January 27, 2014 | Written by Matt Carter
Dr. Jim Martin, our new Vice-President, shared this message as we welcomed new students and welcomed back returning students.
The following are the notes from the chapel presentation I gave on Tuesday morning, January 21, at Harding School of Theology (Memphis, Tennessee). Perhaps you will find this encouraging and a good reminder.
This is the first chapel of 2014 at Harding School of Theology. This is the first day of classes.
No doubt as you meet with your class, there will be a syllabus. There will be books to read. There will be papers to write. There will be lectures.
There is also a call.
We have a purpose and mission that is larger than ourselves.
We believe that we are accountable to God for our lives. What we do as students, professors, staff, and administrators matters.
Congratulations on being here! It takes a lot to be able to come to a place like HST to study. I know. It took a lot for us to come here. We moved here from Waco, Texas in December. I started my ministry here on January 2.
It costs a lot to come to seminary.
It costs your money.
It costs your time.
It costs your energy.
It costs your attention.
You are paying a price to come here. If you are married, you and your spouse are paying a price. If you are working with a church, they may be paying a price for you to be here. The professors and the staff who serve on this campus are paying a price. We moved here after serving the Crestview Church in Waco for 20 years. We were very happy where we were. I was a very happy preacher. We paid a price to come here.
Yet, the words cost and price don’t do justice to this moment. After all, this really is an investment.
As a student, you are investing in your calling. You are investing in your ministry. You are investing in Gospel work.
This is not about getting a job.
This is not about career enhancement.
This is not about achievement.
Fundamentally, ministry is about a calling. It is about something more than getting a job, pleasing a group of people or making a career move. Responding to our call is about desiring to please God with every fiber of our being. At this school, it is about learning to have a heart for God in an environment of high standards for ministry and scholarship.
My friend Barry, a longtime minister in Waco, said he once heard a seminary president warn students. “Too many students come to seminary with their heart full and their head empty and leave with their head full and their heart empty.”
This doesn’t have to happen. If you have a deep and passionate love for God, your study here ought to stoke the fire within you. Your love for God ought to be enhanced and deepened. At the same time, you will be learning how to think and how to practice the Christian faith. You will learn the languages, the text, and drink from the wells of those who have gone before us.
You are studying under professors whose heads are full of knowledge and wisdom and whose hearts love God. You can be the kind of student who leaves here with both head and heart full. However, you will need to be intentional about doing this.
Whether you are reading a book for class or writing a paper. Whether you are listening to a lecture or talking with a fellow student. Whether the class is one you like or whether it is not your favorite.
Do it all in the name of the Lord.
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord.”
June 1, 2013 | Written by Matt Carter
The Spring 2013 issue of The Bridge featured comments from HST alumni on the value of graduate theological education. Due to space constraints, we could only include a few of those statements. Here are additional thoughts to take you beyond the printed page.
My education raised my level of patience and has helped me to persevere even under difficult circumstances. I gained not only knowledge, but a deeper appreciation of people. The farther along I went in my theological education, the more humble I became in my approach to ministry.
Graduate education blessed me like an inheritance from a rich uncle. My peers in undergraduate studies and in preacher training schools received good increases in knowledge, perspectives, and skills through their education, but I got more through mine. I received what they got, but was taken deeper and broader. The rigors of graduate study stretched me so that I grew in dependence on God and in self-discipline. Since my graduation twelve years ago, I’ve frequently been grateful for HST’s network of peer and faculty relationships and library support that continues to provide me and my church with new resources and training opportunities for ministry today.
Graduate theological education has changed my life as a minister in two ways. First, it has humbled me to appreciate all that I do not know. In ministry, preachers are challenged to have all the answers; to offer conclusive, rigid, and unaltering truths and proclamations. This can lead to a pat perspective in which the minister feels that he knows all he needs to know and can refrain from the exploration of additional or competing thoughts and ideas.
This leads me to the second impact of graduate theological education upon my life. We live in an information age. While a preacher is in the pulpit, members can be on their smartphones Googling the information he is presenting to ensure its accuracy. The training I received at HST in critical thinking, research methods, analytical comparison, and theological reflection enables me, by God’s grace, to speak with accuracy and confidence. I do not have all the answers, but the answers I have are sure and solid even as I work my way toward additional answers. This confident progression is appreciated by the congregation, and we move together toward greater understanding and application of the word of God as we engage in his service in downtown Richmond.
James T. Wood
I see the benefit of my education in two veins. On the one side, I was forced to grapple with the deeper issues of faith and ministry and equipped to find the answers. On the other side, I was connected to an invaluable network of ministry partners around the globe that are graciously willing to help me.
I do see one major flaw with graduate education in theology that needs to be addressed: the overwhelming emphasis on academics over application has a tendency to erode spiritual health while it strengthens intellectual ability. We can’t sacrifice one for the other. We need to train ministers who are both spiritually filled and academically prepared.