Seminary is a place where people are being trained to go into ministry. Unfortunately, while they give you an excellent education, incredible intellectual workouts, and effective ministry skills, there are some things that I know from serving in God’s kingdom that they will almost never tell you in seminary.
- People are strange and difficult
Jesus picked a great metaphor when he described what his people were mostly like: sheep. In case you forgot these things about sheep, be reminded that sheep are often stubborn, sheep are often dumb, and when unwilling, sheep are hard to move.
This is, of course, not just describing the people we’re ministering to, this is describing ourselves. People will not fit into the neat principles and systems we learn in our books. Applying those things is great, but just don’t expect sweeping results. Why?Well because people are different, people have incredibly varying internal issues, people are at different spiritual maturities, there are probably people who don’t like you, people will not be aligned with God’s vision, and on and on the reasons go for why people we’ll be ministry with will be strange and difficult.
This is not meant to be discouraging. We need to embrace the reality that ministry is about working and serving weak and difficult people because God is in the business of working with weak and difficult people. The fact that he’s still moving us and using us should encourage us that we go and do so as well despite the difficulty of God’s sheep.
- You will definitely fail
People in seminary are very optimistic. We are very pumped about the things we learned and eager to apply the things we learn in theory. One of the reasons why people love academia so much is because you’ll never fail in academia. Well, maybe in grades, but in the sense that you’ll never be forced to apply those things and watch them backfire on you in a classroom. Everything is smooth and optimistic because everything is theoretical.
But observe the course of the leaders that God chose to use in the Bible, and you’ll notice a reoccuring trend: that all of them failed miserably at some point. David failed with Bathsheeba, Jonah failed in his running, Abraham failed in his lying, and Peter failed in his denials. We need to get a clue: we will also fail.
We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to make BIG mistakes. We’re going to hurt people. We’re going to let people down. People are going to turn from us. People are going to give up on us.
Big deal. Weakness and failure is the path that God sovereignly uses to sharpen all his ministers in ministry. It impart humility, it teaches dependence, it gives glory to Jesus.
The big, big, big, big difference between great ministers and poor ministers is the decisions and the attitudes they choose to embrace in their moment of failures. It is also the difference between people who still thrive and persevere in God’s great work and people who burn out eventually.
People who succeed in faithfulness choose to dust off their knees after failures, embrace humility, worship Jesus, invest into greater prayer, and to, as David so famously did, “Strengthen themselves in the Lord.”
We will all fail. We need to learn how to get up again after we’ve fallen.
- Opposition will probably come from within the church
Whenever we believe firmly in God’s vision and awesome purposes and decide to run with it, we will always have opposition. Always.
Just don’t be surprised when it’s not from the source you think where it would come from.
Satan has a strategy of stirring up people who are not outside the church, but actually inside the church. There are actually those who are “Christian” who will oppose God’s purposes through us.
This is not a new idea. The Bible calls them “false prophets” or “wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing if they live an entire life of pseudo-Christianity. Or more applicable to us is the more frequent moment-by-moment cases. They are called “Peters.”
Remember what Peter said to Jesus right Jesus told him that he was about to go to the cross. “Far be it from you Lord!” to which Jesus very distinctly replied: “Get behind me Satan!”
Satan had used Peter’s worldly unrenewed mind to speak out something he thought was wisdom, but in fact was against the purposes and the will of God. Peter was Christian alright. But he was wrong. And he was not aligned with God’s purposes, to which Jesus astutely attributed his beliefs to being birth from the lie of the enemy.
So we shouldn’t be surprised when people in “God’s church” will stand up and oppose us. Don’t be alarmed when “loving Christians” will say gnarly and nasty things towards us. Try not to be hurt when other people in the body of Christ will condemn you and your entire ministry for any stumbling you may or may not have had.
Love those people, but do not accept what they propose. Do not be thwarted by Satan’s tactics to raise up God’s people to do his will. Stand firm in love and in truth.
- Prayer will accomplish all things
The only encouraging thing I can leave us with and the only encouraging thing I know to be true is that God will be glorified and his purposes will be accomplishes when his people are a praying people. The obstacles to ministry are monumental. In fact, they are impossible. We will never make a dent for the kingdom of God apart from the prayers we pray. Any stumbling block we run into ministry has a solution in the throne room of God waiting to be released to a praying people.
It will take persistence, it will take patience, it will take humility, but rest-assured, God will never leave his workers ill-equipped. Jesus is waiting on the other line of our speed-dial, waiting and longing to deliver his people and to show himself strong in every and in any circumstance.
Do what most seminaries will never teach you: get an effective prayer life. Get a David heart. Get your church praying.
And when you do so, you will find that you changed the world not from fighting and overcoming standing up with your fists out, but from on your knees.
And so that concludes a short list of things about ministry that they don’t tell you in seminary! I hope you are encouraged and fired up about serving Jesus still!