The Lord called me to seminary … now what?

So, the Lord has called you to seminary. That’s great! You are joining a family that is built on a solid foundation of the truth of God’s Word that touches the world and impacts eternity. No doubt, you are here because God has called you into ministry. He may not have specified every step of the journey your life will take from here, but hopefully His call in your life is clear. Coming to seminary is an initial step of obedience.

I tend to bristle a little every time I hear someone say, “Seminary didn’t prepare me for this (whatever “this” is).” Well, the simple answer is, of course not! There are many ways that seminary can help train you for the ministry to which God has called you. But there are things that you will face in ministry that you cannot learn in theory. We can talk about them in the classroom, and we can stand with you while you are serving, but ministry is learned hands-on. Seminary is the simulator, but the local church is the laboratory.

You are not at seminary training to be a minister!

Seminary will give you the tools that will equip you, it will help you establish relationships that will support you, and it will give you the confidence that will sustain you. But the local church is where the gifts you have been given and the skills you learn intersect with the calling of God in your life and your response of obedience. I may not know you, but I know something about you, or rather something that you are not. You are not at seminary training to be a minister! If that is why you thought you were here, may I gently, but firmly encourage you to eliminate that notion from your mind?

There is a vast difference between someone who is training to be a minister and ministers who are receiving training. The former is preparing for something in the future. The latter are being better equipped for something they already ARE! Frankly, someone who is merely training to be a minister doesn’t have to minister; after all, they are just in training. But, a minister ministers. Now, that may occur in the classroom, the dorm, or in your neighborhood, but in general, ministry begins in the local church.

I talk with a number of seminary students who express to me the desire to serve in a staff position in a local church. My first question to them is always the same, “Where are you serving right now?” You are not a minister because you have a paid staff position. You are a minister because you have obediently answered the call of God to serve Him with your life. Now, if God chooses to assign you to a place of service with a local church family who will compensate you for doing what God has called you to do, you are truly blessed. But if you are waiting until then to serve, you’re being disobedient.

The local church is where the gifts you have been given and the skills you learn intersect with the calling of God in your life and your response of obedience.

Jesus said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much (Luke 16:10).” To the servants with five and two talents who faithfully served with their masters resources, the Master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. (Mat 25:23).”

God has a place for you in the work of His church. That’s why He called you. Are you praying for God to provide a “position” in ministry? The needs are great enough and His resources are vast enough to often say, “yes.” In the meantime, join a local church. Be faithful where you are. Use your gifts and talents to His glory and for the strengthening of that fellowship. It might be that His will is for you to serve where you are; it might be that the place He has for you is not ready; or maybe you are not. But never forget who you are. You are a minister. So, be who you are!

Deron Biles

Deron Biles

Dean of Extension Education, Associate Dean for the Doctor of Ministry Program, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Dr. Biles serves as Dean of Extension Education and teaches in the School of Theology. He is married to Jaye and has four boys.
Twitter: @deronjbiles
Deron Biles

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