Semper Informanda: Prolegomenon

A Letter of Encouragement To All Our Students At the End-of-Term

Dear RTS Orlando Students,

You may be up to your neck in papers and exam preparation right now.  Perhaps graduation is around the corner.  Or maybe you have a year or two to go. Either way, another long semester is coming to an end. 

As we approach the finish line, let me encourage you with several end-of-term thoughts.

First, don’t miss the grace of wrapping up.  End-of-term is not simply a time to get papers written and exams done so you can get a good grade and get out of here.  It is a time to reflect a bit on what you have learned.  I urge students to take out one sheet of paper for each class and use it to summarize the class.

On it I note things like—what did we cover, what challenged me, what changed me, what are the key lessons God taught me through this class, what are their applications to life and ministry?  What are some things the professor said I want to remember?  Then I take time to think about what I want to read next in this subject.  Occasionally, the answer is—“nothing.”  But more often than not it has been—an intriguing title, a biography, or something to help me understand the subject a little more deeply.  So please, in your exam prep, don’t miss the grace of wrapping up—the blessing of review.

Second, let me remind you of the importance of preparation.  Occasionally you have probably asked—"now, why am I doing this?” 

Let me tell you why.  Because you had the sense that preparation in ministry matters—that you were called to this.  Recall the old adage—“if you want to go broad and far, you must go deep.”  That is true in so many areas—especially ministry. 

Recall that most of the significant  leaders in church history had substantial education.  It prepared them for what God had down the road for them.

Athletes know the truth of this.  My friend Pat Williams, Senior VP of the Orlando Magic, wrote a book called The Winning Combination, on keys to coaching and leadership greatness.  Guess what?  He said that preparation is what wins games.  You prepare yourself mentally for anything that could happen in the game.  He said you spend one hour of planning and preparing for each minute you are on the field.   Preparation of the best athletes, he says, must be relentless, meticulous, and all consuming.  Preparation is the longest part of your life as an athlete, because championships are won behind closed doors.  Winning, according to Pat Williams, is the science of being prepared.  

Soldiers know the importance of preparation as well. I just finished reading Lone Survivor: The Eye Witness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell.  It’s a page turner. But on the way to Afghanistan, he details the training of a Navy Seal.  He details the sheer misery, marching, drilling, and endurance tests.  Along the way many want to quit, but his instructor reminds him “this is a school for is the most serious business there is.”

We know that preparation is important for our lawyers, our mechanics, and our doctors. We want the people who put our laptop together to know what they are doing.  But what about the servants of Christ?  What about our pastors and Christian counselors—the people who shepherd flocks and practice soul care?  What about the missionaries and teachers?  Why is it that we think we can get by on the cheap with short cuts?

Listen, are we not a school for “the most serious business there is?” 

I remember hearing the story of the great Presbyterian pastor, Donald Gray Barnhouse, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.  Barnhouse said that if he had ten years to live he would spend nine in preparation and one in service and that he would accomplish more for God than if he spent one in preparation and nine in service. Barnhouse said that the woodsman who takes time to sharpen his ax at the beginning of the day will have chopped more wood at the end of the day.

Many Christians leaders in the past have expressed regret about a lack of preparation.  In one of his last interviews Billy Graham was with Fox News Greta Van Susteren.  She asked him—if he could do it over again what would he do differently?  The first thing he said is that he would study more...he would pray more, travel less, take fewer speaking engagement, and spend more time with his family.  But he regretted he did not take enough time for preparation.  

That is good advice for all of us.

Some of you are in the middle of your course of study.  I encourage you to press on.  Take a good summer break, then return and work your plan.  Do whatever you can to stay on track and finish the course.  Others are at the end of your program.  You have stayed with it.  You are starting to feel the joy of achievement.  I anticipate handing you your diploma at commencement.  We want to say to you—"well done.”  You have stayed the course and now RTS will be one of the key building blocks in the foundation of your ministry.  We are proud of you and will miss you very much.

Finally, to all of you, as you finish the term, don’t forget to take time and thank your teachers.  We have an extraordinary faculty.  They have poured out their lives to you in this past year.  Let them know how much you appreciate them.  Tell them how God has used them in your life.  Tell them what you will remember most about their class.  They have taught you and prayed for you.  Now bless them as you go on your way.

It has been our joy serving you this year.  If there is anything we can do to encourage you in the coming months, let us know.  We believe in you!   And we commend you to the Lord and his good care.

Yours In His Service,

Dr. Don Sweeting
James Woodrow Hassell Professor of Church History

Orlando Semper Informanda | Volume 6 Issue 32

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