Forming the Character of our Future Ministry

Many seminaries advertise their core emphases, God-centered and Bible-saturated curriculum, world-class faculty, modern facilities and great equipping strategy. Thank God for these places of higher learning. We want to be prepared for ministry in the church today, and the church needs the academy, and vice versa. Yet, story after story reveals the crux issue with seminarians after graduation is one of character not competence.

In all our learning of theology, biblical languages, let us not forget the reason and focus of our studies, and for our being Christian: Christ.

He is our Source and our Joy, and the One whom we desperately need. Without Him we will perish, and with Him we can endure all things. Cultivating this relationship is essential in seminary as in all of life. For without Him we can do nothing (John 15:4). We can get a new church, retake a course, but we have no other Savior. Cultivating the inner life of our souls is key when hitting the books and preparing for ministry. The motives and habits we form now will continue for decades and influence all whom we come into contact with (not the least our families).

On this point, Robert Murray McCheyne offered some essential advice to a young seminarian more than 150 years ago:

“Do get on with your studies. Remember you are now forming the character of your future ministry in great measure, if God spare you. If you acquire slovenly or sleepy habits of study now, you will never get the better of it. Do everything in its own time. Do everything in earnest; if it is worth doing, then do it with all your might. Above all, keep much in the presence of God. Never see the face of man until you have seen His face who is our light, our all. Pray for others; pray for your teachers and fellow students.”[1]

Although McCheyne never made it to 30 years old, in his pastoral ministry he saw great fruit. The key, however, was not in the fruit, but in his own faithfulness, brought about by heading his own advice, to “above all, keep much in the presence of God.” He took the call to know, love and enjoy our Triune God above all else, and saw it work out in a thousand practical ways. His character was deeply rooted in Christ, the result of daily faithfulness in the small things.

While in seminary, are you likewise knowing, loving and enjoying God, intentionally in His presence, and watching Him daily transform your character as you stare at Him? (2 Cor. 3:18).

[1] Robert Murray McCheyne, letter to seminary student, 1840. Memoirs of McCheyne, edited by Andrew A. Bonar (Chicago: Moody, 1947), p. xvi.

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Written by jeff-patterson