What I did learn in seminary

“They don’t teach that in seminary!” 

“I wish I had take a class on that in seminary!” 

“I learned more in a year of ministry than three years of seminary.”

“My head grew but my heart shrank in seminary.”

“Don't go! They call it semi-tary a reason!” 

"Seminary isn't real ministry."

I hear phrases like that and can’t help but wonder, "What’s the point of seminary?"  Did I waste five years of my life?  If so many people are running around talking about what they didn’t learn, then is it really necessary?  Does seminary create more problems than it solves?

I don't think so.  For me,  the four and a half years I spent in seminary (I guess I’m a slow learner) were formative for my life, character, and my mind.  Seminary was a safe place to ask difficult questions.  It was a place to develop good habits for ministry, and unfortunately some bad habits.  It directed my academic interests and helped me build relationships with other pastors and professors that continue to this day. It also confronted, as any masters program should do, my priorities of time and money.  So I did learn in seminary.  A lot, actually!

Was my seminary education perfect?  By no means!  But I was far from a perfect student, and I guess I never expected to learn everything there is to know about theology in ministry in a few years anyway. 

So rather joining the chorus of those who decry the shortcomings of seminary education, I’d like to talk about what I did learn in seminary.  Looking back, here are a few lessons I learned that I'd like to elaborate on further.

  •  You have no right to be wrong when you handle the word of God.
  • God breaks those he uses.
  • Proving someone else wrong doesn’t make you right.
  • Practices, not just ideas, have consequences.
  • What it really means to preach grace.
  • All the work I get to do is the gift of God.  
  • And I'm sure there's a lot more to be added to the list.