Headlines from First Thoughts

Monday, May 28, 2007

Truett Seminary

This year is the 10th anniversary of Truett Seminary's first graduating class (my class). Here is a nice article from my friend Marv Knox editor of the Baptist Standard.

By Marv Knox
WACO—Ten years past graduation, Truett Theological Seminary’s first students remain fascinated with—and challenged by—people who receive their ministry.
They’re also still committed to learning how to minister, and they believe new seminary graduates should embrace their calling, they said in reply to a survey reflecting on their decade out of seminary.
Baylor University’s seminary graduated its first class of 33 students in 1997. Almost a third of them replied to the questionnaire. Their answers crossed a spectrum of impressions and ideas, but relationships with people provided a recurrent theme.
“What has surprised me most (in the past 10 years) is that the local church is the place where a pastor might see people at their worst, with all their warts and foibles, and yet it is the very same place where he or she would see people at their absolute best,” noted Brian Brewer, senior pastor at Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., who will join the Truett Seminary faculty this summer.
“It is this polarity that has shown me the church (is) both human and divine,” Brewer noted.
“People are a challenge to work with at times,” added James Gardner, associate pastor at McClendon Baptist Church in West Monroe, La. “The best thing about ministry is working with people. The worst thing—if you can really say that—or maybe the most challenging thing about ministry is working with people.”
Acknowledging he wished he had learned “more about working with people” in seminary, Gardner also noted “relationships” was the most valuable lesson he learned in seminary.
“It doesn’t matter how great you preach or how well-educated you are. If people inside and outside the church don’t know you care about and love them, nothing else matters,” he said.
Brewer and Gardner joined Kirk Hatcher, minister to youth at South Main Baptist Church in Houston, in wishing they had learned more about conflict management or relationships in seminary.
Learning more about “dealing with different personalities and how that applies to working in a ministry setting” would have been very helpful, Hatcher said, noting young ministers need to know “how to deal with the overpowering person, the meek, the attention-getter, the refuser … .”
Bill Shiell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., credited Truett Seminary with helping him learn conflict resolution. And the pastor-church relationship provided the focal point for his advice to the latest crop of seminary graduates, following his footsteps by a decade.
“Know yourself, and know how you’re wired,” he urged, responding to a question about advice he would give to new seminary graduates. “Churches are like people because they are people.
“Every church has a DNA, just as every minister does, too. In your first church and/or staff experience, pay attention to how you live out your theology, how you lead and how you work. Then, as you talk to search committees, ask questions based on what you know about yourself and what you know about their DNA. Accept who they are, and minister from that position. …
“For instance, every church has a different definition of pastor and staff leadership. We were trained in seminary to lead one way but not trained how to adjust leadership needs based on the DNA of the congregation and/or staff. Churches could identify what they want and clarify that. You could substitute any issue here, but leadership is one example.”
Gardner offered new graduates a word of warning about relationships: “Sometimes, people will be ugly and nasty and downright mean. But regardless of that, treat them as Christ would—love. It’s easy to get so busy doing the ‘stuff’ of ministry that you can forget what we are sent here for—to reach and tell people of the love of Jesus Christ.”
Steve Wells echoed that theme as he delivered the message to graduates at Truett Seminary’s 2007 commencement.
“Relationships matter. … If you love people enough, eventually, they will hurt you or you will hurt them,” insisted Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston and a member of the Class of ‘97.
“If we have been forgiven, we must forgive others,” he said, noting forgiveness may seem like a quiet act and mundane, but it is a “profound miracle.”
How ministers dispense and accept forgiveness may be the most profound act of their entire ministry, he added, exhorting the new graduates: “Now is the time to take up the role of being heralds of the king, ambassadors of Christ and ministers of reconciliation.”
The ‘97 Truett grads emphasized the importance of deepening their faith and continually learning how to minister better.
“Truett placed a priority on spiritual formation,” recalled Andy Pittman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lufkin. “I did not fully appreciate the importance of spiritual formation while I was a student.
“Once I was out of seminary, I started serving as a pastor and giving myself away to others. That was when spiritual formation became most important to me. I recognized that I had to have a growing spiritual life in order to be effective as a minister. Truett gave me the foundation and the tools to grow spiritually—and to help others to grow.”
Brewer echoed that sentiment in his response to a question about what he wishes laypeople know. “A pastor’s desk is in a ‘study,’ not an ‘office.’ He or she needs time to do just that, to study. Often, what is the most valuable part of the pastor’s work week is the time he spends in prayer and study.”
Coming to grips with that fact is what has surprised Wells the most during the past 10 years. “I am an extrovert by nature, yet I need 20 to 30 study hours every week for preparation.”
That need never stops, Hatcher said, telling recent grads they will learn from unlikely sources. “You don’t know everything. People you are going to be ministering to and with can help you know more. Let them teach you,” he said, advising, “Never stop learning.”
That’s a lesson the “old” Truett grads learned in Waco, recalled C.V. Hartline III, pastor of Vibrant Covenant Church in Portland, Ore.
The two most valuable lessons he learned in seminary were their late professor Bill Treadwell’s admonition to “remember who you are” and to “be a life-long learner.”
That stuck, Hartline said, crediting Truett Seminary with providing and education that was “a building block for growth” in faith and practical ministry.
Chris Nagel, a chaplain at Giddings State School in Giddings, even offered recent grads a specific area of learning that will strengthen their relationships. “Do a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education,” he advised. “It will help you integrate your personal issues and your seminary education in a real-world setting.”
Chad Prevost, assistant professor of creative writing at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., urged the new grads to innovate and seek relevance.
“We have enough status quo in the ministry—and to some extent, at least, this plays into why the church continues to fade in significance to the culture. Be innovative,” Prevost explained. “I have to agree with the prophetic voice of Tony Campolo: If the church doesn’t find ways to become socially engaged, it will continue to lose relevance.”
Chris Spinks, assistant to the dean and an adjunct professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., urged the ‘07 graduates to stretch themselves and continue to think deeply.
“Even the ‘heady’ stuff matters,” noted Spinks, who will become an acquisitions editor at Wipf & Stock Publishing in Eugene, Ore., this summer. “It makes you a deeper, more thoughtful person, which in turn makes you a better minister.”
And Wells advised them to lean on their call to ministry as they go about serving God’s people.
“Be mystical about church call,” he said. “Go where you feel led. Work like you will be there the rest of your life. Stay until you have a clear sense of call to another place. If you wish you were in another place; know that God knows where you are and when and where you will go next.”

For complete answers to the 1997 Truett Seminary graduates’ answers to the survey, visit our website, www.baptiststandard.com.

No comments:

Google Search