Yesterday, I listed 21 reasons why you don’t want to become a seminary professor. My aim was not to tell you how bad a job I have (I love my job), but to show the excellence of pastoral ministry and how much young men lose when they try to get behind a lectern when they’ve hardly been behind a pulpit.
Tom commented that in the interests of balance, I should also give the pros of being a seminary professor. I couldn’t find 21, but what I lack in quantity, I hope I make up for in quality!
1. You will get to study and teach theology as your job! Your daily work is to prayerfully study the Scriptures and the best Christian books. Lots of people would pay to do that. And you can go deeper in your subject than most pastors who have to move on to a new batch of sermons every week. It’s especially enjoyable to teach what you are passionate about – for me, that’s Christ in the Old Testament, holistic biblical counseling, and servant-leadership.
2. You will be mentally and spiritually developed. You can sometimes wing it in a sermon. You can never wing it in a lecture – not with a class full of sharp and eager students who can smell an under-prepared lecture a mile away. Iron sharpens iron, forcing you to study hard, think hard, and write hard.
3. You will be enriched and sanctified by students from multiple nations and cultures. It’s such a blessing to have students and even pastors from all over the world in the same classroom. You realize how little you know, how little you have experienced, how little a view of God you have had. It’s so exciting to see the men God is equipping and calling to go out into all the world with the Gospel.
4. You will work with gifted and godly colleagues. The ministry is often a lonely life. There’s much more collegiality at a seminary with helpful fellow-professors just a few steps of your office. It’s so humbling to see how others’ intellectual and spiritual gifts so infinitely transcend your own.
5. You will see hopeless preachers turned into powerful preachers. In my first few years at Puritan Seminary, I frequently heard students preach their first “practice sermon” and immediately concluded, “Well this guy’s never going to fly. In fact, he won’t even get out of the hangar.” Three years later God has transformed him into a clearly called and equipped preacher of the Gospel. Being proven wrong like this is one of the greatest joys of seminary life.
6. You will be sent lots and lots of books. A publisher recently sent me five separate copies of one book. No wonder they were soon boasting of a re-print! But seriously, hardly a day goes by without someone sending you a book to review, to endorse, or to add to your library. And speaking of libraries, you will have access to thousands (in my case 70,000) of the best Christian books just a few steps away from your office.
7. You will be asked to write books. It’s usually very difficult for a pastor to get a book published. It becomes much easier when you are a professor, partly because the perceived expertise makes it more likely that people will buy your books. In fact, you will eventually have to turn down many good writing opportunities in order to focus on where you believe God has especially called you to write.
8. You will multiply your spiritual influence. A pastor can do a lot of good in his congregation. But if you train pastors, you can do a lot of good in a lot of congregations. From time to time you do hear of your teaching being passed on to bless different congregations.
9. You will meet lots of neat people. Puritan Seminary is regularly blessed with the teaching and fellowship of the best reformed teachers in the world. It’s such a privilege to get to meet these men, watch them close up, and simply listen to their wisdom at the lectern and round the dinner table. I also love meeting our donors, men and women from all walks of life, yet all sharing a passionate commitment to investing in the next generation of Gospel ministers.
10. You will gain a bigger view of God’s kingdom. When you’re a pastor you really have to focus almost all your attention on your own congregation. As a professor you get to go to lots of different churches and countries, over time this gives you a much bigger sense of God’s work in diverse peoples and places around the world.
Fair and balanced?
Many, many blessings, but I don’t want to take away from the main thrust of yesterday’s post, which is that younger men should count the cost of the great losses involved in side-stepping pastoral ministry or viewing it merely as a brief stepping-stone to so-called “higher things.”
Pastoral ministry is the “highest thing.” The professor’s position is subservient, it is a calling to serve God’s messengers, to lay down one’s life (and ego) in the great cause of preparing pastors for the awesome work of Gospel ministry.