Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

Posts Tagged ‘Seminary

Reflections on Seminary part 5

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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

Reflections on Seminary part 3

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Year three marked one of the more satisfying years academically. After going through a year of Hebrew language study I took my first exegesis class with Dr. Peter Gentry. His influence on my understanding of the Old Testament and my love of the biblical languages far outweighs any other. It was during this class (Exegesis of Isaiah) that I made conscious decision to study the OT to a greater degree, with the hope of resurrecting the OT in preaching and teaching in the church. It has been my observation that most church members, young and old, limit their own understanding of the OT to the Psalms and Proverbs, with a splattering of the great stories of Abraham, Moses, and David (just take a look at many of our Bibles: the NT with Psalms and Proverbs). Rarely does one find a pastor preaching through a book of the OT on Sunday mornings. Additionally, the influence of John MacArthur (whom I love and admire) has somehow convinced many pastors in reformed circles that the church is only to be taught from the NT, and that the OT is limited to illustrative purposes. This was, and is, not satisfying to me. As I understand the task, pastors are to preach the whole counsel of God. The church cannot and must not limit themselves to being practical Marcionites. God has made himself known in his Word, and for all our battling to preserve the authority and inspiration of the Bible, we must act and preach like the whole of it, and not individual parts, is worth the battle. Pastors are never called to preach only the New Covenant (as some might say). Pastors are called to preach the Word.

This leads me to further recommendations. First, do not wait until your final year of seminary to begin Hebrew and Greek. Most seminarians start off with Greek but avoid Hebrew like a plague. In fact, there is a common notion among seminarians that it is unwise to take Hebrew and Greek in the same semester. While there are certain factors that may prohibit this (e.g. full-time job), it is not insurmountable. The earlier you can take the biblical languages the better. Then, as you progress, you can continue to take exegesis courses to improve your skills, and by the end of seminary you should have a good grasp on both languages. Second, study in small spurts and not big chunks. For instance, if it’s Monday and you have a Hebrew vocabulary test on Thursday, don’t wait until Wednesday to begin and don’t work on all 50 vocab words at a time. Rather, divide the words into groups of 10 and put them in your pocket. As you walk to class, sit at lunch, wait for an appointment, etc., get the cards out and go through them a few times. Our brain is more inclined to remember these things if they come in doses, and not all at once. Most of us, including myself, can’t remember everything at first glance. Therefore, help yourself out by studying throughout a day instead of all at once. Third, don’t be content to spend all of your time working on vocabulary and syntax only to lose everything you’ve worked on in a year or so. Continue to work on these things periodically. It will be well worth your effort.

Back to my third year: things changed dramatically for me at Kenwood during this time as well. In December of 2007 our preaching pastor left the church to take a professorship in a different state. The following week our other associate pastor, whom everyone assumed would take the preaching role, was called to military duty, also out of state. This left me for the care of the church. I began preaching every Sunday morning and teaching every Sunday and Wednesday evenings. While the responsibilities were difficult to maintain as a full-time student, and while there were certainly bumps in the road involving church members, I loved the work and grew as a Christian.

One of the best things that happened to Jenn and I this year was catching up with fellow Liberty grads who were at Southern. I had no idea that so many of us were in one place! Noah and Brandy Lee, Asa Hart, Brad Swartz, Randall and Bethany Breland, and Andy Miller have all been great friends that have challenged and loved both of us during this time. Additionally, Michael Naak (not from LU) and I grew very close as we met each week for accountability and encouragement. He was, and is, an extremely good friend who graciously supported me during many tough months at Kenwood, prodding me to continue to persevere and preach the Gospel, even when it might be offensive to some.

Here are some pictures from year three – a reenactment of our engagement in Cincinnati (2nd anniversay), Naak bowling, the LU guys and gals, New Attitude conference with my in-laws (now called “Next“), a big snow storm, and my parents trying on some hats at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe:

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Written by Josh Philpot

May 29, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Reflections on Seminary part 1

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A little over a week ago (5.15.09) I graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree. What transpired during the four years it took me to complete the degree has been nothing short of extraordinary – emphasis on “extra.” As such, I felt that it might be helpful/interesting to recall my experience as a seminarian for others who want to know what this kind of life is like, or who are currently swimming through the clear-but-sometimes-murky waters of the pastor-in-training (or was that murky-but-sometimes-clear?). I’ll post something different about my experience for the next few days.

Let me begin with a conclusion: I loved seminary! While difficult academically, straining on relationships, challenging to marriage, and financially strenuous, the experience and education was incredible. Therefore, I have a completely positive outlook on seminary am thankful for God’s grace in sustaining me through it.

I started seminary in Fall 2005 at Liberty University, my undergraduate Alma Mater (B.M. in Spring 2005). My schedule that year included Systematic Theology I, Old Testament I, the Doctrine of Islam (which was a mistake), and Theology of Exodus. While I didn’t enjoy the teaching of my professors (save one), I remained committed to working hard. If I remember correctly, I had only one week of class in August before Jenn and I drove to New York to be married. While I was starting a Master’s degree Jenn was one year away from completing her’s in counseling, and although we both felt that we would like to move and attend a better seminary (like SBTS), we first decided to stay at LU until Jenn’s education was done. So, my first year was spent at LU and was highly eventful. I took 4 classes during that time, worked as a grad assistant, got married, found out that I was a type-1 diabetic, worked as an academic adviser, and moved to Louisville to begin at SBTS and study full-time.

As an aside, the choice to go to SBTS was based on many reasons, not the least of which was its characteristic adherence to the Reformed faith and world-class faculty. Overall I just felt that I would be better equipped for the pastorate if I went to SBTS. I still think this is true.

Here are a few of the limited pictures we have from that first year: the campus at LU, our wedding, and a few good friends that we left in Virginia:

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Written by Josh Philpot

May 27, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Posted in Seminary

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