Why do so many young Christian men want to become seminary professors, often with little or no pastoral experience?
As someone who was a pastor for twelve years, before becoming a professor for six, and now deeply grateful to be doing both, I think I can speak with a measure of knowledge and experience.
On one level, I can understand the desire. Pastoral ministry is not the most glamorous of tasks, whereas, being a seminary professor, especially in America, carries a degree of respect. It’s also very satisfying to have the enormous privilege of training future pastors and missionaries.
But a lot of young men imagine that professorial life is a breeze: time to read lots of books, long vacations, people seeking your counsel, publishing books, speaking at conferences, etc. What’s not to like?
Gulag or Ivory Towers
Well, there may be some professor somewhere with that job description, but it’s not mine and it’s not that of all the other seminary professors I’ve spoken to. You have to fight to get time to read (I read more books I wanted to read when I was a pastor), you spend oodles of hours doing tedious administration, marking hundreds of papers makes it easy to believe in purgatory, reading academic books and journals smokes your brain, and email brings a daily deluge of questions from people all over the world who think you’re just waiting to do their research for them! Okay, it’s not exactly a Gulag, but believe me, the curse on work did not bypass the ivory towers.
Like everything else, you need a divine calling to do it, persevere in it, and get joy in it. But you don’t see a lot of immediate fruit in lecturing. You do it in faith, believing that some years down the line a student will remember and use what you taught them and use it for someone’s spiritual good. But you rarely hear about it.
Yes, there are deeply satisfying days; when the lectures go well, you’re in the zone with your writing, the email server goes down, and you get 10 minutes to read a book of your own choosing. But if you’re one of those guys who want to be a seminary professor without, or with little, pastoral ministry experience, let me level with you and tell you what you will miss out on. Admittedly some of these losses can be mitigated to some extent by continuing to preach here and there, but the mitigation is minimal and the losses are still massive.
- You will lose the joy of seeing souls saved through your preaching.
- You will lose the joy of helping people in the toughest life situations.
- You will lose the joy of feeding and edifying God’s people.
- You will lose the joy of shepherding children through teenage years and into adulthood.
- You will lose the joy of preaching evangelistic sermons.
- You will lose the joy of building long-term spiritual relationships.
- You will lose the joy of taking responsibility for your own flock.
- You will lose the joy of developing and working with a team of leaders.
- You will lose the joy of helping people make massive life decisions.
- You will lose the joy of seeking a fresh word from the Lord for His people.
- You will lose the joy of preaching to a people you know intimately.
- You will lose the joy of seeing long-term spiritual maturity.
- You will lose the joy of seeking and recovering lost sheep.
- You will lose the joy of seeing God miraculously provide for the church’s financial needs.
- You will lose the joy of being loved by young, middle-aged, and old Christians.
- You will lose the joy of learning from the least educated and gifted of saints.
- You will lose the joy of identifying and growing people’s gifts.
- You will lose the joy and privilege of bearing the scars of pastoral ministry.
- You will lose the joy of winning over enemies in your congregation.
- You will lose the joy of helping Christians die.
- You will lose the blessing of God – if you are pursuing a calling God did not give you. Don’t waste your life!
Still want the job?