This week marks the end of another new beginning for my family and me. After many years and much hard work I am finally walking across the stage (twice) and graduating with two masters degrees this week. First, I am graduating with a Masters of Divinity in International Church Planting from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Second, I am graduating with a Masters of Arts in Intercultural Studies from the College at Southeastern.
The journey and adventure of seminary was not an easy one, but an irreplaceable experience because of all that I got study, professors that I sat under, and the experience of a lifetime to be sent out as a church planter to South Asia. In many ways it was always a love/hate relationship, but mostly love.
I finished my M.Div. a year ago so in many ways to be graduating as far as the ceremony feels anti-climatic, but I just submitted my thesis for the M.A. recently, which now will allow me to graduate with both degrees. Earning two masters is never something I set out to do, but the right doors opened and I walked through them.
Regularly I have guys reach out to me and ask me whether or not they should attend seminary or if it is necessary to be in ministry. My typically response is that I wondered these same things myself six years ago so I slowly started and realized it is where I needed to be. At the same time though I do not believe that one must attend seminary to be qualified to be in ministry. Many other guys may disagree with me, but it is not biblical and many people in ministry around the world will never have the opportunity to attend seminary.
Looking back on when I started seminary as a young married guy with no children, life has changed a lot in the process. I have studied hard parts of Scripture that I would have likely never studied on my own. I have taken professors who I will forever be thankful for and whose books and blogs I regularly read. I have made friends that will last a lifetime. And I feel as if my equipping and preparation have really just started now, two masters degrees later.
Although one does not have to be part of the Southern Baptists denomination to attend Southeastern, I started and finished a member of a Southern Baptists church. I must give proper thanks where it is due. Thank you to the cooperative program for allowing me to receive half off of my tuition up front. Thank you to the Charles B. Keesee foundation for the scholarship of those like myself and covering the majority of the rest of my seminary expenses. Thank you to local SBC churches for giving to the cooperative program and Lottie Moon, which allowed us to serve with the IMB the last couple of years with most of our expenses and healthcare being provided. And thank you to my local church, the Summit, for equipping and sending us out in partnership with both Southeastern and the IMB.
I cannot say with certainty that this will be the last time that I will be a student in the traditional sense, but a break is in order for now as I seek out what is that God has for me next in life and ministry. Be sure to check back in this week as I blog on some other reflections that lessons learned through my seminary experience.