Tag Archives: seminary

Photo of the Week: Twenty Three

On this day last year, I was in Athens as part of a seminary class on Paul’s New Testament Letters. I took this photo from the Areopagus (Mars Hill) where Paul told the men of Athens about the one true God that they had previously been worshiping, and even built an altar to, as “the unknown god” (see Acts 17:16-34).

As I said last year, walking in the footsteps of Paul on this trip, and especially in Athens, brought out the depths of Paul’s ministry in a whole new way as I witnessed the places where he had been intensely working, selflessly serving, compassionately ministering, fiercely loving, fully living, and boldly proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

{Day 27} Ministry is My Dance

…at least I thought so.

I had just returned from serving in Maryland as a summer missionary, my senior year of college was about to begin, I was actively leading small group Bible Studies and loving it, I had some sweet and developing friendships that I still enjoy today, and I had just gone to see “Step Up” in the theater.

During a climactic scene in the middle of the movie, all of the main characters are gathered at a water-front club in Baltimore. Each one connecting with his or her artistic ability in music or dance. And at one point the whole club joins in…dancing with energy and enthusiasm.

As I watched that scene that appeared so full of emotion and passion, I felt an instant parallel and connection to the atmosphere. Except the connection wasn’t to dancing, specifically…

Ministry was my dance.

It was the one thing that filled me with so much passion and excitement that I could burst. And I found myself longing for that. Longing to pursue the passion. Longing to pursue the dance.

But I think I misunderstood.

Over the course of my senior year, as I continued to grow, serve, lead, and mature, in part through a study on the life of David (Beth Moore’s “A Heart Like His”) I felt certain that God was leading me to apply to seminary. But leading me to vocational ministry? Although I had identified ministry as my dance, I wasn’t so sure. And it felt backwards to be called to seminary without first being called to ministry.

After all, seminary wasn’t ever supposed to be the goal. It was more of a means to an end. For people who already knew the goal.

But fervently praying and trusting that the Lord would stop me should seminary not be the direction He was leading, I began researching different options and found a multi-denominational seminary close to home that would allow me to take classes part-time while working full-time and had a solid reputation for its firm foundation in Scripture.

So I applied, secured a recommendation from my favorite professor, who although committed to his atheistic beliefs, was genuinely supportive and encouraging, was accepted, had an interview, and recounted confidently that I was certain this was where God had led … even though I wasn’t at all certain of where He would lead post-seminary.

But there was one thing that I could never really do. I could never fully write my {required} call to ministry paper.

I felt called to seminary. to study. to love Scripture. to love people. to help others love Scripture. to be an active part of the local church, the body of Christ. to love the atheists and unbelievers around me. to live like Christ. to shine for Him in dark places. even to pursue missions (though always in the short-term).

But ministry? That one passion I had previously referred to as my dance?

I longed for the clarity that I had heard in so many testimonies. I longed for that moment of insight when my path would be drastically and radically altered to follow the Lord to full time missions or ministry. I longed for the writing in the clouds answer.

But it didn’t come.

I left seminary this summer … midway through my Biblical Studies degree program.

Was seminary a mistake? I don’t think so.

I may not have completed the degree, but the learning, the growing, the trusting, the being challenged in heart, soul, mind and strength … I needed that.

When I identified ministry as my dance, I think I misunderstood. I wanted ministry because I thought ministry was the highest expression of loving God. I thought ministry was the way to reach people. But somewhere along the way of pursuing ministry, though not by a conscious decision, it became my goal, my drive, my desire … pursuing ministry had taken the place of pursuing Christ.

And when my passion was rightly restored to loving God and loving people, the place to which He was calling really hadn’t changed.

I know that I am called to imitate Christ and to love His people. At least for now, that means through a job in the secular workplace, through shining for the Gospel in the dark places, through serving in the local church, through being faithful in the small, through taking the next step by faith.

But knowing Christ … and knowing Christ well … must always come first.

I thought seminary would prepare me for future ministry. And in a way, it did. But not in the way I had expected. My time in seminary did prepare me with a readiness to step out and experience faith and trust … while boldly imitating and proclaiming Christ … in a whole new way.

I suppose in a way, ministry is still my dance.

But only when ministry simply means humbly seeking to know and love Christ, faithfully living for Him in the ordinary and everyday, and boldly proclaiming Him to those in need.

Yes, God calls some to pursue vocational ministry. But God calls others to simply pursue Him and to boldly proclaim His gospel from the field where we currently work. Forcing a call to ministry – forcing a direction that may appear to be good – isn’t necessary. The Lord’s purpose will prevail. Not when we are surrendered to ministry, but rather when we are fully surrendered to Him.

**all photos in this post were most graciously made available by my absolute favorite photographer, Kendra Martin Photography**