After 91 hours of master’s level work, I earned my Master of Divinity with concentrations in Biblical Theology and Biblical Languages on Friday, Dec. 13. As we matriculated down to our assigned seats and began the service, I had some time to reflect on my journey through the program, what I have accomplished, and what I might have done differently.
Before you begin a M.Div., you must count the cost. A 91-hour program at any level is not something to enter haphazardly. It takes countless hours of studying, reading, writing, researching, editing, and praying. There will be many times when you will find yourself extremely discouraged, perhaps because your research paper was torn to shreds by a professor.
This happened to me in my first semester in an exegetical class on 2 Peter and Jude. I was fresh out of college ready to take the academy by storm, only to have my first master’s level research paper returned with more red ink on it than a red-lettered Gospel. I was really discouraged, but I used that paper as a guide through the rest of my seminary career in order to help me become a better writer and researcher. My writing improved, and I ended up receiving an “A” on my review of Gene Green’s Jude & 2 Peter later in the semester. It might not be a research paper, but discouragement will come in one way or another.
Now I don’t want to put a damper on the seminary experience because for the most part it was an enjoyable time in my life. There were great times of frustration with fellow students who decided to be “that guy” in class or when the class wasn’t what I expected it to be. These are common and will happen to you, so just get ready. However, these far outweigh the many joys that come with seminary.
So, here’s my advice to you. If you’re just beginning your M.Div., MA, or Th.M., perhaps this will provide some encouragement.
- Join a Gospel centered church.
This is of the utmost importance. Join a Gospel centered church where the preaching is God exalting, the music points to the Savior, and the prayers are Trinitarian. Do not church hop. Your spiritual life will suffer if you are not actively meeting and worshipping with fellow believers. Don’t neglect the body of Christ.
- Don’t neglect the languages.
One thing that frustrated me was the lack of dedication by students in the biblical languages. Yes, Greek and Hebrew are difficult. I remember when I started out learning them and how frustrating it was trying to understand how to parse this Greek participle or figure out why this Hebrew verb lost a lamed. And if I’m being honest, its still frustrating! But that should not stop us from learning the language that the Old and New Testaments were written in. Its hard work and it does take time, but the rewards far outweigh the struggles of learning the languages. Take Hebrew and Greek electives.
- Don’t take classes, take professors.
Some would disagree, but I have found this to be true. My most enjoyable classes were those taken with professors I admired for various reasons. This included:
- Baptist Heritage with Jason Duesing
- New Testament Theology and The Theology of John with Paul Hoskins
- The Trinity with Malcolm B. Yarnell
- Personal Evangelism with Matt Queen
- Hebrew 1, 2 and Old Testament Theology with Joshua Williams
- The Pastoral Letters and Issues in New Testament Studies Terry Wilder
- Biblical Hermeneutics with Jason Lee
If you are just beginning your journey in seminary, be sure to enjoy it as much as possible. There will come a time when you are simply ready to be finished because you cannot see how this applies to the local church. Take your time in the degree, and learn as much as possible from your professors. Unless the Lord is calling you into a Ph.D. program, this will be your only opportunity to learn as much as possible from godly men. Soak it up and enjoy where the Lord has led you.
Editor’s note: Jason Kees is a recent graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This article originally appeared on Jason’s blog.