>Last Saturday was Graduation Day at Northern Seminary. Graduation Day is a time of pomp and circumstance. It is a day when students reach the goal of their theological education by completing their studies in preparation for a lifetime of service in the cause of Christ.
Obtaining a Diploma in Religious Studies, a Master’s Degree in Divinity, or a Doctor’s Degree in Ministry is a great achievement that deserves special recognition. A Master’s Degree in Divinity requires a minimum of three years beyond the baccalaureate degree and a Doctor’s in Ministry degree requires three to four years beyond the Master’s degree.
Many years ago, I heard Billy Graham say that when God calls a person to the ministry, the first call is always the call to preparation. Students pay a heavy price in preparing themselves for the ministry, but this type of preparation pays dividends. A seminary education is one of the key components (but not the only one) for a successful ministry.
People who have never attended seminary are not aware of the demands of seminary life. The first thing a freshman student discovers is that there is a lot of reading in seminary. I remember when I began my theological education and how I was shocked by the amount of reading seminary students must do in one year. I guess that in my first year of seminary, I probably read ten thousand pages for my classes. Here at Northern Seminary, we are on the quarter system. There is always more reading in the semester system, but in the quarter system, students are required to read a minimum of one thousand pages per course they take.
Then, in seminary there is a lot of writing. Each course at Northern requires a research component. This means that most professors require students to write a research paper, ten to fifteen pages in length. In my seminary days most papers were twenty pages long. Then, there are those famous book reviews. Depending how many books students are required to read for a course, there may be two or three book reviews in a quarter. Sometimes, even more.
That much reading and that much writing, not counting preparation for exams, quizzes, reports, class discussions, and special projects requires hours and hours of study and preparation. If one takes into consideration that today most students work full time, have a family, and serve either as a pastor or a lay leader in his or her church, the sacrifice students make to prepare themselves for a life of service is enormous. This is the reason graduation day is a day of celebration. Like Daniel’s friends, the students who make up the graduating class of 2010 were tried in the burning fiery furnace and they remained faithful until the end.
Now, these students will face the many trials of the ministry. These students are now sent to a society that has little regard for the things of God and to people who will in many cases reject the good news these students bring. They will also face church members who are set in their ways and who may be reluctant to accept the enthusiasm and the idealism these new graduates bring to their churches.
When students finish their theological education, they do so with the same enthusiasm and idealism that brought them to seminary in the first place. The call of God is the strongest motivator that provides students with the stamina to face the rigors of seminary life, with the strength to confront the demands of a seminary education, and with the courage to face the many challenges of the ministry. However, the indifference they encounter in the pew is what destroys that enthusiasm and kills that idealism. But faith in God and the certainty of that divine call will continue to provide the source of strength the new graduates will need for a successful ministry.
I salute the graduating class of 2010. These graduates have a noble call from God and an important mission in the world. Their mission is to bring men and women, young and old into a personal, intimate relationship with God. They must be faithful in the task God assigned to them and work hard until “the earth be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
I am honored that I had a small part in the theological preparation of the graduating class of 2010.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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