Theological education is, as a whole, one method of equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12). In the seminary, our goal is somewhat narrower. Our aim is to take what we have heard and entrust it to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). Among the countless institutions and groups that have sought to fulfill this Scriptural calling, Bethlehem College & Seminary is somewhat unique. We group 15–18 men together into cohorts and send them on a four-year journey toghether. Among all of the joys and challenges of a small, church-based school, I can say without caveat that this cohort aspect of the seminary program has been the absolute best part of my experience so far.
Don’t misunderstand me. I love our professors and leaders. In my experience, these men and women are willing to take time to lean into the lives of the younger (and sometimes older) people who sit under their teaching. They are intentional in seeking to balance the content of their curriculum to not just address intellectual matters but pastoral as well. Professors both at the college and seminary levels have had enormous impacts on me personally, pastorally, and academically in the past three years here, some continuing to take hours at a time to deepen friendships and talk about the future.
But, regardless of that, the cohort aspect of the MDiv program has easily been the most impactful portion of my experience. My cohort brothers have become family to me. The impact of these relationships in the classroom has been enormous. We understand where one another are coming from and can quickly get to the heart of conversations rather than circling around misunderstandings and questions of meaning. Because I have sat in every class for the past three years with these men, I know where they shore up my numerous deficiencies. Not only have they each become resources of knowledge to me, they have become my character examples.
The beauty of this small school setting is that these relationships, which put down their roots in the classroom, do not end there. Even though it has taken me three years to get to know many of my brothers well, I count it a gracious gift of God to be able to sit around another family’s dinner table, kids yelling and chili smeared all over the table, and talk about our hopes and prayers for the future. It is a deeply humbling thing to see God calling those around you and to hear him encouraging you and your family through their words. That these three years have yielded deep relationships between my family and the families of the cohort is a blessing that will continue to affect our lives long after this four-year stint in Minnesota.
And the relationships have moved outside of the classroom and our homes to a deeply personal level. I have been gifted a deep awareness that these men and their families are for me. In them, I experience tangibly that God is for me. This is not a reality that can be left under appreciated. Although my confidence in God ought not to be based on my confidence in these men, my faith is bolstered daily in my interactions with them. It is no small thing for a man to have a handful of good friends; a room full of men who are for you is a blessing too great for words.
It is this kind of fellowship, this biblical togetherness, that has lent the educational program here its power for me. It is the personal depth that has taken the intellectual whirrings of the classroom and applied them to my heart. It is seeing a family in need, or being in need ourselves, that has pushed us towards one another in Christian charity. It is hearing rebukes from my brothers that has pushed me out of myself.
And yet this must come to an end. This blessed season will not be the “real life” that many of us live after seminary. And this is a good thing, because we have not been brought here to only serve one another, but to go and equip all saints to do the work of ministry. We have not been lumped together to stay together, but to spread.
3rd Year Seminarian
- Pray and thank God for the unique work that he is doing at Bethlehem College & Seminary.
- Pray that the students, both in the seminary and college, would not waste the time that we have been given to learn from and develop relationships with our peers.
- Pray for those who are graduating and leaving precious friends to go and minister around the world.
- Pray that this work of entrusting the gospel to faithful men will yield faithful elders for churchs for years to come.
- Pray that our professors and leaders would guard well against sin, the world, and the devil, and that they would remain faithful to follow after our Lord Jesus.