It is coming up on two years since I finished my degree at Southern Seminary. I am thankful to be done and now be in full-time vocational ministry. It is nice not to have the continual pressure of papers and Hebrew vocab. On top of that, it is nice not working two jobs while being a full-time student and trying to keep my wife and kids a priority. It seemed that my life went from 110mph to a normal speed of 65mph since I graduated. I can actually work a 45 hour week and have energy left over. I love what I do and the church I serve in Iowa.
Recently I've asked myself if there is anything I regret in seminary? If I went back would I do anything different? Take different classes? Be involved in different ministry?
I don't believe that on an academic level I would do anything much different. SBTS is a fantastic place to be and I recall almost daily the encouragement from my classes. If I searched deep inside my soul, I suppose I would find that I did have some slight joy in memorizing Greek paradigms.
But there is one thing I know I would do differently if I could sneak into Doc Brown's time machine and go back to 2006: I would be more intentional to apply the gospel to my own heart first. Now I do believe I grew in my love for Christ during seminary. It was not the typical "cemetery" experience that some told me it would be. I saw my sin on many occasions and by God's grace repented. I sincerely believe I left with a greater love for Christ.
But the main focus for me during seminary was preparing for future ministry and not as much applying the gospel to my own life. I was getting the necessary tools so I could enter this thing called pastoral ministry when I got my M.Div. This is a noble pursuit but can still be lacking something significant--what Christ wants most from us is our heart's devotion to Him. He wants us to pursue Him first. He wants us to be applying the gospel promises to our lives wherever we are. Being a seminary student (or a pastor) is no exception. This should have consumed me all the time but I confess it didn't. Maybe some eager 26year old getting ready for his first semester at seminary will stumble on this post someday and it will help him pursue Christ and the gospel first as he prepares for ministry.
At the end of the day, the only degrees that the Bible calls us to are degrees of glory (2 Cor 3:18). We are not to seek a Master of Divinity more than we seek to be mastered by Divinity.