Two years ago, I packed all of my belongings into my car and began the 3,000 mile journey from North Carolina to San Francisco. Going to seminary had always been a dream of mine, but when I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge a week later, my dream became a reality. I was finally here, a student at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. I was nervous and excited, all at the same time. I knew God had called me here, but I had no idea what to expect.
At the new student orientation that week, I found myself in a room full of students just like myself who had answered God’s call to full-time ministry and decided to come to seminary to be properly trained and equipped. Dr. Iorg stood in front of us and spoke about the significance of our years at seminary. At that moment, I remember looking across the room and getting goose bumps. It was amazing to think that each person in the room had received a specific calling from God and one day we would be scattered across the world, proclaiming the name of Jesus to those who need Him. And yet, God had brought us together for this season of our lives, to learn and grow and become the people that He designed us to be. I felt completely humbled and unworthy to be a part of such a great mission. I remember going up to the top of Chapel hill that night and looking out at the city of San Francisco. I cried out to God to use my short two years of seminary to draw me closer to Him and to be well-equipped for whatever He had in store for me.
Two years later, I can now stand before you and testify that God answered those prayers. God has used my experience at Golden Gate to draw me closer to Himself and to equip me for ministry. I’d like to share with you how I have grown academically and spiritually, and how I have been prepared for ministry.
The classes I have taken at Golden Gate have stretched my mind and taught me practical truths that I will carry with me as I enter into full-time ministry. Academics don’t necessarily come naturally for me, so when I started my first semester, I was anxious…to say the least. I still remember the utter fear I had when I was assigned my very first exegesis paper in Dr. Watson’s Old Testament class. I didn’t know what the word “exegesis” even meant and suddenly I felt very overwhelmed. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into and wondered if I was really cut out for this whole seminary thing. I stood outside of my professor’s office, nearly in tears, when I ran into Dr. Iorg in the hallway. He encouraged me not to stress over every assignment, but to just enjoy the process of learning. Once I cut myself some slack, I began to learn some valuable lessons in my classes. I enjoyed diving into the Bible in my Old and New Testament classes and then discovering the core of my beliefs in my Theology classes. My missions and evangelism classes were some of the most practical for me as I studied different people groups and how to most effectively share God’s love with them.
But perhaps just as valuable as the education I received in the classroom were the things I learned through relationships with my professors and fellow students. There were many evenings that I would sit in Dr. Prosperly and Patsy’s home, hearing stories from the mission field in India while sipping on chai tea. I was captivated by their stories and encouraged by their experiences. I spent my J-terms traveling with world with Dr. Pate and other professors and students. My eyes were opened to see the ways God is working in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. These hands-on experiences taught me more than I ever could have learned through reading a textbook. God blessed me with supportive professors and deep friendships on campus. I am so thankful for the community that I have found here at Golden Gate.
As I reflect on the spiritual journey I’ve been through in seminary, two main lessons come to mind. The first lesson God taught me in seminary is to be deeply invested in the present. It’s easy to look ahead and dream about what the next phase of life will be like. But God has placed you HERE for this time. The missionary Jim Elliot once said, “wherever you are, be all there!” As a planner and a visionary, I often find myself missing out on the present because I am so future focused. But as I went through seminary, I felt like God was constantly reminding me to live in the here and now, always aware of how He is working around me and how I can join Him. When I finally stopped trying to plan my whole future, God showed me how He could use me here in Mill Valley, even as I prepared for ministry. I got connected with international students in the area through Tiburon Baptist Church and loved serving God in that way.
Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned in seminary is to love God more than anything. In my very first class in seminary, my professor said something that has stuck with me ever since. She said, “Often times it’s easy in ministry to love serving God more than you love Him.” Over the course of the next year, I found myself falling into that trap. I found satisfaction from doing service projects and telling other people about Jesus. But I realized that I talked about Him more than I talked to Him. I began to feel very superficial, like I was preaching something I didn’t actually practice. God brought me to a breaking point where I was stripped of all of my ministry titles and everything else that I had used to be my identity. He showed me that my identity could only be found in HIM. Though this was a painful process, I am so thankful that I learned this now. I would not be prepared to go into full-time ministry if God was not the core of my being.
These spiritual lessons, along with the theological knowledge I’ve gained, have prepared me for the next step in my journey. This summer, I will move to Hawaii where I will share Christ with international students at the University of Hawaii. God gave me a passion for international students many years ago, and He used my experience at Golden Gate to confirm that call. I am so excited to see what He has in store!
When we leave this place today, we will embark on a new phase of our lives. Some of you will be pastors, some will be missionaries, some will stay in America, others will take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Let’s commit today to being fully present, and to loving Jesus more than anything else. Our seminary experience has prepared and equipped us for ministry. Now let’s go be the salt of the earth and the light of the world and fulfill the great commission together.