Spiritual Development During Seminary

Shaka and soundboard at church.

Introduction

Being commissioned into God’s work and starting seminary is life changing. It is a journey which, at times, will be exciting and challenging. God uses these positive and negative events to shape us as we walk with Christ. To help you persevere and grow in your personal spiritual development during seminary, it is important to have a regular devotional practice and involvement with Christian community.

Quiet Time & Community

The two practices you need to stay focused on are a daily devotion to God’s word and involvement with God’s people. First, we all need to find time to read God’s word. We should follow the example of Jesus. Based on the Gospels, we observe Jesus learned, mastered, and was submissive to Scripture.[1] Just as Jesus’ disciples were also serious students of Scripture, we also need time with God’s word to foster our relationship with the Lord. However, seminary involves a significant amount of reading. Much of the reading will focus on the Bible, but it is heavily academic. While certainly rewarding, academic study can drain the vitality from time with God. It may be like reading a profile of your wife. The results of her Myers Briggs may give you a deeper understanding, but a purely academic study of your spouse is a poor way to build a relationship. You need to spend time with her, talking, asking questions, and listening to foster a relationship. Similarly, we need quiet time with the Lord, with His word, and silence to hear the Spirit’s guidance. This time will provide many benefits to spiritual formation including stability, insight, guidance, and spiritual maturity.[2] As the Psalmist reminds us, it is a lamp for our feet and a light on our path (Psalm 119:105, HCSB).

In addition to a daily devotional, community is important. God built us for each other, as it is not good for us to be alone (Gen. 2:18, HCSB). We are all uniquely created to support our brothers and sisters. For me, I have unique challenges in finding fellowship. I am completing my degree through distance learning while living in the Islamic nation of Qatar. Additionally, we are experiencing a global pandemic. Due to this, I certainly feel the need for community, and I would urge in-resident seminary students to not take their fellowship options for granted. Despite the listed challenges, I have found community through a chapel where I volunteer as a worship team member.  Volunteering with the worship team has been priceless. During our time together, we have shared our testimonies, prayed for each other, supported one another through challenges, and celebrated the good as we navigate time away from home. It is also good to get out of our faith communities and meet people from the larger church. For example, we have bridged the Protestant—Roman Catholic divide with band members volunteering for both the contemporary service and mass. Seminary may present similar challenges for you. As you may have moved away from your home to a new community. In this new community, you will have to make new friends, find support to deal with challenges, and you may find yourself attending a church that has a different outlook than the one you grew up in. All of these are positive opportunities for spiritual growth as we learn to rely on God and seek fellowship.

Plan of Action

To start, let’s address a devotional plan, as exposure to God’s Word is essential for spiritual development. It renews our thinking and allowing believers to “break free from the anti-Christian mold the world seeks to press us into.”[3] Three things that have helped me are reading a physical Bible, establishing a routine, and journaling. Reading a paper Bible reduces distraction. We spend enough time on our computers and phones. Reading away from technology will prevent you from the distraction of emails, texts, and even the temptation to read everything but the Bible in our Bible study software. Next dedicate a time every day to spend in God’s word. This will reduce the interruptions and ideally build a routine into your day.[4] Also, remember to keep your reading plan flexible and separate it from required class readings. You do not want to turn your devotional time into homework time. Lastly, keep a journal. Journaling helps me to reflect and apply God’s word to my life. It keeps a record of how God was speaking to me at different points in my life. Dr. Gallaty suggests using the HEAR method, which stands for highlight, explain, apply, and respond.[5] I don’t write HEAR entries every day, but I try to reflect at least once a week, and it provides a simple method to understand and apply God’s instruction to my life.

Next, surround yourself with God’s people to give you the opportunity to grow in Christ. It is tough to love your neighbor as Christ loved you if you never spend time with your neighbor (John 13:34, HCSB).[6] This also robs your neighbor of the opportunity to pour their life into you! I’ll suggest two steps to finding a community. First, pray and ask the Lord for guidance and opportunities to get involved in his work. Second, be open to the doors that God provides. He may present unexpected or perhaps even uncomfortable opportunities to get involved. Before I joined the worship team, I was praying to God and asking to find community. At the end of the next service, the worship team announced that a drummer was needed. The last time I had played drums was in a metal band fourteen years ago—so I was a little hesitant at the opportunity. Ultimately, I volunteered and was quickly moved from drums to the soundboard as my style is “too loud.” That’s okay because we are all imperfect, and that is why we need each other. Fellow believers provide the opportunity to love, correct, and grow in our spiritual development.[7]

Conclusion

Remember, being commissioned into God’s work and starting your seminary journey is life changing and challenging. It is essential to continue to grow in your relationship with the Lord. Develop a regular devotional practice to spend quiet time with God and foster your relationship. Also, remember to get involved with God’s people. The Father created us to work together; upfront in his instruction manual for life, he reminds us that it is not good to be alone. We need fellow believers to build us up. This may seem simple, but these two practices will help you persevere and grow in your spiritual development during seminary.

Notes


[1] Walter A. Elwell and Robert W. Yarbrough, Encountering Biblical Studies: Encountering the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 15.

[2] Johnathan Morrow, “Introducing Spiritual Formation” in Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ, ed. Paul Petitt (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2018), 44.

[3] Morrow, “Introducing Spiritual Formation,” 44.

[4] Walter Kaiser and Moises Silva, Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 213.

[5] Robby Gallaty and Randall Collins, Growing Up: How To Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2013), 149.

[6] Paul Petitt, “Introduction,” In Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2018), 19.

[7] Gordon Johnson, “Old Testament and Spiritual Formation,” In Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ, ed. Paul Petitt (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2018), 79.

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