When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I thought two things: thank you, Jesus, and never again. College was a difficult time for me (long story; suffice to say the Lord showed me great mercy), so I was grateful to finish and excited to never have a first day of school again.
It turns out I was wrong. My first day in seminary is Monday, August 17. I’ll be taking online classes and working toward a Masters of Arts in Church Ministries through Southern Seminary (based in Louisville, KY). The thought of taking seminary classes is still something of a shock to me. If you’ve known me for a while, it may come as a surprise to you too. Still, the Lord is affirming from every direction that He has given me a gift in making seminary an option. The Lord has one-by-one removed hindrances from taking classes, and I’m thankful for the ways He is providing. He's made it clear to me that taking classes toward a master's degree is my step of faith.
If you’ve got a few questions, I’ve got a few answers:
Why are you taking classes?
1. I want to know Jesus better. The Lord has used recent years to grow my faith and my understanding of Him. For a time, I sought to grow in my knowledge of God for prideful reasons. The Lord destroyed that, and in some ways, I’ve been relearning everything I thought I knew. The older and more mature I get, the more clearly I see God and myself. I pray the Lord helps me see Him more rightly and more humbly. In taking this step of faith by enrolling in seminary classes, I believe the Lord will increase my faith and expand my heart.
2. I’ve got questions, and I want to learn. In the last few years, I've asked one of our pastors different theological questions, and just about every time, he hands me a book (probably one he read in seminary) and encourages me to find the answer there. In reading books and finding answers (whether or not it’s a solid answer or I understand the answer), I’ve learned to love the journey. I find myself praising the Lord more as I find “answers” (I use the term loosely). I find myself encouraging others more with what I’ve learned.
3. I want to minister to others, specifically women in the church. The more people I know and the more I find fulfillment in the Lord, the more I want others to find their fulfillment in Him too. I see a trend of women seeking Jesus for the comfort and security that He provides rather than because He is what we ultimately need. Jesus is not a fix. He rescues us from sin and frees us to live for the greatest purpose — following Christ.
4. It’s an opportunity to try something new. I enjoy my life. I love my jobs, my church, and my friends. I’ve been in generally the same place for nearly four years, and it's easy to find a comfortable niche and stay there. But sometimes I need something new to stretch me. I don’t know what the Lord has for me, but I expect He’ll use my time in seminary to help me grow in following Him.
What do you want to do with your degree?
The short answer is I don’t know. I’ll take classes for as long as the Lord provides the money, bandwidth, and desire. If I end up with a degree, I’ll be excited. If not, I will have learned a ton and I’ll be grateful for that. At any rate, my desire is to disciple women and help women learn to study the Bible. This can play out in a million ways, and I’m already doing this in some of them. My first and primary goal is to learn for myself and to use what I learn to benefit the Church (the universal church and the local church), not to pad my resume.
I’ve made some friends at Southern in my work with Doxology & Theology, and they don't seem to be academic for academic's sake. The professors are well-known and respected in their fields, and their aim (from what I've seen) is equipping others for ministry. I align pretty closely with them theologically. I can take classes online, and I won’t pay an arm and a leg.
What classes are you going to take?
I’m starting slow by taking one class online: Systematic Theology 1 with Dr. Bruce Ware. Since most of my week is spent at work, I want to be careful to allow margin for friends and community as well as coursework. We’ll see how it goes. My hope is to dip my toe in the water and slowly wade in.