Why I Decided To Go To Seminary…Or Not

Published on August 9, 2011 by CT in Blog, News


I have decided to go to seminary. Or not.  And this is a big step for me.

You see, I’m cautious, and I care too much about how I’m perceived, and I’m fearful of not hearing God’s voice clearly, and I’ve long held a wrong view about the nature of Christian service and ministry.  And this wrong kind of view is something that God has been working on within me for years.

This wrong view can be understood by imagining a ladder of spirituality, where each successive rung marks an increasing commitment to and love for Jesus.  At the bottom was a businessman, an occupation I’ve held for the past 10 years.  Next in line was service to God in the form of parachurch ministry.  Above this rung was a local pastor, then church planter, then stateside missionary.  Further up the ladder came the foreign missionaries in developed nations, then foreign missionaries in developing nations, with frontier missionaries, carrying the gospel to unreached people groups, crowning the ministers of grace within the body of Christ.

I sought to climb to the highest point on this ladder, believing that wanting God above all other things meant taking the greatest risk for God.  But God was not in this desire.  As I stepped down this spiritual ladder, pursuing some of the rungs in thought and prayer, while pursuing others more fully through research, training, and conversations, I inevitably returned to my job as a businessman feeling as though God was pleased to use me there.  It was a humbling process, and a frustrating one, as I grieved the loss of dreams of a life I thought merited the glorious salvation I had received from God.

Intellectually, I believed in the priesthood of all believers, and the gifts of the Spirit to all believers, and the need for each member of the body to fulfill his or her role under the headship of Jesus, and the sanctity of all professions done for the glory of God.  And I never would have acknowledged believing in this internal hierarchy, but in God’s providence, I now see what I did not see for so many years:  that not all gifts are equally profitable to the church (1 Corinthians 12), but the use of all of these gifts can be equally pleasing to God.

We do well when we desire to be profitable to God’s people, but we do better when we desire to please God, because in doing so, He receives more glory and we receive more joy.  And in a way that only God can work, He makes us most profitable to His people when we seek to please Him above all else.  This is a profound truth, and it’s having a big impact on the way I delight in and obey my King.

You may recall that I lost my job in September of 2010.  Well, I spent 10 of the months since that time finishing the building of our first house.  And now that the house is done, I’m at a fork in the road.  Do I continue down the path of business, or do I respond to a longing I’ve felt, strongly at times, weaker at others, to teach God’s people His word?

This goes back to my being cautious.  When I encounter this kind of question, I find myself at a standstill, waiting, I tell myself, on direction from God.  But what I’m really doing is entertaining my fears.  One fear is telling people I’m going to do one thing and then end up doing something else (this goes back to caring too much about how I’m perceived).  Another fear is doing what I think God is telling me to do and then finding out I was following my own voice (this goes back to being fearful of not hearing God’s voice clearly).

But God has been gracious to me this past week, and through the ministry of friends and family, I’ve come to see that, sometimes, waiting on the Lord means standing still and listening.  And sometimes, waiting on the Lord means walking and listening.  Either way, waiting on Him means believing Him, exercising faith in the hope and expectation that He will act on my behalf, for my good, and in a way that brings Him glory and brings me joy.

So I’m waiting in faith by applying to business jobs and applying to seminary.  I will soon walk down one of these paths, or one of hundreds of other paths I’m not yet considering.  But there’s movement in my soul and in my steps, and it feels good to stretch my spiritual legs again.  Pray for me, that God will humble me in the process, and teach me to trust in Him, even if it costs me my pride and my fear.

Question:  How have you waited on God in big decisions?

  • http://wordsofeternallife.org/ Mike McArthur

    Praying for you Chris, trust Him – not easy, but He will lead you.
    My recent post Here be gold

    • http://cravesomethingmore.org Chris_Tomlinson

      Thanks, Mike. Please continue to pray over the next few weeks–for humbling circumstances, opportunities to grow in dependence on God, grace to trust, wisdom to recognize His guiding hand, and courage to obey.

  • Debbie

    Ahh, step by step with God…what a challenge. What an adventure. I think that sometime the "being still and knowing He is God" is very challenging but that's what living life in Christ is all about. Abraham had no idea where God was leadng Him. The children of Isreal followed the pillar of fire and the cloud. Jesus sought His Father's direction daily. God is in the habit of not laying it all out ahead of time — no matter that we as humans have our five year plans and our goal setting stratagies so we don't miss the bulls eye. (I wonder just how many times we're aiming at the wrong target because we have to have something to aim at?) I think you have set your sights on the right target — to please God and Chris, His word says that faith delights Him and He rewards it. You're walk is the kind that requires staying intimately close to our wonderful God who is faithful and loving and wise and able. Keep on trusting Him as you walk and wait and enjoy all that He has for you even in the waiting.

    Have I ever had to wait on God in big decisions? To answer that I need to get busy on the book many who have heard our story have encouraged me write — or not. :0)

    Blessings on you and your family as you seek Him and His desires for you.

    • http://cravesomethingmore.org Chris_Tomlinson

      What a challenge, and what an adventure. Two sides of the same coin of daily obedience. I could stand to see the beauty of the adventure more than I do. "Enjoying all that He has for me even in the waiting" is an even better way of putting it. God's grace to you, Debbie, as you write or not =).

  • http://www.weblogchrist.com Jonathan Romig


    This is fantastic! You should apply to Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. I'm just saying. It's pretty much my favorite seminary. Come visit (http://gcts.edu/Visit-Our-Campus.cfm). We have a few days this fall that are designed for people like you. Also. I'm engaged to an awesome girl named Monica.

    -Jonathan Romig
    My recent post How To Buy A Christian Engagement Ring