The Seminarian: Swordsmith, Wordsmith, Aerosmith?

by Greg Vander Horn, M.Div.

“You’re gonna do what? You’ll make a great pastor!”

I heard that a lot when I started here at Calvin Seminary, but at the beginning of my time here in school, my old self was still outshining my new self and my calling. When I really think about it, though, there is a lot of the way I used to be that I can use to relate to the people that God will send my way as a pastor. Along with the new tools provided to me at seminary, I feel the things I have learned in my life will give me the theological tool box I need. Let me explain.

In Ephesians 6:13-19, Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God. Including the final and most important tool, the sword of the Spirit, the holy word of God. All seminarians needs to know the Bible. Not only does the pastor-to-be need to be armed and ready at all times, for strength and guidance in one’s personal walk with God. But it goes without saying that the Bible on the desk of any pastor will be the first tool used in any conversation regarding direction in life, no matter who you’re talking to. Being a good swordsmith means keeping your sword play sharp.

Ephesians 4:29 shows us very eloquently to not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may be beneficial to people who we talk to. The verse itself uses wholesome proper words to build us up. When God place people in our lives, we are to greet them as Christ himself would greet them with graciousness and tact. In my own life I have been challenged many times where it was very hard to keep my tongue bridled. Sometimes I succeeded with God’s guidance, other times I have failed. It is important to remain a good wordsmith at all times. A man of intelligence uses words wisely. Even though I am told that there are times when “New Jersey Apologetics” may be the last course of action.

This leads me to my final point. The pastor needs to be able to rock and roll through life. This doesn’t mean that we throw away the Psalter hymnal and have a five piece rock band in church (even though I personally think a rock band playing hymns would be great. I love Rock and Roll, and I love it loud. Just ask my poor family.) What I am saying is this: we have to be able to relate to all things in life. I opened up this piece with a very true story in my life, and at first it hurt me. Then I began to realize something important. God put me in all the places in my life to teach me things in preparation for these times now. The highs and lows, the fast anthem rock songs, and the slow ballads.

Every seminarian has been through this and should let their own life experiences help them relate and be able to encourage those that come to them in church that may not have the same upbringing and lifestyle. I plan on sitting down a lot at a local pub and exchanging a little “theology on tap” with people in my life if that’s where they feel more comfortable at first, as long as they come to church where I will feel more comfortable later. I promise the house band will be even better.