Most of my fellow students at Sioux Falls Seminary are there to get a Masters of Divinity degree so that they have the academic qualifications to become a pastor. There are also a few that are there to get counseling degrees, but not me. Eighteen months ago I was invited to take an informal class offered by the seminary called Discipleship Sioux Falls. At the time, I had recently completed a M.S. in information systems from DSU and was a new homeowner. Although I hadn’t completely divorced myself from academia at the time, I didn’t anticipate that I would become a graduate student again anytime soon.
I enjoyed learning from the seminary’s professors while undertaking discipleship Sioux Falls and decided to get my feet wet by taking a couple of classes during the interim term. I had the option of auditing the classes for $50.00 per credit, but chose to pay tuition instead. My line of thinking was that if I was going to be there and do the work, I had just as well earn academic credit for doing so. The first class I took was an introduction to the Eastern Orthodox Church. I was totally in over my head (and still am) not having any undergraduate preparation in religion, but I was fascinated. I had the opportunity to learn about the Great Schism, why they celebrate Christmas on January 6th/7th and what the word “Filoque” means. The second class I took during the interim was a class on conflict management, which was a bit less fascinating; however, I decided to continue on in the journey.
I didn’t have an academic advisor at the time, so I opted to take the class that looked the most interesting on the schedule. A few weeks later, I found myself in Dr. Philip Thompson’s systematic theology class (TH-502)—a class that probably should have had a few prerequisites. I had the privilege of stumbling through Barry Harvey’s Another City, which many students at Sioux Falls Seminary consider to be a rite of passage of sorts. Unfortunately, the title is now out of print and Dr. Thompson will be phasing out the title. I did learn quite a bit about the Holy Spirit and the role of the church during the semester, so I decided to continue on. I also took the companion course, TH-501 during the summer of 2010.
After completing TH-501, I was basically at the point where I had to apply to become a real student if I wanted to continue on. I had eight credits completed at the time and decided to continue on, so, I applied to the M.A. in Christian Leadership program. Somehow, despite having no intention or desire to become a man of the cloth, they let me in.
Last fall, I had the opportunity to take LE-501 (Church Leadership and Administration) from the former president of the seminary, Charles Hiatt. The class was very relevant to the volunteer work I do at Central Baptist Church and really spoke to my spiritual gift of “getting things done.” During this interim term, I took a class on the liturgical calendar from Dr. Thompson, only to find myself quite ill during the four day class. Fortunately, I only missed one day of the class.
I’ve now been a seminary student for just over twelve months and I have 12 credit hours down and another 50 to go–I’m about 20% of the way to a degree. This spring, I’ll be taking two church history classes and I will hopefully have the degree done by the spring semester of 2014. I still am not entirely sure why I’m a seminary student. I don’t feel called to the pastorate, but I do feel called to the ministry. I look forward to the opportunities that God will set in my path to further His kingdom.