Nine Things That Seminary Could Not Teach Me


I want to make this as ... I've got a good bit of content to go through here mainly because I want to make sure we have something to actually engage with and interact with and it'd be kind of fun to just workshop the whole thing. I'll just run back over to the introduction here. My name is Collin Hanson and I serve as the editorial director of the Gospel Coalition, which means I oversee just all of our content from conferences to website publications and things like that. We're going to be talking about today is a book that we have coming out next year called "15 Things Seminary Couldn't Teach Me." We don't have time for 15 so we're just going to get down to nine. Also, nine that are actually applicable that we can discuss relationally, things that I've experienced from a church leadership.

I'm an elder at Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Joel Brooks, you heard him this morning, is our lead pastor and yeah so just it's a fun experience. We've been a part of Sojourn Network for a couple years now so let's jump in. Essentially here's the problem that we're running into and why we would work on this book. We're bringing together contributors, different types of churches, size churches, different time in ministry, different ethnicities, different denominations of course. We brought them all together to topically engage different aspects of pastorally ministry. Essentially the idea is that in my years of work at TGC and in the church I've noticed that there's a great guys are graduating from seminary with a great deal of theological knowledge and a zeal for the gospel and getting the gospel out there but it's not matched by corresponding spiritual maturity or wisdom that can only come from experience. What's happening is guys are either burning their churches, the churches are not going well or they're burning out themselves in ministry within a few years. 

There's also of course the dynamic where many today are not really going to seminary and they're questioning the validity of seminary at all. There's pluses and minuses of residential seminary in particular. I do work out of a seminary and attend a seminary so I do highly recommend it and at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham we have only residential options. I highly recommend it for anybody who can do it but it's very clear that a degree at a seminary can't make someone a pastor. Only the church can call someone and ultimately confirm that subjective inward call. 

I want to work through these nine different things. If you're taking notes jot down some questions, we can come back and we can cover some things and focus in on some things in particular. Let's start out with this basic idea, knowledge and credentials are not enough. Not enough for ministry. Jeff Robinson writes this chapter and this is a book that will be out next year for T4G. Jeff was here earlier teacher, he's our senior editor at the Gospel Coaliltion, a pastor here at Christ Fellowship Church in Louisville. We need to start with the recognition that knowledge and credentials are not enough in ministry with Paul's own words from 1 Corinthians 8 verse 1 to 3. A passage that's probably familiar to you though more difficult to apply. "Now concerning food offered to idols," Paul writes, "we know that all of us possess knowledge. This knowledge puffs up but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something he does not yet know as he ought to know. If anyone loves God he is known by God." 

It's kind of the ultimate verse in seminary, you just want it plastered over your door posts in your apartment. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Paul advances that argument, by the time it culminates in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, "If I speak in the tongue of men and angels but have not love I am a noisy going or a clanging cymbal." We always think of this passage in terms of weddings but I think it's very applicable in this context. "If I have prophetic powers and I understand all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have all faith to move a mountain but have not love I am nothing. If I give away all that I have and if deliver up my body to be burned but have not love I gain nothing." It's very easy to go to seminar, lose even your love for God but lose your love for other people as well in that process.

It's fascinating to me that when we look at Paul's life when he's challenged as far as his apostolic authority what does he use to be able to establish his credentials? He refers to his suffering, he refers to his persecution, he refers to living humbly among them. He boasts in his weakness that exalts Christ, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. We know Paul is a tremendously learned man having studied with a leading Jewish scholar of his day. We come back and always remember we are jaws of clay to be used by God, frail pots to be able to convey God's grace to show that God's power is ultimately decisive, 2 Corinthians 4:7. One of the first thing we can't learn in seminary, or at least is difficult to learn in seminary is that knowledge and credentials aren't enough. Second thing we can't learn in seminary is how to shepherd my wife. For pastors in particular, here Danny Akins writes about this, "Seminary can be tremendously stressful for marriages but that only presages harder challenges to come in ministry."

Danny Akin writes this chapter again we can start out with Ephesians 5:25, the call for all husbands, "Love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." Thing I keep coming back to though in ministry is why do we so often give up our wives for the sake of the church? In a complete reversal of that passage. I think there are actual reasons why we're led astray in those ways. Ambition, which it happens in ministry. A need to be needed by others. Ministry is a helping profession and we often go in with a needed to be needed by others or we just over commit in part because of those first two things, the ambition and the need to be needed. I think it's crucial to remember that God, I mean this is kind of hard to say, but God doesn't need your church. If He's going to work in revival power in your community to reach your community with the Gospel it won't just be your church that's doing that, that's not going to happen. 

Where Jesus promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church but not necessarily your church or my individual church. The reason I say that is because we have this sense, this overinflated sense of our own importance that leads us to sacrifice our other callings and sacrifice these things that God has asked us to do. You're hopefully not. Maybe if you've just planted a church you might be in this position but hopefully you're not the only pastor in your congregation. I don't necessarily mean paid vocational minister, I mean somebody who's been called and gifted to be able to serve and to teach but you are your wife's only husband, you are the only father to your children. 

It's not a consequence that Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:1-5, one of the famous passages about character and the necessity of character in ministry. He says, "This saying is trustworthy, if anyone aspires to the office of overseer he desires a noble task. Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober minded, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money." Heres the key, "He must manage his own household well. With all dignity keeping his children submissive. For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?" I have experienced this a number of different times in my life and I've seen it multiplied many other times as well. Trouble at home cripples ministry. It's not something you can hide. It's something you can perhaps fight through for a time, we're all going to have struggles and challenges but ultimately it's something you can't hide decisively.

Let's move on to the third one seminary can't teach you, and again I think seminary actually develops some bad habits in these cases. The third thing is, seminary can't teach you how to follow your lead pastor when you disagree with him. Matt Capps talks about this, "Most of us at some point in our career are going t work for another pastor unless you switch careers later in life or plant your own church. But even in those cases you're probably going to work for someone else. You're also not always going to be in a church where you agree with everything that's being taught even at your own church. Sometimes not even a church you'd want to attend. You're actually working at." When I talk about disagreement here I want to be clear that I'm not talking about immorality or illegality, in terms of those differences. Those are differences that require a different approach to disagreement, closer to confrontation and beyond.

Immorality and illegality are real problems that you will face in many churches. I've seen lots of abuse and heard about a lot of abuse in churches and I always get questions about why didn't the elders or the other leaders or their pastors, why didn't they speak of and why didn't they speak out about this problem? I've reflected on that and concluded that it's because there are only a certain number of sins in ministry that are seen as being black and white the lead to a clear safe fire able offense. Okay? Sex outside of marriage, that's a black and white thing. Stealing, that's a black and white thing. You don't do those things. What do you do when your pastor is just a jerk? What do you do when he's abusive in certain verbal ways? When he's prideful or when he's greedy?

The trouble is we're all on a spectrum somewhere in those situations. It's hard to know what would be a fire able offense or clearly illegal or immoral in those cases. The problem is when those allegations get brought up and discussed it leaves you open for the counter allegation of partiality or jealousy toward the lead pastor. It becomes very difficult to explain more broadly in a congregation of what's happening when conflict in ministry. Here's the dirty truth as well as what happens if church leaders confront a lead pastor in sin one of the threats they always have to recognize the lead pastor can always leave and if he leaves he can often take the people. When takes the people he takes the money. What does he leave? He leaves the debt. He leaves the facility, but not the people. This is a real problem that a lot of people face. 

A solution. What's the solution here? I do think partnership, like we're talking about here, with other healthy congregations who can come in and offer discernment and prayer and experience from older and wiser outside churches, which is not just between the senior pastors but true church partnership within networks like Sojourn Network. You ultimately need a number of different outside counselors in these cases, including people who are going to push back on you and help you to see your own problems and ultimately mature humility and Christ likeness can get churches through a lot of different things. It's just sad to know that in some cases you can't just count on that in a church.

We come back to what you do in those situations when you're on a staff like that, whether it's ... I'm speaking here mostly when you're leading up not leading down, but this works in both cases. Matthew 18:15, Jesus's words, "If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother." Among the many things that I conclude from this passage I think we have to say that this means talking to the person who has offended you and has sinned against you, not about that person. A major problem especially for junior leaders in congregations. For those of you who are lead pastors you sympathize with this even more of a desire. The worst thing is when you hear, well we've been talking and you know that's some scary stuff that comes after that phrase. I've found that if you think about this as a lead pastor, what will make you respect somebody and even be more open to their critique? I think one of the clearest things is when those junior leaders in a church are willing to ask the pastor for critique of them to direction and response and feedback. It shows a humility that I think makes it more possible for them to eventually in appropriate ways offer that kind of criticisms to somebody in a senior position. 

It's where you come back to these words of Jesus, this is where we find life and truth. Matthew 7:3, "Why do you seek the speck that is in your brothers eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" One of the things that I realize about this, having been a junior leader in organization stuff like that is that I knew a lot more when I was younger. Was a lot smarter, I had a lot more answers when I was younger. That's something you just can't learn without experience. There's just certain things you can't realize.

I've found overall in a healthy leadership culture that good leaders, I mentioned this before in my introduction to Joel earlier today that good leaders attract other good leaders. If you're looking for a congregation you're looking hired as an associate pastor or to train as a church planter or something like that you're looking to place that attracts other good leaders, equips good leaders, retains or at least sends them out on good terms. Bad leaders are often quite charismatic at first and attractive because of their growth and because of their dynamism but they quickly burn out and chase away other leaders. This is the key, they chase away other leaders with integrity. They tend to keep [inaudible 00:15:05] fans on the church, the people who wouldn't have a job without bowing to the throne of that particular leader.

Seminary is not going to equip you for that. Seminary just can't prepare you for those kinds of situations. Fourth, what else seminary cannot teach us? How to lead my leaders. This could be for lead pastors or junior leaders, we're all in a position of trying to disciple others. It was pointed out to me when I was in seminary but in my internship in a church that leadership in the church is about [inaudible 00:15:39]. This is not the way leadership is in every other sphere of life. Think about sports or think about the marketplace or think about the military. You can often have command in clear authority. That doesn't work very well, especially in congregational churches. I do think this kind of leadership by persuasions is ultimately it's less efficient but more effective. Beware of the kind of congregations where the pastor can make too many decisions on his own without any kind of other insight from people. It's less efficient but often more effective.

When you're looking for leaders, again Juan Sanchez really runs through a really helpful grid here in this chapter from our forthcoming book. He starts out with the simple reminder that when you're looking to develop other leaders, again things that seminary doesn't not equip you very well to do, you're looking first for character. You're looking first for 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1. The basic character requirements in ministry. The next thing you're looking for in intending to cultivate another leader is care. Think about 1 Peter 5, shepherd the flock. I think this is so helpful when Peter talks about what this looks like, he specifically calls out shameful gain. Not looking for leaders engaged taking shameful gain and not domineering. This indymic. That kind of culture in our churches of people who want the power, even how small that power is. That's crazy. You can have a small church but still have power hungry leaders. Ultimately you're looking for those people who you're going to have to constantly go back and remind yourself, you're not looking for leadership the way the world judges' leadership but the way the Bible talks about leadership, the way Jesus molded leadership.

You start with the character, you look for that care. Next you look specifically for elders and other pastors' competency but only third. We often look for that first, this is only third. Especially in young leaders who the character and the care are coming along a little bit more slowly, sometimes it's easier to start with the competency, which is the ability to teach, specifically for elders and for pastors. Combine all of that together and ultimately something you can only see with time is how those things come together, the character, the care, the competency with time. Then you look for credibility. Again that comes from maturity and experience when the congregation can rise up with a call and confirm, yes this is a man who truly has been gifted by God and we will follow him with credibility. Again you can't lead with persuasion without credibility in your congregation.

One thing that I've noticed again and again is that when training up leaders it's better to wait too long than to give authority too soon to leaders. It's also because somebody who shows those character requirements and true care for other people is somebody who can demonstrate a willingness to be patient and grow. When some people aren't given authority and they react negatively to that it's a pretty good red flag that you've got something that's gone wrong there. I'd encourage you as you're leading leaders to look for this kind of Biblical leadership, to invite it, to search for people who are already doing the work even though no one is telling them that they need to. A leadership developing culture is going to give a lot of credit away from senior positions and accept responsibility. 

Let me cut to the chase on this. Your congregation is going to hold you accountable anyway. The lead pastor will be held accountable for everything his other pastors and elders do. You might as well accept the responsibility, it'll help you gain authority and credibility with your own other leaders. When you do that you give credit away and accept responsibility you'll have a humble culture that can be replicated. I would also say the flip side works for senior leaders as well, when you're giving critique you have to accept critique as well. That can be very difficult especially when it's coming from younger people who are less experienced but it is a way of helping to establish your credibility with younger leaders.

Alright so this is a good transition point. The fifth one, you done learn in seminary how to handle conflict. Jay Thomas at Chapel Hill Bible Church, this is one of my good friends from back in our days in Chicago together. One of the most difficult things for younger leaders in churches to realize is that conflict is not an abb oration, it is the norm of your ministry. It will never be otherwise. Comfortable churches beyond that, comfortable churches are not churches on mission. They're not dealing with messy people and messy topics, they tend to be comfortable and not missional. I did learn this in seminary though. It was jut a one credit class that I took at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School through like a pastoral practices class or something like that. It was like issues in counseling, that's what it was. I want to hear what you guys think of this. The kind of conflict that you have to bring in mediation for almost always, I was told like 90% of cases, almost always involves a youth pastor or a music director. A youth pastor a music director. 

Now, I had to think why would it always be those cases? Why? I think I realize the answer, because those are places we hire for skill and availability and not character. We hire because they're available and they're willing and they know how to play guitar or they like to hang out with youth. [inaudible 00:21:44] for character there. Often they do tend to be younger so it's just a lot of that maturity and experience hasn't come. You're not going to be hiring many 50 year old youth pastors. Okay? That's just to keep in mind right there. It's just a recognition that voiding this problem of conflict is not going to make it go away in your church. You don't need to come in guns blazing, I mean that can certainly make things worse, but you're looking for ... I read about a church in Kansas City once that was able to achieve a great deal amid a dying conflict riddled congregation by learning how to in savvy ways set traps for people to fall into or let people set their own traps and fall into them. You're not so much the public rebuke but almost just the invitation for people to reveal who they really are.

There's so many just twisted power dynamics and political manipulations that can happen in a congregation and there has to be some kind of savviness and patience from behalf of leaders to know when do I just directly confront and deal with this but where I can afford, can I let this play out a little bit because if I let it play out a little bit it'll become obvious to everybody else. Seminary isn't going to be able to teach you that, I'm not really going to be able to teach you that either, but there are a few things that we can practice to handle conflict well. One of them is don't do it over email or text. Do not. You probably already know this. 

Speaker 2: [inaudible 00:23:22].

Speaker 1: Or Twitter. Oh goodness. If you have a lot of church members on Twitter you've got bigger problems in your congregation. Whenever possible face to face. Make people come. I had a church member come not too long ago and it was one of those, I'd like to talk to you about a few things emails so you know it's coming. It was 14 pages of accusations. You know the only thing I could do in that situation was essentially have the back of my other leaders, have the support of them so they know what was going on and then essentially just in my house for 30 minutes. No email exchanges, no text messages. 

The problem with email and text is they often come at bad times. You know, you're in bed, it's late at night, it's Sunday after a service and you're drained or it's Monday morning when you're checking your email. It just doesn't go very well. One thing that could also help practically speaking with conflict in your church is do not in so far as possible speak ill of other churches. That helps to ensure you don't create a culture in your own congregation of that kind of criticism. You guys are probably aware of this as well. Be aware of any new members or visitors who speak ill of their former churches. I described it to somebody yesterday as if the pastor suddenly realizes that he probably has a red dot on his own forehead, or will soon. It's hard if you're planting a church or you're young in a congregation because you're just excited for anybody to be there. Especially a young church that's still forming it's culture, who over relies on people who are dissatisfied with their previous churches is not a church that's likely to survive.

Ultimately with all of these things there's no other solution than the Gospel, there's no other solution than Christ. Than the way of John the Baptist that we smut decrease so that Christ might increase and that whatever motives people might have, only that Christ might be proclaimed. Paul himself certainly dealt with a great deal of conflict. I think what I've seen again and again and again just paten wise if you're humble as a pastor you're teachable, you confess your sin then you can handle conflict, because you're not going to be perfect. Nor is your congregation, only Christ is. You set that kind of tone and you're going to be okay.

Alright we have just a few more of these. Number six here is the need to fight for my relationship with God. Vermon Pierre writes about this. He's one of our TGC council members who's out in Phoenix, Arizona. I'd highly recommend a podcast, a lecture that Tim Keller gave at Beeson Divinity School last Fall on ministry. You can probably just look up Keller Beeson Divinity School or ministry podcast of the Gospel Coalition. This is what he said about ministry, "Ministry will either make you a worse or a better Christian. But it'll push you in one direction or another. You will go in one direction or the other because either you're going to live up to your calling by grace or you'll fake it, which is going to make you worse."

Ministry doesn't give you any other option. One of the biggest challenges I run into so often that scares me to death. Moved into a new house the other day and I thought, or a few months ago, I thought, what would it be like to walk out of this house and to lead my family out of this house knowing it's because of something that I did in ministry. It's one of the only places we know where there are certain practical consequences for our families if we fail in our religious performances. That scares me to death. Losing not just ... I can handle, if I screw up I can handle being the idiot, but to know that my kids would face the loss of their home, their reputation, their friends and my wife is very difficult to handle.

All of that pressure just doesn't really help. It just makes things a lot harder. The only thing I can come back to is to think it's just a few things to help us calibrate on these things. One of them is whether you're doing the Lord's Supper once a month or whether you're doing it every week to recall this is a meal for you. This is not just another kind of religious performance, this is for you to feast on the grace of God that comes through Christ. Do this in remembrance of Me. The bread and the wine are sustaining grace, a visible, tangible grace, feel, reminder of God's sustaining grace for us in ministry without which we can do nothing.

For you I'm not sure what other disciplines might look like that keep that relationship with God. For me, my big struggle is private prayer. For me, my best outlet for love for God is singing. Not in a group or something like that necessarily, though I do like that as well but just singing hymns, singing spiritual songs. Also books. It's not necessarily the latest books like this that I'm talking about. It's often fiction. There's a lot, an incredible amount of really encouraging edifying fiction, even that relates to pastors, that I find to be very encouraging. Books like "Gilead" from Marilyn Robinson, very helpful to me. It's a sensitive topic but thinking about believers in your own church do you have other people like that who you can be honest with? I know in some cases as your church may not be the case but are there other pastors that you might be able to turn to in a spirit of partnership in your community.

The bottom line is that you need a Barnabas, you need an encourager, you need someone else to remind you why you got into this in the first place. That Christ is going to hold you fast. Kevin De Young wrote recently in a blog post for the Gospel Coaliltion that the two essential aspects of ministry are love the Bible and loving people. I think that's a pretty good mark of a need for recalibration in your church if you're thinking, I can't stand these people. You know, I can't do it. Again there may be many reasons why that's the case but it's a point where there's going to have to be some recalibrating going on there. Make no mistake there probably will come times when you feel that way. There are moments, I notice it in my own job, where I just can't bear the thought of doing it anymore. I find it almost always goes away within a day or two. It's like the old saying for pastors, never make any decisions life decisions on Monday. Never make life decisions on Mondays. 

Of course the Bible, if the Bible becomes just another guilty responsibility, I'm not saying it's always going to be the same kind of dynamic experience that you might have had when you were younger or even different times in your ministry. It's hard to effectively pastor without a love for God's Word, teaching it as well as just doing it ourselves. There are other practical things, making sure you take your day off, letting others preach and actually sitting there in the congregation and listen to them, not just while you're on vacation. Exercise. Just a reminder again that without God we can do nothing, that when we're weak He is strong. 

Alright let's move on to seventh one here. Can't learn in seminary how to pastor people who are different from you, especially because in seminary it tends to be a lot of people who are like us because after all there's very few people at seminary that are interested in this kind of stuff. We often think in this category about ethnic differences or even missionaries with national differences. I think actually sometimes it's easier to imagine people around the world, like, learning to love people who are so different from you because they're around the world than it is to love your own family or your own neighbors who just get on your nerves in certain ways.

This chapter is written by a good friend of mine named Jeff Higby. We were at Northwestern together at undergrad, we were at Trinity right around the same time. He lived outside of Los Angeles, Washington DC and Chicago and has since graduating from seminary served as a pastor of a free church in Underwood, North Dakota, population not even 1,000 people. I was able to help him with some things because I grew up in South Dakota in a smaller town even outside a smaller town. I was just so moved by his desire to know these people and to love these people and to become one of these people. It reminds me of something I actually talked a little bit in my last [inaudible 00:32:39] here, that this practice of pastoring people and caring for people who are not like us is fallen a little bit out of fashion because of church planting and because of cultural fragmentation, I think. I wondered how much of our church planting is determined by our lifestyle preferences, by the kind of people we want to hang out with and frankly the kind of church we'd want to go.

I wonder what Sojourn church looks like in rural Kentucky or Alabama. I also wonder why nobody is ever called to those places from our churches, that seems weird. Anyway, maybe that's just my church or the churches that I know about. It doesn't seem normal. The go to verse, whenever you're talking about loving people or communicating to people that you aren't like you is 1 Corinthians 9:22. Paul writes, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." What I can't figure out about this verse, why we almost always interpret as going somewhere that we fit in. That seems so odd, in fact the opposite. Micah Fry's is a pastor in Chattanooga. He wrote his article for the Gospel Coalition on contextualization. He said, "While modern contextualization often asks how far can I go with the Gospel, Biblical contextualization asks how much can I give up for the Gospel?"

I guess we acknowledge that when people are going overseas of how much they have to give up just in terms of family and culture and dress and food and things like that. That's harder again for us to imagine with our own neighbors, especially if it's perceived as somehow sliding downward in the socioeconomic scale. You know to hang out with those people who like the things that we don't really like. I'm not talking here about Christian freedom, I think that's an important virtue here around Sojourn. I'm asking you to submit to manmade laws that just tie churches together in legalism. You have liberty where Scripture does not constrain. I want us to remember what is the purpose for freedom? What does the Gospel tell us is the purpose of freedom? Galatians 5:13-14, "For you were called to freedom brothers, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, you shall love your neighbor as yourself." 

Alright these last two, I'm going to close off with just some personal things that have been hard for me in particular. Maybe they are for you as well. The eighth one here that seminary does not prepare us, cannot teach us how to avoid the temptation to make a name for myself. Scott Sauls writes about this out of Nashville. We put it this way, "Wanting to be the next John Piper or Tim Keller is a terrible reason to go into ministry. But I should know." I'm not actually gifted in the same way as really these guys. I'm not actually gifted in the way that make me really tend to want to make people famous but I remember in seminary thinking suddenly that I really was maybe called to be a church planter in a major secular city. It's funny how all of us suddenly had that realization in seminary for some strange reason. Maybe it's because we were listening to Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll, I don't know.

I found that while a very good and noble calling that God can clearly give, that in my case in particular it was more about my need for relevance, my need for fame than it was for the need of those cities for the Gospel. It wasn't actually motivated by that much. I remember thinking, well nobody they don't ever write about anybody in England who didn't pastor in London. That's the way these things work so I'm just trying to be honest here about some of those challenges. A convicting story for me has been the story of Simon the magician in Acts 8. You may recall he confronted the power of the spirit on display from the apostles. He desired to have that same power himself but what he wanted was the demonstration of the Holy Spirit but not the Holy Spirit Himself, not the experience of the Comforter, the Consoler Himself. That kind of desire is not going to lead you to lay down your life. It's not going to lead you to sacrifice for others in love as Peter and the other disciples did out of their love for Jesus.

This has made me wonder if there's something that's gone wrong in our fundamental criteria for evaluating a ministry. I'm all for giving an encouraging vision of church ministry like why would you not want to do that? Teach the Bible and disciple people, spend all your days in coming to places like this and learning. That's all to the good but I remember thinking, well how many of us are hearing come be in ministry. You get to stand in front of people, eager to hear you explain the most important things about life and love and eternity. That's a pretty good gig there. You know you get a lot of kudos for that. I wonder if we truly understood at the outside of ministry that it's often more like Jeremiah's call in Jeremiah 7:27. "So you shall speak all these words to them but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them but they will not answer you."

To remind people that you will be hated, you will be slandered. That's a privilege, because Christ Himself was hated and slandered so this is identifying with Him. That money will be tight, that worse at some points in ministry you might even wish you got overt rejection because that's better than pervasive indifference. That's better than just standing up week after week proclaiming the majesties of the grace of God and having people give you a little golf clap in the end. Almost long for that. Again, it's a good reminder here that as we refuse to make a name for ourselves to realize there's never going to be one church alone that reaches a city. If we're really about building the kingdom of God together in partnership it's going to have to be many different kinds of churches with many different kinds of leaders, many of them who are going to be unlike you and me in their gifting. 

Here's the couple kickers here. In fact, some of those incredibly successful churches are going to be those led by people who have less ability and gifting than you, but actually see more numeric success than you do. I think about a good test for our desire for revival in a city is to desire and to believe and to hope and to pray that it would start with the church down the road from us. That sets the proper posture of humility that's necessary in a culture of confession and repentance. I think there's a couple ways, if this is a temptation for you like it is for me, to think about calibration questions here. One of them is, how do you feel in ministry when you fail? How do you feel in ministry when you fail?

I'll say for me, if I fail in a way that's tied to a kind of gifting that I have or desire my tendency is to collapse. Just collapse. I can tell you some gruesome stories there but it's obvious there as the Lord's grace to show me my idolatry, my sin. It can be a pretty gory thing. There's also the Lord is kind to us to also show and reveal this idolatry and how you feel when you succeed in ministry as well. I've found not only in my own life but in any number of other leaders that when you're thinking this way about ministry you always want more. You always want more success, it's never enough. Nothing is ever enough. No amount of books sold or people in the pews. You can have 30,000 people but hello, that's 30,000 people. I mean that's not even that many people in the grand scheme of things in this world. There's probably not even that many people in most major metropolitan cities and that would be one of the largest churches in the country. You're never satisfied because only Jesus is enough.  In fact, these thorns that come from God are for our good, to be able to keep us humble to know that it's only about Christ power at work in us. 

The last thing, what they don't teach you in seminary is what to do when no church hires you. This has hit home for me very personally. I remember thinking about my internal call to pastoral ministry and I talked with one of my former bosses who was a good friend. We were sitting down because actually after seminary he wanted to hire me again to go back not in pastoral ministry. I remember him saying, well Colin, anybody can have an internal call. That doesn't mean anything without an external one. That was just some truth I needed to hear in that moment.

There was a lot of clarity that came with that, I think this will help you as you're trying to train up some other leaders or if you're in a situation that I was in. It's a great way of being able to evaluate that call in your life, to know if you are just looking for a job and looking for a way to make money or if you were truly following a call. Because the call to elder, the call to teach and to shepherd does not guarantee a salary and benefits. It does not. Again, it talks about a worker being worthy of his wages, which is good, but there's no guarantee that comes in there. In fact, Paul renounced that in his tent making and living among them so that they couldn't tie this back to him. I would say again if you're a full time pastor I hope you can recognize, you're not the only person called to ministry in your church. That can give you a healthy approach and appreciation for those who are not doing that full time.

When I didn't get hired I could tell you story after story of just baffling things about why or some ways I don't know why. It was helpful in that moment, and something they don't talk to you about in seminary but I realized as is tarted to go back over these character requirements that we've been talking about. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. I mean, I was not good at managing my household, not particularly hospitable, gentle, peaceable or self controlled. Because again, I don't think those were really natural for me. At the same time as well, they're not cultivated in seminary. You learn things, you become opinionated, you stand up and tell people what the Word of God says but those character requirements were really drawing to be realized and the Lord had plenty of sufficient reasons not to call me at that time into pastoral ministry.

I want to conclude by saying that again, seminary is valuable but no sufficient. I think groups like Sojourn Network are helpful in ongoing education, equipping, mentoring. It's not that your ministry ends in seminary, it's just beginning during that time. Jesus knows that. There's plenty of grace, there's grace abounding for us in that. I wonder if we can understand that and truly appreciate that. That you can trust in the finished work of Christ, even if you're not a finished work yourself in ministry.