Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

Reflections on Seminary part 5

with 8 comments

There are 10 things I want to recommend and conclude with. I’ll try to be candid:

  1. Success in seminary and growth as a future pastor is directly related to your involvement in the local church during seminary. I can’t stress this enough. It is and will always be a blessing for many students to attend large churches with awesome preachers. But the average student (not every student) attends this type of church each Sunday with little or no involvement, even though their intention is to be a pastor. My suggestion is to get out, go to one of the many dying and struggling churches in your area, and just volunteer to do anything to serve that church. I’ve learned more about being a pastor from Mike Thompson’s example, a servant-leader at Kenwood, than anyone else. Though not a deacon or elder, he just serves people with the love of Christ, which flows out of his relationship with God and sincere desire to see the church grow. Pastors are forged in environments like this, watching and emulating the unsung heroes around them, and they will inevitably become better pastors in gaining solid, shepherd-like experience by serving and loving the brothers in local church settings.
  2. Seminary life is difficult and ever-changing, so be prepared for anything. For example, since I began seminary in August of 2005 I got married, became a diabetic, acted in a musical, moved from Virginia to Kentucky with no job, went through the agonizing process of finding steady income, was hired at Kenwood as Pastor of Worship, hiked through the Grand Canyon, became an uncle to two nieces and one nephew, sustained the impact of two pastors leaving Kenwood, preached and taught consistently for one year while taking classes, was rejected as senior pastor of Kenwood by a small margin (though not rejected as Pastor of Worship), found out that I had Celiac disease, was accepted at SBTS into the PhD program for OT studies, and graduated in May of 2009. Nuts! Take some time, then, to pray with your wife or loved ones about the trials and temptations you might face during seminary. If possible, encourage your home church to pray for you consistently during this time as well.
  3. On the flip side, seminary life is rewarding and life-changing. For instance, I learned a ton, had the privilege of preaching and teaching the Gospel at Kenwood, had the honor of sitting in class under some of the greatest evangelical scholars of our time, and was able to pay for tuition and books debt free. Through all of this I grew steadily as a Christian and my love for the Gospel and for the church is much greater than when I first arrived.
  4. Take as many Bible classes as possible, and intersperse practical ministry classes within them each semester. What I mean is to take Hebrew, Greek, Theology and Exegesis courses every semester while taking maybe one class like “Ministry of Leadership” or “Preaching” along side of them. This way you will be able to directly see the correlation between theology and the ministry of the local church. Also, if you have the time, sit in or audit a number of classes. As mentioned in a previous post, I audited something like 27 credit hours, which means that I got all the lectures and notes for classes and didn’t have to do the work. For me this was a engaging and fruitful academic experience. So do your best to make the most out of your time in seminary. Learn as much as you can.
  5. Take a break from reading theology to read great works of literature. Jenn and I even began reading novels together in the evening, like Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and A Tale of Two Cities, and we loved it! On top of these I read a lot of Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment, The Double, The Gambler, Notes from Underground) and David McCullough (1776, John Adams, The Johnstown Flood, and currently reading Truman), both of whom are excellent and fun to read.
  6. Begin the languages early and never stop reading the Bible or you will get behind, which means that you will probably never catch up.
  7. Learn from the great ones. My favorite professors in seminary were Drs. Gentry, Garrett, Wellum, Pennington, and Fowler (from LU). Take Gentry for OT I-II and at least one exegesis class, Garrett for OT exegesis as well, Wellum for the Person of Christ and the Work of Christ, Pennington for NT I and Elementary Greek and Syntax, Fowler for anything at LU (he’s their hidden secret). These guys are Southern Seminary’s Augustine, Athanasius, and Calvin. While I learned more about pastoring/shepherding a congregation from Mike Thompon than any other person, I learned more about preaching from these classes and prof’s than any other in seminary, even though other classes were fun and helpful.
  8. Don’t forget where you came from. My family has continued to be so encouraging and loving during my time here. Both the Philpot’s and the McCarron’s have supported Jenn and I in our move to Louisville and work in the church, and are consistently helpful in all matters of relationships and spiritual health. Our gratitude to them extends beyond what we can say or write. “We give thanks to God always for you, mentioning you constantly in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:2-3).
  9. Don’t become reclusive. Make some friends and be social! We are blessed with many friends that are loving and encouraging. Noah and Brandy Lee have been so comforting and supportive during the trials at Kenwood; Randall and Bethany Breland as well. By God’s grace both families have joined Kenwood and serve so tirelessly for the work of the ministry. I have great admiration and respect for Dave Schrock, whom I met here at Southern. I want to be like him. Scott Windham has been a great friend from LU to remain in contact with, and he has always had an open ear. Scott and Angela Van Neste are true saints in the faith, who continue to pray and minister to Jenn and I through phone calls and visits. Although he has since left Kenwood for another ministry position, Michael Naaktgeboren is of the “best” kinds of friends, and over the last year or so I looked forward to our weekly meetings at BW3’s almost as much as Sunday! I’m greatly indebted to the friendship of Justin Petrochko, one of the few people that I enjoy talking with on the phone for long hours. He understands me well and has offered supportive and corrective counsel throughout seminary. He, like all of the friends here, are true brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re thankful for everyone, and pray that the Lord will continue to bless our friendship with a life-long quality.
  10. My final recommendation is simple – Love your wife. Honor her. Cherish her. Talk with her. Serve with her. Do not leave her out of the picture of your life at seminary. There is no way that I can possibly express my indebtedness, gratitude and love for my beautiful Jenn. She has been patient, enduring, hopeful, assuring, encouraging, committed, and loving, and I can’t thank her enough. We are such a bedraggled pair, cut and bruised by our own circumstances and ourselves, yet like Israel on the plains of Moab, God has so much in store for us, and as we approach year four of marriage, I can do nothing better than continue to say that I love her. I love her. I love her. Perhaps poetry might get the point across. In the words of greatest ancient poet, “You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes” (Song of Songs 4:9). And you continue to captivate my heart.

Written by Josh Philpot

June 12, 2009 at 5:35 pm

8 Responses

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  1. Helpful stuff.

    So which guy gets to be Athanasius? 🙂

    Paul Cable

    June 12, 2009 at 10:13 pm

  2. I’ll give that to Wellum, the grand Canadian theological potentate and defender of creeds!

    Josh Philpot

    June 13, 2009 at 2:49 am

  3. […] 7:42 AM A friend of mine at Southern, Josh Philpot, has been reflecting on Seminary.  Here is his last one which has good advice for any Seminary […]

  4. i have enjoyed reading your reflections on seminary…good thoughts…you have inspired me to do the same when i graduate…the only problem is that i have a terrible memory…how am i going to remember each year?


    June 13, 2009 at 1:06 pm

  5. Patrick,

    Terrible memory? Don’t you know ever word in the Greek NT?

    I found that the best way to remember was to look at all the pictures we took. But I tend to have a really good memory of events and places.

    Josh Philpot

    June 13, 2009 at 1:28 pm

  6. Thanks Josh for typing this little series up. I’ve been helped.


    June 15, 2009 at 12:16 pm

  7. Blogs and comments like this in blogs, maniazges, and books, etc put seminaries in a poor light because the individuals did not truly understand the reason for their seminary education. I have a seminary degree as well as an MBA. My MBA did not teach me the issues of hiring or firing, it prepared me for the business world – not everything do you get in school – you are prepared. Some things are learned. Now, a human resources degree will teach some of those things, but is that the true focus of a seminary degree?Plus, what classes DID you take? etc. Where did you use you specific extra elective hours – ie. what classes did you choose? Seminary is a well – a well to draw from for the rest of your life – NOT to teach you everything that you may run into.In regards to the statements listed:a7 Believe it or not, I never had a class on how to do a wedding or funeral. – I’m sorry for your loss. I took a supervised ministry class that taught me these things as well as a funeral for a Christian and one for a non Christian, Lord’s Supper, baptism, graveside services, different styles of weddings, etc. We even created a book to use a reference for ministry (which has come in handy)a7 We never looked at how to manage a budget, lead a board meeting, recruit volunteers, raise money, hire and fire staff, or design church facilities. – some of these items I learned through the class Educational Administration. Some churches utilize others in the congregation (our constituents) to do these things. Why do you think you have to doand learn it all? Again, what classes DID you take – what was your degree? NOT all seminaries are equal. Sorry for your supposedly sucky seminary experience. We are prepped as ministers to the people, not to do everything for the people.a7 I only took one class on preaching. In my opinion, we should have been required to take at least three if we were hoping to be a senior pastor. – We took a year’s worth plus I spent some of my electives on preaching because I knew that being a pastor was part of God’s design for me. I took the onus upon myself to utilize the resources available at the seminary – not just the classes to get by. I was proactive in my seminary education.a7 We didn’t study any thoughts on kids’ ministry, student ministry, missions, or small groups. – I had this in my educational adminstration class. Albeit an introduction, but one nonetheless. AND, I learned the resources available to find the information I needed. I learned to work with others, how to find resources, and ulitize those resources. C’mon – you have to admit that change is so fast today that once a person finished their school experience, new insights would have been discovered. Understanding how to mine those insights was important to know what resources are available.a7 Although my time in seminary predated the need, I think all schools today should teach pastors how to leverage technology in the church. – I took a computers in education class. YET, utilizing volunteers and their creativity is critical for this. Why do we feel the need for seminaries to teach us everything about church life. Yes technology is cool – AND importantly useful for ministry today. But after the fact of your education – are you not utilizing it now? Don’t place your previous experience upon present day circumstances. Has your school updated? Some have – some haven’t. PLUS – again – what about garnering the insight from your volunteers? Think of how excited they would be to bring their technology passion to the table of ministry.It is like asking a basketball player to know how to manage the team, run the books, and organize the ticket sales as well as the salaries, etc. The basketball player was hired to play a specific position and practiced and developed those skills for THAT position. The seminary graduate is a member of a team of God given individuals of whom the pastor is the spiritual leader and shepherd. The student obtains the insight and education as to serve as a springboard in the most important arena – the God-centered arena. For without that God-centered focus, all the rest is dung. Yes, there are gaps – every educational degree has gaps. YET, there are resources available to help fill in the gaps (Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit for example). The focus for the pastor is to develop the spiritual relationship with Christ and garner the tools to help in that relationship.Stop whining about what you DIDN’T get and celebrate what you DID receive – an education from Godly men and women who serve a community of believers who gave their blood, sweat, tears, and hard earned money to provide you the education that you received. What are you making of your education? PLUS – your education should not have stopped at seminary. As leaders and pastors, we are lifelong learners. As spiritual leaders, we learned and delved into the riches of God’s Word. We can read Peter Drucker’s material later. Seminary is to learn the deep things of God and PREPARE for ministry. Preparation does not necessarily mean that you have everything you need. It is to teach you how to fish – not give it to you.I apologize for the strong tone in this post. It is not my intent to be rude or crass – just direct. I am very passionate about the seminary experience. Feel free to email me with your thoughts if you wish.


    May 24, 2012 at 11:22 am

  8. Wow, I’m about 10 or so years late to this party. But what a fun read to hear your thoughts from way back then!

    Phillip Marshall

    January 30, 2020 at 5:07 am

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