I don’t know why, but when I was growing up in church, I thought that Bible college and seminary were like being in church Monday through Friday from morning until evening. I have no idea why I had this image in my head, but my own journey led me to seminary where I had a variety of experiences. Instead of me talking about those experiences, I’ll only share three fundamental principles to help you, your children, or students in your church survive Bible college and/or seminary, succeed, and walk away knowing God better.
Don’t Assume Everyone is Perfect. (Social)
When working with other Christians, we often suffer with the disillusionment that everyone will be a perfect Christian. We think there will be no conflict. We assume that all things will go smoothly when working with others. Take Jesus, for example. Judas betrayed him. Peter denied him. And the rest of the Twelve, except John, ran and hid. If the apostles who walked and talked with Jesus had issues, why on earth would you expect those around you to be any different? In the same way those around you lack perfection, so do you. Keeping this in mind will allow you to both receive grace and give it to others.
Being at a Christian School Does NOT Excuse You from Academic Excellence. (Academic)
Some students in Bible college or seminary think that they shouldn’t put forth the extra effort when it comes to academically rigorous courses, especially Biblical languages. In my personal experience, the most common reason I have heard for this is, “I just want to be a pastor.” For you to claim that God called you to your anticipated vocation and led you to school to be educated for that career, such a statement reveals the low view you have of your calling. What you do, especially with regard to the call of God, should be done with excellence. Always remember, you expect the BEST from those who serve you. You would hope your doctor is an excellent doctor, not just a mediocre one, wouldn’t you? If that’s the case, why not remember that what you are doing deals with something much more important than the person’s life here on earth, but with the future of where they will spend eternity.
When Reading the Bible becomes a Chore (Spiritual)
By the time I finish my Ph.D program, I will have been enrolled in 8 years of formal theological education. I’m going to let you in on the secret that some Christians in Bible college and seminary will never tell you. Sometimes, I DON’T WANT TO READ MY BIBLE!!! I read it for devotions; I read it for class; I use it as my primary text for homework. I read it in church; I use it for Bible study. Don’t get me wrong, God’s Word is good. It’s nourishment for the soul. At the same time…“much study makes one weary” (Eccl. 12:12).
So, what do you do? Well, you can’t control what your pastor preaches or what the Bible study leader talks about, unless you’re the pastor or Bible study leader. What you can do is keep your spiritual and devotional life fresh with some practical ideas. Mix things up a bit. If you choose to use the Bible, focus your devotional reading from the Old Testament if you’re studying the New Testament (and vice versa). Remember, there’s no rule that says you must use your Bible for your devotional time. A scripturally-based devotional book can help you maintain your spiritual life, while not being directly associated with you picking up the book you spend your entire day studying.
The ultimate goal of your theological endeavors should not be to get a great job or to gain more knowledge about the Bible or God. These are great, but your ultimate goal should always be to know God more and, as a result, be transformed into the image of Christ. Remembering the above will hopefully aid you in maintaining your spiritual walk while wrestling with life’s challenges as a student in Bible college or seminary.