available but more often than not, they won’t cover the whole cost of attending seminary not to mention general living expenses. So now you are left with a couple alternatives. Either you fall into debt relying on student loans or you get a job. I have personally opted to avoid student loans and will be graduating in one year without any debt. I will be earning my Masters of Divinity, while holding a full time job, being married, and having a daughter. So here are some tips on how to have a job, go to seminary, and have a family (if that applies to you).

Let me start with some honesty. Having job and going to seminary is no easy task. I currently work full time as an accountant at a very large local church and take an average of 9 credit hours per semester. I also work with someone at my church that goes to seminary and is the Connections Pastors of our church. This individual admittedly thrives on feeling overwhelmed at times, yet he will confess the difficulty and struggles of working full-time, going to seminary, and yes…have a family. So I guess what I’m saying is don’t expect this to be a walk in the park but have hope that it is possible because there are a lot of people doing it.

Tip #1 – Apply for scholarships

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being diligent about applying for financial aid. The more money you can receive in financial aid equates to less hours needed to work (if you have an hourly part-time job that is flexible of course). However, even if you have a full-time salaried job, receiving financial aid can only help you and lighten the financial burden of going to seminary.

Tip #2 – Find a job that is flexible

This relates to Tip #1 but let me go into it a little deeper. Several scholarships require a minimal credit hour enrollment per semester in order for the scholarship to be awarded to an individual. At Denver Seminary most scholarships require a minimum of 9 credit hours. In addition, depending on the size of the school you are attending, required core classes can potentially be offered only at specific times and days. This means that when you apply for a job, there needs to be a clear understanding between you and your boss that you are going to seminary and that there will be certain times and days where you have to be in class. Consequently, whatever job you apply for, be sure that they are flexible.

Tip #3 – BE ORGANIZED!

Reality is you are going to be extremely busy and have a full schedule. This means you have to schedule your time accordingly and have clear expectations with yourself (and your family if you have one) about what times you will be studying, what your work schedule looks like, and what your semester looks like. Personally, I create an excel spreadsheet every semester outlining all the due dates from all the syllabi so I know exactly what is due and when. This honestly takes a lot of weight off my shoulders and reduces my stress level enormously. I cannot emphasize the importance of being organized enough. The danger of not being organized is missing due dates, not getting things done at work, and added stress on the family. So be organized and perhaps create a schedule every semester.

Tip #4 – Create Margin!

I realize that your schedule is packed. However, you need to create margin in your schedule. In reading some of the Gospel accounts, we encounter Jesus during His earthly ministry going off to be alone with the Father by Himself. This is a practice that is essential to both our physical and spiritual health. Some of you may know that age old “joke” where people refer to Seminary as “Cemeteries.” I believe this “joke” (though not really funny) is a result of not creating enough margin and also not ensuring that you are doing Biblical Studies, studying Hermeneutics, Church History, Biblical Languages, Apologetics, etc…in a way that is more than just to earn a grade. Creating margin brings life to your studies and ultimately allows you to retain information better and having a better understanding on how to apply what you are learning. This is because you are going back to the Father while engaging in His word. My Executive Pastor told a story about how he went into Seminary in love with Jesus but left Seminary in love with the Bible and Ministry. The danger of going to seminary is your love for Jesus gets replaced with His word and your Ministry. Creating margin ensures that you focus on your relationship with God, which allows you to place everything you are doing in perspective of who you are in Christ rather than being defined by what you do.

Tip #5 – Have Fun

My last word of advice is to simply have fun. This doesn’t just mean having fun in class but be sure to have some hobbies and passions outside of school and work. This is similar to creating margin but focuses on enjoying life a little. Whether it is hiking, fishing, running, camping, painting, playing music, watching movies, playing paintball, or hanging out with friends, be sure that you enjoy the gift of life. I personally enjoy playing paintball and find it to be a stress relief that re-energizes me. Furthermore, a possibility of having hobbies is making friends with similar interests and ultimately leading them to Christ if they are not believers yet.

So these were a few of my tips and they have helped me throughout my seminary career. One final word of advice I have to offer is, when you work and go to Seminary don’t be ashamed if you don’t finish in three years. I have been doing this for over five years now and going slower at times has even benefited me by allowing me to process the information more effectively. So if you have to slow down, don’t be afraid to do so.

By Joseph Siacunco. Joseph is a Masters of Divinity Student at Denver Seminary located in Littleton, CO. He currently works at Mission Hills Church in the Finance Department and is a Certified Public Accountant. He has worked in Accounting since 2004 but also serves at his church in other ways including teaching and preaching.

Calling: Inspired, Informed, and Confirmed.

Posted by on Jan 28, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

A man wiser than me graciously said to me, “A call to ministry is a call to prepare.”

So my question is: How do I know that I am called?

Well, I could shoot off some thoughts for you on that question, or I could point you to Mack Stiles, who is an all-around better man than me.

Mack has been in student ministry and now missions for decades. A year ago I had the privilege of taking students to CROSS Conference in Louisville, where Mack spoke to us about the call of Christ to missions (you can watch his talk in full here). What he said is profitable not just for those considering the mission field, but also for you, wherever you find yourself in considering vocational ministry of any type.

In this first post, let me share with you a few points from Mack’s talk that stood out to me and, I hope, will be helpful to you as you think about your calling. The following are my notes from his talk. All notes are mine and not officially representative of CROSS Conference.

What does it mean to be called? 

When we think about a calling, we often think about what we do for God (“I’m called to be a pastor, I’m called to be a missionary, I’m called to marry this girl, etc.). 

Or we speak of calling in connection to our feelings. Have you ever heard a friend start a sentence like this: “I feel called to…”?

On this point, please take note that the Bible never connects calling to feelings. Feelings come and go. God is steady and constant. Our feelings can be strong yet deceitful, impassioned yet uninformed. 

“Strong feelings do not make a call.”

When we take the time to intently read our Bibles, we discover that our popular use of the idea of calling is quite different than its use in the Bible.

How is the idea of calling used in the New Testament?

  • Calling to God for salvation (Acts 2:21)
  • God calling us to sanctification (2 Timothy 1:8-9, 1 Thessalonians 4:7, Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 4:1)

Your calling according to the Bible boils down to 2 things:

  1. You are called to be a Christian. God calls us to be genuine disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. You are called to be holy, to be growing in Christ-likeness as maturing disciples (which means striving to obey all that he has commanded).

So brother, sister, what is God’s call on your life? It is to Jesus.

That said, it is good to desire working in vocational ministry. Paul affirms this in 1 Timothy 3:1, saying that it is good to aspire “to the office of [overseer/elder in the local church]”.  Desire is good; but it is not sufficient. More is needed.

Inspired

Your desire needs to be inspired by God’s perfect Word.

So what do you want to do? Why do you want to do that? What has God said that inspires you to that?

Some, not all, will desire to be missionaries. Are they moved by fluffy fantasy, or by passages like 2 Corinthians 5:10-21?

  • Are they inspired, knowing what’s at stake in peoples’ lives; that they are going to hell, are under judgement, and must hear the gospel, repent and believe in order to be saved?
  • Are they inspired, compelled by the love of Christ, desirous for the world to know his glory and splendor?
  • Are they inspired, convicted that the gospel is true, in all places, for all time, across all cultures?
  • Are they inspired, knowing that Christ’s death makes us alive to God and calls us to live for and serve others?

Informed 

Your desire needs to be informed by the gospel.

The work to be done in full-time vocational ministry boils down to the proclamation of the gospel.

Though there are many good things in the world to put your hand to, Christian ministry requires the proclamation of the gospel, such that if there is no gospel proclamation, there is no Christian ministry being done.

Romans 1:14-17, Colossians 1:28-29, Galatians 2:14

Confirmed

Lastly, your desire needs to be confirmed by the local church.

Has the church recognized and affirmed your desire, or do you intend to proceed as a self-affirmed, self-confirmed minister of the gospel?

  • Does your church agree with your ministry aspirations?
  • Does your church affirm your ministry skills?
  • Does your church give you active positions in the church?
  • Has your church asked you to pursue vocational ministry with their blessing?

Do you love the church?

The best way to demonstrate your love for the church is to become a member of one. 

Are you a member of a healthy local church? If not, God’s will for you is to become one, before you continue pursuing ideas of vocational ministry. You cannot obey the NT commands for Christians apart from church membership.

Do you understand the church? What makes church “church”? Can you answer that question from the Bible?

According to Mack Stiles…

  • The church is a gathering of baptized believers who covenant together in love to meet regularly under the authority of the Scriptures and leadership of the elders.
  • The church gathers regularly to hear the word, sing, pray, give, practice the sacraments, and practice discipline.
  • or, as Ligon Duncan puts it, to read the Word, pray the Word, preach the Word, sing the Word, and see the Word (ordinances)
  • The overarching mission of the church is the Great Commission, to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe everything that Christ has commanded.
  • The church exists to glorify and worship God by being the visible image of the gospel in the world.

So brother, sister, is your aspiration to full-time vocational ministry inspired by the Word, informed by the gospel, and confirmed by the church? May God grant you humility and wisdom as you consider these things.

Written by Dave. Dave is a church member, a college minister, and a nobody.

5 Tips for Moms Preparing for Seminary

Posted by on Jan 21, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

My husband encouraged me to take classes when we moved from Southern California to Dallas to attend seminary. “Sure. Sounds great,” I thought.

Two years later and baby #2, taking a seminary class seemed like an ideal, rather than reality. During a worship service I prayed, “God, should I audit a class?” His still small voice spoke to my heart, “Apply, don’t audit.” Apply? To seminary? Did I hear him right?

After talking with my husband and a few mentors, they all confirmed that going for my seminary degree would be a wise investment. Okay, breath. How to do motherhood and seminary life?

Here are a few tips I have learned in my motherhood and seminary journey to help any mom thinking of balancing studying and family life.

1. Husband on board. I could not take classes and study without the help and support of my husband. Seminary stretches the marriage and requires lots of attention. Include your husband in on your dreams, prayers, and desires. Pray for him to see God’s plan for your education. Waiting on your husband to be on board is the most important step before seminary (after sensing it is something God wants you to do). When you are both on board, you persevere hand in hand when days are long instead of resentment fracturing your relationship (although that can still happen). I think communication and unity in your marriage honors God more than taking a class. I have seen a marriage dissolve and addictions develop because both people were not in it together.

2. Priorities. Write it all out. What are your family responsibilities? What can you take off your plate to add study time? Can you hire someone to help with the kids or do you have family close by? What is most important to your husband during this season? How can he help? I sat down and asked my husband what his priorities are, which are different than what I thought they would be. He also picked up managing our finances and helping with meal prep (he loves to cook). Then, I crossed off other priorities (like deep cleaning everything every week) to make room for studying. Things may not be as perfect as you would like, but sacrifice needs to come somewhere. What are you going to say no to, so you can say yes? For me, I had to say no to everything besides attending church, caring for my family, and school. That is it for me in this season. In a few years, I will be able to get involved more in church life and reaching out to the community.

3. Creative time management. Write it all out. What do you need to do and when? When will you grocery shop? When will you do laundry? When will you play with your kids? When will you rest? When will you connect with your hubby? When will you read and study? Write out everything you do and organize your chunks. My schedule never goes as planned, but it helps to be present with your kids when you know it is time for that—and to switch gears when it is time to study.

4. Say Good-bye to perfection. There is no room for perfection in seminary life. You cannot be all things to all people. Let it go. No one is super mom. Most normal people have messy closets somewhere. Do everything to the best of your ability with excellence, knowing nothing will be perfect. That is why it is important to chop down your commitments beyond family and school as much as possible.

5. Grace. Grace. Grace. As a seminarian mom I sometimes feel lame for not being as pinteresty as my neighbor, not signing up to be room mom for the kids, or not attending to the home the way I would like. But I know in the long run, filling my heart and mind with the truths of God’s Word and understanding of theology will serve my family and community more than a cute craft or brilliant professional-looking birthday party. And as my kindergartner and preschooler “pretend” to be mom—they say they’re studying the Bible to share it with others. A value I am okay that they have.

So, mama, if you are thinking about auditing or applying to seminary, my final advice is: DO IT. This is one season in your life you can take the plunge and your family and community will be better for it. Just let go of perfection and cut the number of priorities on your list. This generation needs women who are Biblically literate and can teach them how to study the Word from a feminine perspective.

Looking forward to reading your Bible studies and blogs some day soon,
Seana Scott

By Seana Scott. Seana Scott, seminary wife, seminary student, mom, writer, and speaker. SeanaSScott.com, facebook.com/seanascott.

How to Leave Friends Well

Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

The hardest part about moving away for seminary has been leaving my fantastic network of deep friends. I went from living with twelve other guys in a three bedroom house to living with two other guys in a four bedroom house, both of whom have full-time jobs and hobbies of their own. While I can’t say I’ve maintained my old friendships perfectly, these six practical steps have helped me leave my friends well. The first three are listed here, and the next three are in Part II.

1. Commute phone calls. My commute to school is twenty minutes both ways, as is my commute to and from church. What I’ve done with that time is call my friends on speaker phone every evening. I have a list of names that I cycle through. If someone doesn’t pick up, then I call the next one. After having painted the same picture of new life in a new state several times, I just decided to write it up and share it on Facebook. Since then, I’ve gotten to answer more specific questions from my friends and ask them what their lives look like now. Twenty minutes that would have gone toward listening to music or podcasts now goes towards maintaining friendships.

2. Loving what they love. Before I left home, at my going away party, I asked each of my friends to write the title of a poem, book, film, or album that they particularly treasure. If where our treasure is there our hearts will be, these pieces of art have my friends’ hearts. Memorize and treasure the poem along with them is a very practical way of holding my friends in my heart. Now, my phone calls can even be more meaningful. I can say: “Andrew, I finished reading Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam. What is that you love about it so much? What life experiences did it help you understand? How is that going to continue to influence your choices in the future? My favorite stanza was…” The alternative is either Netflix or picking new books or poems to read on my own, which only feels like extending my feelings of isolation.

3. Understanding awkward changes. I read an article a few weeks ago about how friendships change over time. We can’t relate to each other in the way that we used to. We won’t meet for lunch every other Thursday. We won’t lead a ministry together. I won’t be able to call them up when I’m having a difficult night and need a hand to hold. When you maintain friendships over distance, everything has to become intentional–nothing is routine. Often, that’s been awkward. Sitting at a lunch table with nothing to say is more comfortable than sitting on the phone with nothing to say. I’ve taken great comfort in being able to communicate with them: “Things are changing. I’m going to stick with you, but I’m not sure how that’s going to look or what that’s going to feel like.” I do know, though, that these friendships that are gifts from God are going to continue, however they end up looking.

4. Weigh old dreams realistically. In college, my friends and I talked a lot about things we wanted to set out and accomplish. The thing is, it’s going to be impossible to accomplish everything we talked about. I can’t start a business with Andrew and Alex, move to Connecticut with Sam, plant a church with Josh, start an alumni association with Karl, found a seminary with Ian, and live in Darrick’s basement in Virginia. Reflecting on that fact can really get me down. But on the other hand, it’s not impossible to accomplish some of those things. Maybe Josh and I can still plant a church after all, and maybe we can do it in Connecticut with Sam. Some of those old dreams are still possible, and it’s been a major blessing to get to still consider some of these things with my friends over long distance.

5. Prioritize travel. I’ve taped a sheet of paper above my desk at home with all of the friends I want to visit. I’ve slimmed my budget down so that I rarely eat out at restaurants and I prioritized cheap and free activities over ones that will cost money. I’ve also disciplined myself to stop buying books for pleasure reading. I’ll read them for free online, borrow them for friends, or stick to the books I already own. As a result, I’m freeing up a little bit of money each month that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and I’m putting it toward cheap flights to visit friends. I just got a very cheap airfare on the condition that I don’t bring and carry-on or checked luggage. I’ve simply request that my friends provide me with food, clothes, lodging, and free airport transportation. My point here is, by slimming your budget and asking for help, visiting friends is more possible than you may have thought.

6. Vigorous resurrection hope. Nothing has been more helpful to strengthening my hope in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come than the promise that I’ll be together with my friends and my God for eternity. I’ve used my sadness over their absence to help set my mind on things above and anticipate the return of Jesus. I’ve never talked about heaven as concretely as I have in the context of leaving loved ones.

If it’s strong friendship that is keeping you from following God’s call to seminary, I urge you to consider obeying Him with the aid of our certain hope and my practical tips.

By Jack Franicevich Jack is an MDiv student at Denver Seminary. His interests range from the doctrine of the church, theologies of friendship and work, preaching, hymn-writing, and grassroots ecumenism to competitive table tennis, cooking for large groups, classical literature, and organizational development.

Seminary Vs. Family

Posted by on Jan 7, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

The first time that someone warned me about how seminary would affect my relationship with my wife, I said what I’m sure most people in my situation say: “That won’t happen to us.” My seminary has been very upfront with how strenuous the experience is on relationships. You have to devote time to reading. You will spend more hours with your head in a book than you ever have. And you will study for Greek until you’re blue in the face. I don’t think it’s possible to feel good about your abilities pertaining to the Greek language (if you don’t believe me, just wait).

But, that won’t affect our relationship. We’re better than that. We’ve been busy before. I’ll tell you, you’re right, you’ve been busy before. But seminary will affect your relationships. Papers need to get done THIS week, that book had to be read by yesterday. You will be tempted every single day to put your grades first.

You will have good intentions. I’m sure of it. You will hopefully come into seminary with some lines drawn. I would absolutely recommend restricting all of your classwork time to 5 days a week, or cutting yourself off every day at 5 p.m. Those are some great practices that will help you on your way.

But that might just get you a B. More time would boost that grade up to something you really want it to be. More time and effort could help you write a paper that you’re proud of. But, that additional time and effort could push your wife and kids right to the fringes of your life.

I’ve been blessed where I am. My seminary has been very up-front with me. I came into the seminary experience expecting difficulty, expecting to struggle with finding time for my family.

At orientation they told us about how to find our “reasonable best”. That concept has helped me out greatly. We all know what our “best” looks like. Our best is when we spend time working on that paper at our peak time of the day, when we are feeling at our best. Our “best” may also involve late, lonely nights with a Mountain Dew and potato chips. Our best takes us being at our best, giving everything we have to that paper until we feel we cannot possibly improve upon it. Your “best” will ruin your seminary experience. My school told me that, day one.

They want your “reasonable best”. They want what you can give without giving it all. Give your work your full attention until 5 o’clock or until your wife gets home from her job. Read as much as you can, but your professor knows that your relationship has got to come before reading every last footnote. Give what you can reasonably give. I don’t think anyone wants to meet the miserable creature that crawls out of seminary with a poor marriage, a dead social life, and a bitterness towards hard work. Give what you can give, but preserve what is important. Take care of yourself, and your family.

By Nate Roschen, Small Town Pastor / Denver Seminary Student / Blog: overproportionate.blogspot.com

The most influential professor

Posted by on Jan 2, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

While going to seminary students have the tendency to ask, “What professor should I take for this class?” or perhaps, “What professor should I avoid taking?” Sometimes these questions orbit around the deeper concern, “Which professor can I gain the most from, both academically and in my future career?” Sometimes we gauge value based on personal gain and self-interests. Sometimes we have the tendency to value people who are capable of propelling our careers forward.

My proposition to you however, is that the most influential professor is not necessarily the one who is influential in the marketplace or is well-published. The most influential professor may not be the one who knows someone who knows someone who can give you a job after you graduate because ultimately, your ability to retain your job is not based on who you know but by your character, your ability to lead, your relationship with Jesus Christ, and your effectiveness at guiding others to Jesus Christ. Therefore, I propose that the most influential professor is the one that helps bring you closer to Jesus Christ.

Now, there are a lot of qualities and character traits that people can possess to help bring others closer to Christ and I’m not about to go into those and the infinite number of combinations of different traits that can impact someone’s ability to lead others to Christ. Rather, I will speak of one professor that I have consistently returned to in seminary that has had obvious and significant impact in my own life and walk with Christ.

His name is Dr. David Mathewson and he is one of the associate professors of New Testament at Denver Seminary. I label him as the most influential professor I have studied under because he not only possesses a humble and pastoral character but he also communicates the Bible well and helps students understand the Bible holistically, that is, he acknowledges and helps us understand significant thematic narratives in the Bible. Combined with his personal humility and pastor-like approach to each student, he draws us closer to the heart of God and helps us understand the truths of God. Now, I have not received all A’s from him because he is also a fair teacher who wants to make sure we don’t take the truths of God lightly. So what makes a professor influential in my opinion? Here is a very short list of traits that have impacted me:

  1. Humility. I personally highly value humility. I believe humility reveals an understanding of the nature of humanity in the presence of a Holy God. Practically speaking, humility makes discussions with the professor so much easy and less intimidating in the guaranteed event that they know more than you. Humility is a tremendous asset and powerful character trait that often goes unnoticed and undervalued.
  2. Christ Centered. This trait goes hand in hand with humility. For obvious reasons this is an important trait to have if a professor is going to be a positive influence in the life of the student. The way they teach and live out their Christian life is dictated by their centeredness on Christ.
  3. Academics. As a professor, they should be expected to be an expert in their field of study. Certainly, if they are teaching you something, then they should know something about the subject themselves. Related to Academics is their giftedness as a teacher.
  4. Gifting. They should be gifted as teachers. Their ability to tie Scripture together and reveal grand truths of God imbedded in the Bible is important. A significant amount of my personal growth has come out of seeing deeper truths that often go unnoticed. The professor’s ability to draw these out and make them clear and plain is a significant skill they should have.
  5. Pastor Quality. Perhaps this is more of a personal preference but the ability of the professor to “pastor” or “shepherd” me is important. Not every professor is a Pastor but some are and certainly not every Pastor is a professor and most are not…at least in the seminary or professional sense. However, the professors who also happen to be a Pastor hold a special place for me. They seem to have the ability to teach well yet display empathy and deep care for the growth of the student (not that others don’t I just seem to experience it more with those who are also Pastors).

So this is my short list and I hope you have gained some insight as you enroll in your next classes.

By Joseph Siacunco. Joseph is a Masters of Divinity Student at Denver Seminary located in Littleton, CO. He currently works at Mission Hills Church in the Finance Department and is a Certified Public Accountant. He has worked in Accounting since 2004 but also serves at his church in other ways including teaching and preaching.