Andy Hynes serves as the Director of Admissions and Dean of Men at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary where he is also a Ph.D. candidate. He is married with two boys, Samuel and Nathan. Connect with him on Twitter: @ABHYNES.
I am currently in my seventh year of seminary education. I plan to finish writing my dissertation within the year and move on to what God has in store for my family and me. I suppose many of you are or were in the same situation. I can remember the beginning of my master’s work. We moved to Memphis in July 2006 and I was eager to get started. We had been serving at a local church in southwest Georgia before we moved. While serving there I spent a lot of time “doing” ministry. I had a B.A. in Theology, and I was learning something new every day.
When we arrived in Memphis, I knew that was going to be the time God was going to prepare us for my delusions of grandeur. I was going to speed through the 96 hours of the M.Div. and then consider earning a Ph.D. I wanted to get done quickly; the sooner the better. Investing in my education was not a concern.
Those were some of the most foolish things I have ever thought.
It was not until I neared the end of my third year that I could look back and see God had been poking and prodding me. All along now I see where God was providentially carrying me while I was quickly washing away into a sea of “knowledge.” I was learning a lot of book knowledge, and even being allowed to apply some of that knowledge in the venues where I was serving, but I was wasting years of time of intimate communication with the Father. I was learning much about the Father, but I was not growing more intimate with the Father. At a time when “growth,” specifically “spiritual growth,” should be at its highest, it was actually at its lowest.
So What Happened?
I lost sight of the purpose. My education became about getting a degree and not about doing as unto the Lord. While Paul teaches about doing everything unto the Lord (1 Cor. 10:31), I saw my education as unto my preparation for moving forward.
I allowed my reading and studying to be sufficient for my intimacy with Christ. As we see the life of Christ, there are various times when he goes to be alone, to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. He needed those times to connect with the Father. In ministry, and even in school, the same necessary times are there to find a regular time to seclude and silence oneself.
Following Christ can become a chore while in seminary. It becomes just something that you do, and not a representation of who you are. Chores are those menial tasks you are asked to do by a parent or spouse like taking out the trash, washing dishes, or folding laundry. They become a routine and mandatory.
How to Avoid Complacency
1. Remain in awe of who God is! Allow yourself to be wrapped up in the attributes of God on a daily basis. J.I. Packer in Knowing God talks about letting the study of God move beyond knowledge. His main point is to allow your study to be a time of meditation that results in action. So why couldn’t this same principle be applied to all our studies while in seminary? I think it could. Everything from History of Christianity to preaching, missions, and beyond could if we’d only grasp the depths of the glory of God through all our studies.
2. Never become satisfied with where you are. Paul was never satisfied with his holiness before Christ. He constantly pushed himself and others toward a deeper more intimate fellowship with Christ. When we get to school we may think that we have arrived at a place of relaxing and learning. When in fact what we are doing is taking in information and growing in knowledge. If we are not careful and purposeful it never gets beyond that. If we were to move beyond the informative idea of school and into a practical sanctifying work, I think we would avoid the trend of men and women laying aside their growth in Christ while in school.
3. Practically apply what you are learning and put forth the maximum effort in all you do. Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. We can get into such a fast-paced mentality and never stop to put into practice what we are learning at the time. I have seen student after student (myself included) finish a master’s degree having spent very little time investing in their education. I rushed through my degrees and finished all the classes, but I had grown so little.
Take Your Time
It was not until the Father faithfully destroyed and wrecked my heart and exposed ALL the gross infirmities that I had no idea were there, that I began to realize how much of my “education” was poorly poured into. Now I look back and long to do it over. I wish I could go back and invest in learning and growing, not for the sake of getting some degree or a notch on the ministerial belt, but to GROW in wisdom and knowledge of the depths of the love of Christ, as Paul prays for the Church at Ephesus.
Maybe you have been there, or are there right now. In my current role at Mid-America, I have the privilege of speaking to many of our prospective students. One of the main things I emphasize is TAKE YOUR TIME. Invest in learning and growing in your intimacy with Christ while in school. Let your classes be a part of your growth, not a means to an end. It is the greatest time to study the things of God and allow them to saturate and permeate your life. Do not try to expedite this time of your life.