why am I in [seminary]? - part 1
I've had to answer this question an I've-lost-count number of times - from old friends, GCM partners, new friends, professors - those know much about me and those who are meeting me for the first time. I've found it tough to answer, because there are so MANY answers. So I think I'll start slipping them in here, one at a time. Could be ten or more. :)
Why am I in [seminary/theology grad school/divinity school]?
1. Not to "become a pastor."
Maybe it's weird to start with a negative, but this an important first thought. For my GCM friends, we know that we don't tend to think of pastors as professionals like doctors or lawyers, each with their professional degrees. And we don't believe a degree can make a pastor.
I still agree with this. I still think that in Paul's 15 descriptions (in 1 Tim 3) on what an elder should be like, only one involves learning of the book-type: "able to teach." Others (self-controlled, hospitable, more...) are descriptions of character, and this is grown through spiritual formation: being quick to listen, gaining experience in failure, and cultivating humility.
This is part of the reason why it feels weird to use the word "seminary" as opposed to "study theology" or "grad school" - the first reminds me of that professional model that in some contexts worries me.
ps - Most of my fellows students do see this as pastor training - and I recognize this is the majority view of the current American church - and it'd be foolish for me to say that God hasn't blessed that. I take my perspective humbly and cautiously. Still can't shake the feeling that people need more experience than this to be a pastor, but kudos to North Park for heavy emphasis on spiritual formation and internship experiences.