What I wished I had learned in seminary…

This month, we asked our bloggers to name a few things that they wish they had learned in seminary.  Visit the Outlook Outpost blog for other perspectives on the question and join the discussion.


We live in a time of high expectations… if church cannot bring about fulfillment, entertain our children and accomplish our particular agenda for social justice, then everything must change, everything must be fixed, everything must be packaged so as to appeal to the 18-49 demographic or the nones or to provide captivating new programs for the previously churched or unchurched or post-churched.  I remember going to an NBA game in the early 1990s – what was perhaps the golden era of professional basketball – and realizing that there was not one idle moment.  We were never allowed to just sit and take it all in or have a conversation with the person sitting next to us.  If there was not someone dancing at any pause in the action, then there was a big blimp circling the arena dropping free gift cards to a local restaurant, or there was a contest on the Jumbotron for best dressed fan, or a high powered rifle shooting out t-shirts to lucky recipients.  I remember thinking that we would reach a point where these endeavors would no longer entertain us and we would need something more, something bigger, flashier and more captivating.  I am not sure if this is how God works in the world.  I am not saying God cannot work through such ways of reaching the world, I am just not sure if that is God’s preferred method.


I think we tend to believe seminaries should be institutions that give us the latest technology, techniques and entrepreneurial tools to accomplish all the unrealistic expectations and misplaced priorities that we believe should be happening in and through our churches.  However, I wonder if thorough biblical engagement and exegesis, thorough theological reflection on the practice of ministry, thorough training in the care of souls and thorough exegesis of our culture is primarily what one should always be learning through seminary training.  Sure, the peripheral and adiaphoral stuff will change, but not the primary things.  As Karl Barth was fleeing Germany in mid-1930s, his last words to his students were, “exegesis, exegesis, exegesis.”  He believed that if we are sticking to the text that has been given us, if we are carefully attending to it and seeking to proclaim it faithfully, then all these other matters would take care of themselves.  I still believe that is true and will also be true.  Seminary training is not primarily about technique or fixing the world’s problems or creating the church of our dreams or our culture’s dreams (God forbid).  It should be about careful attention to the text that has been given to us to proclaim; it’s about paying attention to and following after the God who continues to come through the witness of scripture and to the flawed and peculiar witness of fragile communities of Christians.  I hope seminary training always embodies this ethos, no matter the cost or peculiarity or even our latest measurements of relevance.



CHRIS CURRIE is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Shreveport, La.