10 Benefits of Being a Seminary Professor

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.


Younger Christians Less Supportive of Death Penalty
“When asked if they agreed that “the government should have the option to execute the worst criminals,” 42 percent of self-identified Christian boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, said “yes.” Only 32 percent of self-identified Christian millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, said the same thing.”

For the Love of Money
Aged 30, Sam Polk was so addicted to money that even when he was earning $3 million a year, he found it wasn’t enough.

I was nagged by envy. When the guy next to you makes $10 million, $1 million or $2 million doesn’t look so sweet….I was a fireball of greed….I wanted a billion dollars.

He goes on to speak of how he slowly came to realize he was a wealth addict, an addiction that was not just tearing himself apart, but he says is rending the whole nation in two.

There are multiple sermon illustrations and quotes in here as Polk describes breaking his addiction, and all the withdrawal symptoms that followed!  He’s now a campaigner against wealth addiction:

From a distance I can see what I couldn’t see then – that Wall Street is a toxic culture that encourages the grandiosity of people who are desperately trying to feel powerful.

He is calling Wall Street traders to donate 25% of their bonuses to a fund that will be used to help people who actually need the money that they’ve all been chasing.

Good luck with that, Sam!

Kids Are Different: There Are Lots of Different Ways to Educate Them
Lots of fascinating and thought-provoking ideas about education in this interview with Glen Reynolds, author of The New SchoolHarland says that most schools are tied to failing 19th century teaching models imported from Germany. He paints a future of increased home-schooling, online courses, charter schools, and a wide range of school choices. On the changing college education scene, he says:

If you’re 18 years old and you can go to college online, and also work in a job and also live at home, your net cost of going to college is vastly lower than if you leave home, go somewhere where you really can’t work much, have to pay to live in a dorm, have to buy a meal plan, and have to pay full tuition.

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Race Matters
Ed Stetzer reflects on the following statistics:

  • 85% of senior pastors of Protestant churches say that every church should strive for racial diversity.
  • 13% of senior pastors of Protestant churches say they have more than one predominant ethnic group in their congregation.
  • 78% of Americans say every church should strive for racial diversity.
  • 51% of Americans say they would be most comfortable visiting a church where multiple ethnicities are well represented

A Call for Gospel Audacity
On the same theme David Prince calls us to crucify the color line in the church, one pulpit at a time.

A Good Lesson from a 95-Year-Old Warrior
Inspiring story about the faith Mark Altrogge’s 95-year-old father, a World War II veteran.

Brothers, we are not amateurs
Jason Allen: “Few men have shaped the 21st century church more than John Piper, and few of his books have proven more helpful than his Brothers, We are not Professionals. Piper was right. Ministers are not to be professionals, and his call for radical, sacrificial, selfless ministry is spot on. Yet, when it comes to ministerial service, we are not called to be amateurs either.”

God of the Womb
This is a powerful prayer-provoking reflection from Kristen Gilles: “The Lord has closed my womb. He opened it. He filled it. He emptied it. And then he closed it. The Lord has kept me from having children. He enabled me to conceive a son two years ago. Then he took my son to be with him 10 months later. And since then, he has kept me from having children. This reality, rather than disturbing me, actually comforts me.”

7 Do’s and Don’ts Of Welcoming People to Your Congregation
“I have moved twice in the past two years, both times to a new community where I had few connections. As a result, I have visited a number of congregations in search of a new church home. Based on my experiences, I offer this practical list of do’s and don’ts for welcoming guests to your church.”

21 Reasons why you don’t want to be a Seminary Professor

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.

21 Losses
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.

  1. You will lose the joy of seeing souls saved through your preaching.
  2. You will lose the joy of helping people in the toughest life situations.
  3. You will lose the joy of feeding and edifying God’s people.
  4. You will lose the joy of shepherding children through teenage years and into adulthood.
  5. You will lose the joy of preaching evangelistic sermons.
  6. You will lose the joy of building long-term spiritual relationships.
  7. You will lose the joy of taking responsibility for your own flock.
  8. You will lose the joy of developing and working with a team of leaders.
  9. You will lose the joy of helping people make massive life decisions.
  10. You will lose the joy of seeking a fresh word from the Lord for His people.
  11. You will lose the joy of preaching to a people you know intimately.
  12. You will lose the joy of seeing long-term spiritual maturity.
  13. You will lose the joy of seeking and recovering lost sheep.
  14. You will lose the joy of seeing God miraculously provide for the church’s financial needs.
  15. You will lose the joy of being loved by young, middle-aged, and old Christians.
  16. You will lose the joy of learning from the least educated and gifted of saints.
  17. You will lose the joy of identifying and growing people’s gifts.
  18. You will lose the joy and privilege of bearing the scars of pastoral ministry.
  19. You will lose the joy of winning over enemies in your congregation.
  20. You will lose the joy of helping Christians die.
  21. 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?


The Danger of Telling Poor Kids That College is the Key to Social Mobility
Andrew Simmons says “College should be ‘sold’ to all students as an opportunity to experience an intellectual awakening,” rather than a way to a higher income.

When school environments casually yet consistently deemphasize the intellectual benefits of higher education, students become less imaginative about their futures.  According to ACT’s College Choice Report from November 2013, 32 percent of students pick a college major that doesn’t really interest them. The same study suggests that students are less likely to graduate when they do this.

He cites fascinating research that should how schools have a “hidden curriculum” that conditions kids for their positions in society:

  • Schools teaching the children of affluent families prepared those kids to take on leadership roles and nurtured their capacity for confident self-expression and argument.
  • Schools teaching children from low-income families focused on keeping students busy and managing behavior.
  • A middle-class school deemphasized individual expression and in-depth analysis and rewarded the dutiful completion of specified rote tasks.

The last category explains the misery of my own school years, and that of many boys I know. I totally agree with Simmons final challenge:

Schools can either perpetuate inequity through social reproduction or have a transformative effect and help students transcend it.

Religious Hostilities Reach a 6-Year High
Pew Research Center Reports that ,ore than 5.3 billion people (76% of the world’s population) live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion, up from 74% in 2011 and 68% as of mid-2007.

Among the world’s 25 most populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar) had the most restrictions on religion in 2012, when both government restrictions and social hostilities are taken into account. As in the previous year, Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion, and Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religion

The Inequality Problem
According to David Brooks, the present divisive campaign against income inequality “lumps together different issues that are not especially related.”

At the top end, there is the growing wealth of the top 5 percent of workers….At the bottom end, there is a growing class of people stuck on the margins, generation after generation. This is caused by high dropout rates, the disappearance of low-skill jobs, breakdown in family structures and so on.

As both extremes have different causes, you cannot expect to raise lower incomes by reducing higher incomes.

Research on the effects of raising the minimum wage finds “no evidence that such raises had any effect on the poverty rates.” That’s because only “11% of the workers affected by such an increase come from poor households. Nearly two-thirds of such workers are the second or third earners living in households at twice the poverty line or above.”

The primary problem for the poor is not that they are getting paid too little for the hours they work. It is that they are not working full time or at all. Raising the minimum wage is popular politics; it is not effective policy.

Brooks says that the causes are a complex mix of social, cultural, and behavioral factors.

  • There is a very strong correlation between single motherhood and low social mobility.
  • There is a very strong correlation between high school dropout rates and low mobility.
  • here is a strong correlation between the fraying of social fabric and low economic mobility.
  • There is a strong correlation between de-industrialization and low social mobility.
  • Many men, especially young men, are engaging in behaviors that damage their long-term earning prospects; much more than comparable women.

Low income is the outcome of these interrelated problems, but it is not the problem. To say it is the problem is to confuse cause and effect. To say it is the problem is to give yourself a pass from exploring the complex and morally fraught social and cultural roots of the problem. It is to give yourself permission to ignore the parts that are uncomfortable to talk about but that are really the inescapable core of the thing.

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How to Make MOOCs Work
Looks like another educational revolution is biting the dust: MOOC provider Coursera…found that an average of just 4 percent of MOOC users actually completed the courses. The completion rate ranged from 2 percent to 14 percent…Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have relatively few active users, that user engagement falls off dramatically–especially after the first 1-2 weeks of a course–and that few users persist to the course end,” the study said.

Seven Standards of Good Writing
Want to writer better? Or read better? Barnabas Piper has some advice : “These seven standards combine into a whole. None can be removed and a piece of writing remain good. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but maybe it will be helpful to you in your own reading and in conversation”

20 Most Important Counseling Books of 2013
Bob Kellemen is our reliable guide. (Here’s part two).

How God turns a French Atheist into a Christian Theologian (HT: Zach Neilsen)
This is a wonderful conversion story.

A Calvinist and a Fundamentalist Walk Into a Bar
I presume it was a New Calvinist, but anyway, Tim helps us find our particular area of spiritual weakness.

Defining our Vocation
This would be a good video for a youth group.

Kate Harris, executive director of The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture, wants to change how we think about vocation. Since “vocation” is derived from the Latin word vox, which means “voice” or “vocal,” she says, we should think about it as “one’s entire life lived in response to God’s voice or call.” It’s more about who we are (identity) and whose we are (belonging) than about what we do.