What I Learned at the Seminary


I've never enrolled as a student in a seminary.  But this past weekend, I was given an incredible sneak peek into that life.  

What I learned opened my eyes on many levels.

On Saturday, I was invited to speak at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis at their "Complete in Him: Reflections for ALL Christians on Singleness" conference, organized by their Life Team.

I was so surprised to receive such an invitation simply because: (1) I didn't grow up in the church; (2) I never attended college; (3) I'm divorced; and (4) I'm a woman (significant because women are not ordained in my denomination).

But those were PRECISELY some of the reasons I had been invited.

The conference's overarching goal was to hold a series of conversations about the "single" -- whether never married, widowed or divorced -- life in order to provide a sensitivity and real-time glimpse into that demographic that seminarians will face in their future congregations.

Confession time: I approached the event with a preconceived notion that I would face a room full of stoic men in clerical collars who were only there to fulfill some academic requirement. I realize that's a stereotype, but I'm just keeping it real. Part of my trepidation stemmed from my own insecurities (see reasons #1-4, above).

Instead, what I discovered was a friendly gathering of jeans-clad seminarians, along with knowledgeable and friendly seminary professors, with ready smiles who voluntarily sacrificed a Saturday to gain practical insight into effective ministry. A third of the attendees were women (a fact I never even considered) comprised of seminary wives, local lay people, and deaconesses studying for church ministry.

My purpose was not to conduct a Bible study about what Scripture says about divorce, or even provide a demographic study of the divorce rates or where the most concentrated clusters reside.

My job was to put a face to those just like me and lend experiential insight that cannot be learned from a book.

I talked about how it felt being divorced. How it felt to walk back into my church for the first time after my marriage blew up four years ago. How it felt being half of a statistic I never wanted. How my pastors reached out to me AND my ex-husband to attempt reconciliation. I shared with them the practical ways that my pastors walked our congregation through a high profile divorce without taking sides or allowing camps to form. I told them how my church and pastors best ministered to me in that time of brokenness.

In a nutshell, God allowed me to share how those future pastors and church workers can create a culture of grace instead of culture of judgmentalism in their future congregations.

Their questions during the panel discussion and Q&A time reflected their desire to effectively shepherd their flocks from a heart of compassion -- not just head knowledge. Their questions provided such a beautiful picture of Jesus' love for people.

Statistics prove that they will deal with 42%-50% of divorced people in their churches. So I left them with this thought:

One day they will be sitting in their church's office when a broken person walks in -- perhaps a personal friend from the congregation or even a staff member -- who reveals that the enemy just lobbed a grenade in the middle of their marriage. In that moment, it won't matter how well the pastor can translate Greek and Hebrew. What matters most in that moment is how they will be able to translate the love and grace of God into that brokenness.

I pray that God planted a seed in their hearts and minds this weekend. I pray that God will nurture and grow those seeds to benefit their future ministries for God's glory. I prayed for them individually and as a group over the rest of the weekend. 

I left the seminary on Saturday with a renewed sense of hope for the Church. 

I'm so thankful to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis for recognizing the importance of holding such conversations. And I'm so very thankful for those enthusiastic, bright, compassionate men who are the future leaders of our Church.

Thoughts?
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9 comments:

  1. Donna,
    Great opportunity but I can see the trepidation you must have felt. What could a mere mortal teach those minds!!! Yes .My unmarried daughter tells how she feels the world is for couples with kids. She often thinks the world looks right passed her. A wonderful opportunity to educate those scholars!!! Amazing the doors that open Donna so happy for you.

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    1. The wonderful thing is that they are mere mortals, too, who need to grow and learn just like the rest of us. It was such a privilege to see how the Church works together to pool our gifts and knowledge for the sake of the Gospel. Your daughter has a point about the world's focus, so it was uplifting to see those in ministry come together to understand how the body of Christ can instigate change. Thanks so much for your insight and continued encouragement.

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  2. Donna what a wonderful opportunity that you had and those doors was opened for a reason! People needed to hear the Lord speak through you on the subject at hand. I have no doubt whatsoever that you was not used by our Lord to minister to many that you may never know about my friend. What a blessing for them that the Lord opened the door. I personally want to say how much I appreciate your honesty and your REALNESS Donna. You approach things in general with a true desire to please our Lord but at the same time you touch the hearts of many that was "thinking and would never say" what the depths of heart reveals! Hugs and blessings, Cindy

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    1. Cindy, your heart for ministry is so beautiful. Thank you for your words of encouragement, my Friend.

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  3. P.S. I need to remind myself next time to write my remarks on my big desk top not my tablet!! My tablet anticipates the word I am going to use, types it in, and often it is not right!! Sorry!!! Goes to show minds are better than machines in some cases!!

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  4. Donna, what a wonderful opportunity for you to share and for the listeners to learn. I, too, pray for all those who heard your presentation that the Lord would use your experiences to guide them when they are faced with the hurting people in their congregations. You are not someone who is easily forgotten!! May God continue to bless your ministry.

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    1. Thank you for joining in that prayer and for your encouragement. Not easily forgotten, huh? That made me smile as Nat King Cole's song floats through my head, "Unforgettable...". :) Blessings on your day.

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  5. so thankful for your time at the Seminary- what a blessed conversation you were allowed to participate in--Praise the Lord

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