What I’ve Learned From My Seminary Education – Part 1
By Charles "Kim" Anderson, 2/5/2014
Twenty-two years is a long time to be a student but my association with Fuller NW has been all about learning. As I prepare to retire in July, reflection on my five years as a master’s student and the rest of my two decade relationship as an administrator is appropriate. It’s clear to me that my “real” education began after I had my diploma in hand!
If a reporter were to ask me to describe in one word my experience at Fuller NW it would be discernment. I share with prospective students and others with whom I come in contact that first and foremost a seminary is a place of discernment. It is certainly an institution where one is equipped for the many ministries of Christ and His church, but it is also a place where one listens and feels the stirrings and nudging within one’s heart and soul that manifest a call to professional ministry.
Eugene Peterson, in his book Subversive Spirituality, addresses the subject of spiritual formation by describing seminaries as places where students spend “more time on paradigms than prayer.” It reminds of a phone call I received during my first year on staff. I had a cold, it was late in the day, and my diction suffered as a result. I answered, “Fuller Seminary.” There was a long pause and the person asked me to repeat myself. After the third time, he began laughing and said, “I’m sorry. I was certain you had said Fuller Cemetery.” I immediately thought how different this seminary is from a cemetery! When I began my degree in my mid-40s, I discovered Fuller NW to be a place of optimal learning and encouragement. It was exciting to be challenged by new and different concepts, to explore my faith and call to ministry. Fuller NW, then and now, is a vibrant community that encourages deep discussions of faith and theology.
In order for us, as individuals and as an institution, to be engaged in sharing the Gospel, we need to have a clear and proper understanding of who we are and how God has called us to serve. Only then are we able to be fully engaged in delivering His Word to a world starving to hear it. Fuller Seminary is poised to explore a monumental shift in defining its role in this preparation. One of our wise deans put it best when he said, “We are being called to renewal.” Fuller is seeking God’s word for the next decades. That’s discernment language!
Dr. Andrea Cook, Warner Pacific College’s president, wrote several years ago that “whenever calling hits the ground, sparks fly.” Have you watched sparks fly? It’s not very orderly. It can’t be easily controlled. That’s how it is with God’s call to us. When it comes, it can be messy and ill-timed. We need to be listening, open minded, searching the inner depths of our souls. We need to be observant of where God is working around us and open up to accepting the incredible invitation God can present to be active in, among and through His human creation. To listen to and obey the call of God’s Holy Spirit is to accept transformation so we can in turn become agents of change. So be prepared to watch the sparks fly! I hope your education, like mine, doesn’t end with a finite degree but continues as you explore and are transformed by ministry.