“Seminary is not redemptive.”

Screen-Shot-2014-09-07-at-12.57.03-PM-e1410130638911This was one of the first statements I heard at new student orientation as I was beginning my seminary journey.  The speaker went on to unpack the statement.  His comments reminded us that when we finish, and we have a shiny “Master of Divinity” degree hanging on our walls, we won’t be pastors.  Or leaders.  Or anybody.

We’ll be people with a fancy piece of paper on the wall.

Because seminary is not redemptive.  The process does not make us holy if all we do is gather right doctrine.  Our lives must be transformed by the goodness of God as well.

People in the New Testament didn’t go to seminary.  They were mentored and educated, but not like we do it today.  As we’ve been going through 1 Timothy, we are listening to the mentoring education from the Apostle Paul to young Pastor Timothy.

Today, we continue in 1 Timothy 4:15-16.

15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Timothy 4:15-16
New International Version

The appeal the seasoned apostle makes is plain to see: consistent spiritual growth.

He tells Timothy to “be diligent” in his spiritual formation.  He was expecting young Timothy to meditate on what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write and then to put action to his thoughts.  Those following Timothy would be able to witness their pastor’s growth by the Holy Spirit (verse 15b).

At the end of verse 15 as Paul pens the word “progress” in Greek (the original language of the New Testament), he portrays the concept of Timothy’s growth as an ordered pattern.  While Christians do not grow at consistent rates, we should certainly be growing at a steady rate.  This is the appeal of Paul the mentor to Timothy the mentee.

Verse 16 should appear in front of our eyes daily as Christians and certainly if we’re in leadership roles in the Lord’s church.

“Watch your life and doctrine closely” (verse 16a)—wow!  How we live and what we believe are inseparable.  I’ll go a step further (because I believe the text supports it): how we believe IS how we live.  And both must be carefully guarded.

Timothy could not give up on guarding his heart and mind.  His salvation rested on persevering in the faith.  Moreover, those under Timothy’s care were evaluating the life-changing power of the Gospel by observing it in Timothy’s life.

holistic-education-759x500Folks…this means our lives and doctrines are HUGE.  I fear we underestimate how important sound living and sound doctrine are for leaders in the Church.

People under our watch in the church and those who are influenced by us cannot stand before God and use us as an excuse for rejecting saving faith in Jesus.  But—and this is a big but!—if they reject the truth of God’s grace through Jesus, and we have led them astray, it’s our fault.

Church leadership is not for the faint of heart, dear ones.

It’s not enough to have a lot of Bible knowledge.  It’s not enough to lead the Church.  We must also have hearts bending to the Lordship of Jesus.  We must also have lives transforming by the Holy Spirit.

We lead with our minds AND our hearts.  If we don’t put these two together, we’ll learn the hard way that not only is seminary not redemptive, our leadership won’t be either.

Stay close to Jesus.  Don’t stop learning.  Don’t stop growing.  Keep the faith.  Learn to love the One Who loves your soul.  And let’s keep our heart and head together.



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Interested in more like this?  Consider Joel’s book: 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom: A Month in the Proverbs.  Moving through a selection of verses from a chapter of Proverbs for every day of the month, Joel walks readers through a journey of spiritual formation applicable to everyday life.  The goal?  Knowing how to apply the wisdom of Scripture so we grow in our faith, become wiser, and show the world the life-changing power of Jesus.


Joel has a podcast!  Addressing church leadership issues, Joel dissects what he’s been taught and experienced.  Subscribe below.Podcast Title Graphic