On the value of seminary

Anyone who knows me would laugh if someone asked if I place a high value on education. Of course, they would say. Larry breathes education, they would say. And while that's a little over the top, it's not far off. I love learning and I love teaching, and I believe both have great value.

I have graduated from college, then graduate school, and finally, seminary. I was once asked, in this process, what benefit I expected to receive from seminary, and what difference my time there would make in my life.

That's a good question, I think, though it's interesting that nobody has ever asked me that about college or grad school. But I think it's especially important concerning seminary, because, first, seminary promises something that others don't, and because, second, what many seminary students have "received" is to graduate burned out on God and the Bible, and utterly unequipped for ministry. I know some of those, two of which are now house painters.

I am beyond happy that I was able to attend seminary. It was a long-time desire for me. I am also happy that I was able to attend a seminary - Fuller - that had a larger vision than just a narrow slice of the church and world, and that saw the importance of spirituality and leadership alongside theology in following Jesus.

I consider the most important things I received from seminary were not "technical knowledge" of scripture or theology. More important by far was to place a high value on my own spiritual health, on remaining in an intimate relationship with Jesus, and on thinking - carefully, clearly, and biblically - and not living on assumptions. I learned to "think large" and see that God was at work in places I never expected. And - Wow! How cool is this? - that he was inviting me in as a junior partner.

These things are more important than being a "scripture and theology technician." A good grounding in theology is important, but it's a means to an end, not an end in itself. A leader cannot take people where he or she has not been. And there is life in a healthy relationship with Jesus, not in theological concepts, as important as they may be.

So in answer to my questioner and others who are thinking but not asking the same question, what I learned in seminary was how to think and live in relationship with God, to see the world through his eyes, to see life in view of his purposes, and to act intelligently, reflectively and effectively in his Name.

That's a lot, and that's enough.

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