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The Portrait of an RTS Graduate
April 30, 2014
May is graduation month, and once again we must say farewell to another outstanding class of graduates from Reformed Theological Seminary. Commencement ceremonies are wonderful since they give students and their families a moment to reflect on the Lord’s faithful provision during their seminary years. It gives us all a moment to remember the work of RTS and its goal to train leaders for the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Over the years, I have come to grow in my admiration for our students. Here are a few reasons why.
In most cases, graduate education is paid for by the companies where that student works. This is not the case for the seminarian. They are expected to pay their own way. They find resources from their local churches, friends and families, even the seminary itself, which provides numerous ways to help offset the cost of tuition. At the end of the day, the bulk of the educational expense is the responsibility of the students, often leaving them with a substantial debt by the time of graduation. All this for the sake of the gospel.
In addition to that is the demanding schedule. Many students work part-time or full-time jobs. Yet, several required courses are only offered in an intensive format, meeting all day from Monday through Friday. Meaning, the seminarian’s precious vacation time has to be spent not at the beach, not on a camping trip, not even at home with their family—but rather in a classroom doing academic work! Work upon work! All this for the sake of the gospel.
Finally, what makes a seminary graduate special is that after graduation there is no immediate gain. In the private sector, one of the largest perks of graduate education is the hope of a promotion and increased salary. But for your average seminarian, there is no such promotion, no increased salary, no accolades, no glory. They earn a degree whose immediate application is to make continued payments... but of a different kind. For some, they will pursue a pastoral call. Meaning they must leave their current, successful professions in order to pursue the unknown and demanding life of a minister. For others, they will engage in some form of lay leadership whose primary reward is not material or monetary gain, but rather to see the spiritual growth of others. Still others may be called to surrender the creature comforts of their current lives to serve communities in less developed areas in the world. Again, all this for the sake of the gospel.
This is an honest portrait of an average student at Reformed Theological Seminary.
I have often wondered, “What would possess a person to do such a thing? Why would someone sacrifice so much to gain so little?” I can only think of one answer – something that I see in our current graduating class. What possesses a person to become a seminary graduate is nothing less than a raw and unadulterated understanding of God and an undying faith in the crucified and resurrected Savior. Why do they do it? Simply put, they love Jesus and they love His people. Such a call does not happen to all Christian believers. It does, however, come to a few – not because they are better, smarter, or even more talented than others. They pursue this because the Lord has called them to be in this path. The price is high; they know it, yet they pursue it. And they do so by faith, not by sight. I can hear our graduates say that because this service is for the Lord, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing” (2 Sam. 24:24). The price is indeed high, but they know “that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). For these reasons and so many more, I cannot but admire a seminary graduate.
In the New Testament, Paul the great Christian Apostle says that for some the pursuit of such things like a seminary education is seen as “folly” (1 Cor. 1:18), and one can easily appreciate why. If such training brings a deeper understanding of the gospel of the kingdom of God; if seminary can provide the skills to counsel and support those in desperate need of a genuine message of life and hope, then one must ask “is this really folly?” I think not.
We rejoice and celebrate this month with the many graduates of our school and commend them to boldly proclaim the gospel of Christ. We wait in eager expectation to hear of the great successes that the Lord will bring to your ministries, wherever they may be. God bless you graduates in all that you do!