For Leaders, and for All of Us

It was the contrast that caught my attention. One of my colleagues said he knew the blog series "How to Stay Christian in Seminary" was for a niche audience, yet I knew I'd been helped by it (though I'm not a seminarian). The focus may have been on seminary, but the wisdom each blog post contained could be applied to a much broader audience.

And I saw three different areas where the rest of us benefit from this topic:

1.  The leaders it produces.

Seminaries exist to produce leaders for our churches, mission agencies, non-profits and institutions of higher education — so seminary really matters.

But God matters even more.

As both Jonathan Parnell and David Mathis pointed out, students in seminaries can become so focused on their studies and skill development that they forget their very reason for wanting to attend seminary. Pride can replace passion for God, and reason can replace affections.

And a leader who isn’t interested going “deeper in grasping what it means that a man was crucified to save the world” is less than worthless to those of us who sit in the pews. Leaders who spoil in their love for Jesus become a destructive force in his church. Yes, we non-seminarians benefit greatly when seminary students "stay" Christian.

2. The warnings to the rest of us.

The warnings the two men provided were directed at seminarians, but nearly all of them could also be directed toward any of us. Warnings such as “We’re all too prone to take God’s grace for granted” and “However clear our subjective sense of ‘call to the ministry’ may seem to us, the objective calling to husband and father is much clearer.”

I’ve taken God’s grace for granted. I’ve set aside my objective call to serve my family for the sense that some other activity was vitally important. That's as much for me as for any theology student. It's a warning and an encouragement to keep pursuing God.

3. The preparation it provides.

God’s call to become a pastor is an unusual call. It makes sense that we would have institutions created to help prepare men to live that calling out. But pastors are just one part of any healthy church:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. . . But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.  (1 Corinthians 12:14, 18–20)

The seriousness of the work for which seminarians are preparing must also be true of me and anyone who claims Jesus as King. We have been given the greatest gift possible — we are sons and daughters of God. We are sent into the world as his ambassadors. For God's glory and our joy we must serve the church with the gifts we've been given. Pastors are not supposed to do it all.

But, like pastors, we must not serve by trusting in our own knowledge, skills and abilities. If we are not utterly dependent on God in our service, we're just like the pastor (or seminarian) who believes that he can minister in his own strength. We can also cause damage.

We must care about our seminarians. If we care about the Bride of Christ, we will care deeply about those institutions that exist to train up the men who will lead the coming generations. And more than the institutions, we care for these leaders-in-training, because in doing that we care for the rest of us.

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John Knight is Director of Donor Partnerships at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments, and a seizure disorder. John blogs on issues of disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.