The short answer is “yes!” Seminary is intended for you, to train and be formed for a ministry of cultivating communities of disciples.
The long answer starts with “no, not exactly.” And here’s why:
Because, seminary, at its heart, implores you to stand firm even when it’s difficult for you in your earthly frame; to give your whole heart, even when it’s challenging to pour yourself out for the kingdom; and to trust God, because what you’ll do in seminary is not for you—but all for Him.
The following excerpts are from a seminary address by Calvin Theological Seminary President Jul Medenblik at Commencement 2022. They show why seminary might be for you, as a next step in your future; but also why seminary is intended for something so much bigger than you, or any one person: that is, God’s plan and kingdom.
The Apostle Paul writes the following in 1 Corinthians 15:55-58:
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
In keeping with this text, I invite you to center your ministry with these few words –
Stand Firm. Whole Hearts. Trust God.
These few verses do give a picture of ministry. We have already recounted some of the trouble in the world and there is trouble in the text. In the text, Paul points us to the power of the resurrection and also how that message is to be the foundation of our being messengers and witnesses of that gospel!
If there was no resurrection of Jesus Christ, we do not have a message to share on Sunday mornings or any other day of the week.
But with the certainty and from the certainty that even death is ultimately defeated by Jesus Christ, Paul says here is what we are to do:
I. Stand Firm.
In a world where there are shifting sands and pressures, Christians and Christian ministers are to stand apart and stand upon the gospel message of Jesus Christ – Who came. Who lived. Who died and who lives again. We stand on that gospel message and we are also called to have that message invade and shape all of our lives.
Paul says – Stand Firm – Let nothing other than this gospel and the God who created you, redeemed you and lives through you move you.
For those of you who began your Calvin Seminary training with a class on Ephesians by Dr. Mariano Avila, you will recall the call to live out our unity and our ministry by faith in Christ through grace alone. Stand Firm on that unity in Christ.
II. Always Give Yourselves Fully to the Work of the Lord – Whole Hearts
There is a hallway that leads to the chapel at Calvin Seminary. Along one wall are tapestries that were made by Edgar Boeve – long time faculty member of Calvin College and a friend of Calvin College and Seminary who died just a few months ago.
As I listened to friends and family share key memories at a memorial service, I heard this consistent refrain. Edgar Boeve gave of himself – fully. He gave of himself – completely.
As one of his good friends, Nick Wolterstorff, summarized – Ed – He gave himself. He did not hoard himself.
Do not hoard yourself. Give of yourself – not a little and not even a lot. Give of yourself – fully to the work of the Lord.
For your ministry to be a ministry that honors God – give of your whole hearts. Do not be half-hearted. Do not stand on the sidelines.
Our hearts can be less than whole hearted when we follow the temptations that so readily can tangle us up. In the church at Corinth, there were temptations named of money, sex and power and those same temptations exist.
I urge you to be aware of the temptations that you will face – day by day. Don’t go into ministry alone and don’t go without being fully and wholeheartedly connected to the living vine – Jesus Christ.
III. Know that What You Do For the Lord Matters – Trust God
Your Labor is Not in Vain!
At some point in the future – not today – you will wonder – Is ministry worth it? You will preach, teach, lead, counsel, visit and nothing will appear to change. You will doubt yourself and at times, you will even doubt God and whether He really called you and will be able to use you.
Satan can use those doubts to distract you and cause you to live with disappointment and even despair. Paul knew that feeling. He knew about disappointment and even despair. You know his message was about Jesus Christ and especially about the power of the resurrection.
He left the church in Corinth having shared of his life – his whole heart and then Paul hears about this church that he loves and their divisions. He hears about the sins that people over look again and again and he hears that they have strayed from the gospel.
To those who still hold on to the gospel – he says – Stand Firm. Whole Hearts and finally, Trust God. Know that What You Do for the Lord Matters. It is not in vain!
Our ministry is really about an audience of one – God. At some point in the future, you may have a reunion and you will share statistics about the size of your church, ministry or school. But what does that ultimately matter?
The fruit may not be always visible. The ground may be hard and not produce much of a crop. But – Stand Firm. Give of your Whole Heart and finally, Know – Trust – that what you do for the Lord matters. Why? Because God will use you and even more importantly, God loves you.
In ministry, you are called to serve others out of love. As you go into this world of trouble, bear witness – but do so in ways that will help this world to listen. Our hope is not in how loud we are or how many tweets we may send out. Our hope is expressed in an understanding that the person we seek to connect with is a person who is a fellow image bearer of God. When you and I see the world and the people of this world as a prayer away from being a brother or sister in Jesus Christ – it helps us look at them and listen to them with hearts full of love and hope.
You carry with you the good news that the grave is not the end for those who are found in Christ Jesus. You carry the good news that a bad medical report or being let go by an employer or a breakdown within the family are still under the watchful and caring eyes of God. God cares for you and He cares about the people who you will meet and minister to – in any and all contexts.