Ask Not What You Can Do for Your Church, But What It Can Do for You

I spoke last night to a new seminary student here at BJU. He just arrived from another undergraduate institution. I looked through his eyes at the choices he is about to make—especially about church attendance—and I trembled a bit.

A word to him: You are the product of your influences. Go to Bob Jones Seminary, listen hard, and you’ll preach a certain way. Go to Bob Jones Seminary, invest yourself in one local church during your time in school, and you’ll preach a somewhat different way than the guy next to you in Soteriology who attends another church. As my pastor says, “Good preaching is caught as much as taught.”

Seminary is your time of preparation, so choose a church on that basis. What you learn you will carry with you to the ends of the earth. So don’t fear to ask what a church will do for you rather than what you will do for it. If you have the right heart, you will serve your church! You can’t help but do so! And ultimately you will better serve those you pastor in the future.

You don’t know the force of sustained scriptural exposition unless you experience it, and most of us didn’t get that growing up. You may miss out on the key formative influence you should be receiving if you go right away to a little country church that’s crying for help. If you let need drive you, you wouldn’t be in seminary in the first place.

Have a little humility. Continue the learning process by choosing a church based on the quality of the preaching ministry—a ministry you will feed on now and feed to others later.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

1 Comment

  1. kylemcfarlane on January 17, 2009 at 6:14 am

    This is very true, not only for those attending a seminary but for all of us—in more ways than just preaching. I recently moved to a new country, and started out attending a church with the same charismatic-style worship I’ve always attended.

    There were plenty of opportunities for me to serve there, but I deliberately left and have started attending a traditional liturgical service at another church. I encounter God far more at the latter than the former, and there will no doubt be plenty of chances for me to serve there as well.

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