Failing Seminary for the Glory of God

Towards the beginning of the semester a professor gave out an article written by Mike Yaconelli titled, “Getting fired for the Glory of God.” As one who has worked in a local church for over 9 years, I found his article challenging in some points and reaffirming in others. Regardless of if you agree with Mike or not, the article should make you think.

As I approach the end of the semester I’ve given much thought to my experience in various classes and have decided to modify Mike’s article for the seminarian. So, without further ado:

Failing Seminary for the Glory of God

After spending time in seminary, there is no doubt in my mind that the institution can not fully prepare a man or woman for the calling to vocational ministry.

I’m beginning to believe that if those who are in seminary follow the lead of the One who called them, bad grades are highly possible.

Why? Because, in general, seminary is incomplete. The seminary has become a place of information and not transformation. The focus has been shifted from who you are to what you know. Spiritual formation has changed from a life lived before the cross to a 2 hour class on Thursdays. Prayer is not the air we breath but a formality to start a lecture.

You disagree? Why don’t you try these seven suggestions, and see how long you keep straight A’s.

Transformation, not information

Focus your energy on not merely getting information, but rather focus on how that information transforms you more into the image of Christ. Whether Greek, hermeneutics, Old Testament, New Testament, history, homiletics… above seeking facts, seek in that class to be transformed more into the image of Jesus.

Give the wrong answer

Don’t simply give the answer you know your professor wants to hear. Humbly give your answers out of your conviction… even on a test.

Read the important stuff

Read your bible as much as, if not more than, you read books about the bible.

Stop listening

Don’t just sit in class listening to things about God. As his splendor, glory, and goodness is revealed to you, respond to him in prayer… right then and there. Repent, give thanks, worship, praise, petition… Do not forget the King you are hearing about in class is right there in your midst. Again, do this in all your classes; from history to homiletics to Hebrew to hermeneutics.

Put your family first

Don’t let your reading list, papers, and exams rob you from your family. Say yes to your family first.

Ignore your GPA

Evaluate your seminary success by love for God, passion for the gospel, and heart for your neighbor… not numbers and letters on a piece of paper.

Love the Church

Live out your seminary experience in a local church. Find a pastor who will invest in your life and mentor you in ministry. Then, in turn, invest yourself into the lives of the church and community.


Note: I love seminary and I love my seminary. However, I am willing to do poorly in my classes in order that I might excel in the things listed above. These two things are not mutually exclusive, but I’d argue that focusing on the above will very likely result in lower grades (maybe not failing, but would you be willing to fail in order to do the above?)

Written by
Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns is a past Marketing Manager at Faithlife and now works at Redemption Hill Church in Richmond, VA.

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Written by Ryan Burns
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