Reflections on a First Year in Seminary

A little over a year ago, I had received a call about a scholarship at Bethel Seminary. At the time, I wasn’t so sure if seminary was meant for me at this stage – I was happy with where I was, and although I knew God had called me to ministry and to seminary, I thought that was an eventual path, not an immediate one. In fact, when I asked friends and family members to pray as I prepared my application and walked into interviews, I was very explicit with them that they should pray that God would do whatever God was going to do in this season (as if He wouldn’t anyways?!). God made it clear: this was the season to begin seminary. And now, with my first of four years in the books, God opened my eyes and reignited my heart for His ministry and, overall, Him. I’m grateful for the past year and the lessons it brought me:

The Preparation is What Will Make You a Great Pastor
Take this from a recovering academic perfectionist – it’s easy to get caught up in the results of assignments and find only frustration in the preparation. But the preparation of study guides, sermons, exegesis papers… All of that is what will make you a great pastor or ministry leader, not necessarily the outcome. So approach every assignment with the joy of knowing that your ability to learn how to strategically read and apply the Bible will better prepare you to preach, teach, and counsel others into deeper relationships with the Father.

Community Matters
Community matters because vulnerability is the best way for us to grow. Vulnerability is hard, because it makes us feel… well… vulnerable. This past year, I learned that vulnerability – true vulnerability with the people who care about who we are in our inmost being – makes us more full, not more empty. I’m thankful for people who allowed me to share where my heart was at and, in response, shared what God was placing on their heart for me. Allowing them to speak into my life made me a more healthy person.

Experiential Learning is Worth the Investment
Seminary brought a lot of “newness” into my life. One of these new things was a new church home, and along with it, an internship under some really fabulous pastors. Long-term internships aren’t necessarily a requirement at most seminaries, but they should be. Hear me out: A safe space to practice, question, and learn outside of the classroom is worth the time away from homework. My intern program has been a weekly relief from the rhythm of learning scripture to complete an assignment, and an introduction to the weekly rhythm of learning and loving community for the sake of learning and loving community. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the relationships I’ve built.

Seminary Will Make You See God Anew – And That’s Not a Bad Thing
Seminary has helped me to better see God’s work in the history of the church, His promise-keeping in the Old Testament, His love for world missions, His heart for discipling community… The list goes on and on. The things that matter to God should matter to us, and seminary reminds us of that. Beyond that, there have admittedly been weeks where my mind is too tired to take in one more lecture. In that, God has been the Sustainer and the Father: guiding, loving, and securing me in His promises.

I’m thankful for a first year of seminary that has begun to develop me into a whole and holy leader. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

An Open Letter to Women Called to Ministry

Sweet friend,

I know you. You’re the woman who feels most alive when you get to tell people about Jesus. The one who is the first to lend a hand, or a shoulder, or an encouraging word. The one who sits fascinated in Sunday sermons or Bible studies, or fascinated by books and sermon recordings and podcasts.

The one who knows that God has called you to preach and teach other people about Him, and about the sacrifices He has made for them, and about His love for them.

I know you, because I am you.

In seventh grade, I heard a woman preach for the very first time. And those words stirred something in my soul. That example lit the fire for God’s call in my life, and it was in that moment – that tired, teen moment – that I first felt God’s call to ministry. I knew that I needed to do that.

I always tell people it’s not a career choice – it’s a calling – because I truly believe that’s what it is. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else other than telling people about Jesus every day of every week. And maybe you feel the same way. Because that’s what God’s called you to, too.

If you do, you’re in the right place. You’re among friends.

Friend, I know that this call will not be an easy one. But I want you to know that you are not alone.

There are strong women throughout the Bible, who God called to do amazing things. Who God called to be leaders, regardless of their gender.

In the Old Testament, there’s Deborah, a judge over all of Israel. Did you know that Deborah instructed Israelites on military battles, and came to her to settle disputes? Think about that for a second… Deborah had the power to direct the entire military and settle disputes – the strategic mind to complete the task among many, and the wisdom to implement peace among few.

Then there’s Priscilla in the New Testament. Priscilla explained to Apollos the way of God – she and her husband, Aquila, are referred to by Paul as his fellow workers in Christ Jesus (Romans 16:3).Did you know that Priscilla is listed before her husband five out of the seven references to them throughout Acts and other New Testament books? Scholars believe that this signifies the strength of Priscilla’s ministry gifting – after all, it certainly wasn’t typical in Roman culture to place the female before the male.

And this is not at all an exhaustive list. Jael, Ruth, Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of Jesus – the Bible is full of women that God called to HUGE tasks that transformed the Kingdom of God and the entire course of human history. God has always called women who loved Him to be mighty messengers for Him and warriors for the Kingdom.

But this is about more than telling you about Biblical precedence. I want you to know that I recognize the call of God in your life – and that counts for more than a thousand verses supporting women in ministry.

I know that you will face opposition in your life and your ministry – people who will try to convince you that your gender makes you unfit for pastoral leadership.

But friend, it is not your job to sit down and go through a biblical exegesis of women in ministry with them (even though I know that somedays you will really, really want to). As a wise woman in ministry once told me, it is only your job to be faithful where God has called you.

The assurance of your call is enough. God’s guidance and grace is enough. His voice, His leading of your path, His hand in your ministry journey – that’s enough.

When you face more challenges than successes as you walk this wonderful pathway of being a woman called to ministry, I want you to have the self-assurance that God has called you to this. Know that He will bring you safely through your ministry. That He will continue to use you for His good.

And, dear friend, know that you are not alone.

With great praise for who God has called you to be,

Me