Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On Teaching at Seminary

God has called me to be a pastor, and I intend to be faithful to that calling, in just that context, until God clearly and definitively calls me elsewhere (or until no congregation will suffer me to serve any longer). This has been the primary reason why I have rebuffed opportunities to put my degree to work as a faculty member somewhere.

But there has been another reason, secondary to the first, but powerful.

I have suspected that serving as a seminary professor would be boring to me. Teaching Introduction to Church History would be, the first time I did it as a full-time faculty member, very exciting, I'm sure. I'm sure it would still be exciting the second time through. But how would I feel about it the sixth time I dusted off those notes and started in once again on good old Church History I?

I suspect they'd have to lock me in a rubber room.

And for this reason, I've felt some pity toward those who teach at seminary and are locked in such a repetitive job. One thing you've got to say about serving as the pastor of any local church—every day is different!

Last night that changed for me. Last night I attended Dr. Ryan Stokes's lecture "The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origin of Satan." A light bulb went on last night and I saw some things that I think are pretty winsome about serving as a seminary professor.

Seminary profs get unparalleled access to their colleagues' research and to the seminary's resources. They get to attend lectures and colloquia. I don't know that every seminary professor takes advantage of the opportunity, but they regularly get chances to learn a lot from their peers. That would be enjoyable to me. And from the times I've passed by, for example, Dr. James Leo Garrett spending an entire day at work in the library feeding his curiosity, he's never looked bored to me.

Seminary profs have the opportunity for enriching collegiality. Dr. Patterson has built a faculty at SWBTS that includes a lot of strong friendships. Especially with regard to many of the newer faculty members, the fraternal kinship among these professors is hard to miss. I think that seminary professors may have a far better opportunity to build deep friendships with peers than do most pastors in local churches. Of course, down through the years I've also seen a few occasions of deep enmity springing up among faculty members, and in the past those experiences have sometimes led me to think that faculty tend to be a petty and easily-offended lot. But I was wrong about that, and my eyes have been opened to see how deeply these people can come to care about one another.

Of course, I've always known that seminary professors have a great opportunity to achieve widespread impact for the advance of the gospel. The best faculty members (in my opinion) relish in their contribution to souls won, churches strengthened, and believers equipped.

So, my seminary-professor friends, I'm thankful for you. I hope you're having fun doing what you're doing. Dr. Patterson, I'm thankful for your work to build a community of faithful scholars at SWBTS. I'm proud to partner with the lot of you under the lordship of Christ until He comes.


Pastor Tommy said...

Who told you that a lot of us really like hanging out with each other? What makes you think that? No it's true we are having a blast over here at SWBTS and look forward to all God has in store as we seek to pour into the next generations of pastors, teachers, missionaries, and other Kingdom workers.

evanlenow said...

While I think what you said about teaching the same courses over and over could be true, I have found that it can also be exciting. I taught five sections of the same class over the course of this last academic year (fall, spring, and summer). Each one was different. Each one was special. Mostly because of the students' lives that you touch. I bet you would say the same thing about pastoring your church for over 10 years as well. When you focus on the lives more than the repetition, it is certainly rewarding. Thanks for your post and support of SWBTS.

Bart Barber said...

Thanks, gentlemen, for commenting. Dr. Lenow, I think some of it has to do with personality and aptitude. Some people need more variety than others, don't you think?

I don't even repeat sermons. I don't like to chew my cabbage twice.

Pastor Tommy said...

I think Evan's point is the key and would be for you as well Bart. We cover the material and have a passion for it, but it is the students that give us the greatest joy semester in and semester out!