Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Seminary Students, Local Church Service, & Conversion

A friend of mine has posted a long post on some issues concerning seminary students and service in the local church.

One of her concerns is that the local church expects too much of seminary students, and in a sense I agree. Jennifer and I know some students who display little or no evidence of the grace of God in their lives. Keep in mind that I was formerly a lost Bible college student, so I'm not speaking hypothetically here! I can tell you from experience that one of the hardest places for a religiously unregenerate man to become converted is the area directly behind the pulpit.

Another of her concerns is the unwillingness of some students to serve the local church. She takes issue with that, and I share her concern.

I have included my comment to her post, but reading her original post (Are we any different?) would definitely help place my comment in the proper context.


I enjoyed the rant! I know what you're saying about unfaithful students. I know of a church that had a couple of SBTS/Boyce couples, and neither couple was all that faithful. In fact, they were some of the poorest attenders when it comes to worship.

Of course, I realize that the tendency is to think that we're the better kind of SBTS (or Boyce) students, which is an equally dangerous position of pride. But, yes, I do know students that I'm fully convinced are not called to ministry and are attending SBTS for the knowledge.

However, I can relate to those kind of students since I was last during most of my time here at Boyce. I had the head knowledge piling up, but my heart was as cold as ice. I thank God that He waited to save me after I came to Boyce and studied for years. It helped me see what life is like as a religious, yet unregenerate man. It makes grace and faith seem all that more real and amazing to me.

So...I guess in the end we should pray for those problem students and exhort and correct them when the need arises. And, let's not rule out the possibility that there are probably several unregenerate students walking among us...I mean, I was one.

If you’ll permit me, I’d like to quote Richard Baxter and Charles Spurgeon. After my conversion, I was given the opportunity to address my congregation and let them know that their Minister of Music had just become a Christian a few days prior…It was somewhat humiliating to admit that I had just come to know the Savior, but humility is an integral part of conversion.

Anyhow, Baxter says to “Take heed to yourselves lest you should be void of that saving grace of God which you offer to others, and be strangers to the effectual working of that gospel which you preach…many a preacher is now in hell, that hath an hundred times called upon his hearers to use the utmost care and diligence to escape it.”

Spurgeon says, “How can [the preacher] daily bid men come to Christ, while he himself is a stranger to His dying love? O sirs, surely this must be perpetual slavery. Such a man must hate the sight of a pulpit as much as a galley-slave hates the oars.” And, “to be lost under the shadow of a pulpit is dreadful, but how much more so to perish from the pulpit itself!”

Okay…That may have veered from the topic of hand, but I guess that my concern through all of this talk of conversion is that:

1. There are seminary students who have had not experienced the miracle of regeneration and are living lives devoid of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. As such, we should not expect such students to display a humility that is God-given. It truly took a miracle of God for me to be able to lay down my pride and quit trying to convince myself that I was who I was not. I was not the believer that I claimed to be, for my idol was myself. It’s only by the grace of God that I came to realize my lost condition and turn to Christ.

2. We, in the American church, are quick to put the talented into positions of leadership. Although I was a music minister and had the training necessary for the task, I was groping in the darkness when it came to my spiritual health. I agree that we too often push SBTS/Boyce students into positions of leadership simply because they’re enrolled in an institution. However, they may not be a member of the universal body of Christ altogether.

3. On a side note…I believe that seminary students should be willing to serve. If God has called them to the ministry and to a place of training for Christian service, I simply cannot understand a test-tube understanding of sanctification and service. We do not grow into Christ’s likeness in a vacuum, separated from the exercise of Christian service in the local body. I’d encourage every SBTS/Boyce student to play an active role in the local church. And, this doesn’t mean being shoved into a position of leadership for which they are not ready. However, they should be willing to crawl out of the cave of comfort and be willing to venture into the unknown territory of serving the body of Christ.

I hope that makes sense, and I apologize for being so verbose, but you really got me thinking about these issues, and I wanted to write down my thoughts before they quickly exited.

Blessings to you!!


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