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Things I didn't learn in seminary


Wouldn't you know it? Scenario 1: A preschooler packed the toilet on the children's hallway with three rolls of unrolled paper and tried to flush it. Scenario 2: Just as I was making my Sunday morning rounds.

Scenario three: On my first Sunday morning in my very first pastorate. Well, there was a custodial type man on the premises who could have solved this dilemma in a flash. But, trying to impress everyone with the versatility of their new pastor I decided to take this situation in hand personally. And, I might add, literally. In just a few minutes they knew that their new pastor was DIY deficient. It wasn't really a blow to my manhood because we already knew that I was challenged in the manly arts of tool management.

It was a reminder that seminary wasn't going to prepare me for every single role I'd have as a pastor. As a full time seminary student at the time I had already taken a summer practicum in the multiple ministries of a local pastor, taught by a seasoned practitioner. He lectured us about balancing our time, fulfilling our preaching, teaching, outreach, pastoral care, counseling, and family duties. He may have demonstrated pastoral care of toilets too and I just missed it.

This isn't a critique of a seminary education. Our seminaries, and those of other denominational affiliations, are preparing future ministers better today than ever before. If I could turn the clock back I would love to be an entering first year student at my alma mater, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, right now. They have a choice faculty and administration that is taking students deeper in theological education and missions at an accelerated pace. My point is that seminary cannot teach students every life skill before they enter their ministry calling. Knowing toilet management is an exaggeration, hyperbole about the practical matters that those called to ministry should acquire in life learning. Those answering his call to ministry must continue their learning curve throughout their ministry so that they can be properly prepared for the many roles of spiritual leadership. The mentoring of experienced practioners must be added to the learning curriculum of those serving the multi-faceted demands of churches today.

Several disciplines come to mind.

1. The basics of spiritual leadership.

2. Strategic decision-making.

3. Personal relational skills and human dynamics.

4. Church financial management and general accounting principles.

5. Strategic staffing for mission.

Coaching pastors and church staff over the past thirty-five years I've notticed several realities about church conflict and the dismal statistics regarding spiritual leadership. Rarely are pastors on the hot seat regarding theological issues. The greatest majority of church crisis involves one or more of the five practical categories mentioned above. What is more, the impetus for learning in these and other subdivisions is with the pastor and church staff. Their learning cannot be limited to what is derived from their formal education. Several continued education attitudes form the basis for this kind of learning;

1. Developing, early on, the heart of a life-long learner.

2. Strategic partnership with colleagues in ministry.

3. A comprehensive reading and study plan.

4. Access to the numerous information systems for personal growth.

5. Conferences and seminars for learning in needed areas of study.

Thirty-five years later I'm still no good with a toilet plunger. But, experience and assessment has taught me what I can and cannot do, and today I know who to call when a light switch needs to be replaced. Many of the practical areas of serving as a spiritual leader, however, were learned from wise mentors who coached me in those critical dimensions of leading a church. These skills were transmitted to me and others in the same way the Apostle Paul trained Timothy and those he guided through the mechanics of spiritual leadership.

Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your

progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for

by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Timothy 4:15-16, ESV

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the

faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 1:13, ESV

What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to

faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

2 Timothy 2:2, ESV

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed,

knowing from whom you learned it.

2 Timothy 3:14, ESV

Even more, Jesus said, "...learn from me..." (Matthew 11:29). His example of leadership is the ultimate prototype of how to advance the kingdom, and he certainly knew the practical dynamics of moving the kingdom agenda forward in people who wanted his kingdom on earth as it was in heaven.

Now, please teach me the process of unstopping a toilet.


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