Ministry and graduate school

Jake Mailhot discusses “how to juggle ministry while attending seminary.” The post takes its cues from Danny Zacharias and Ben Forrest’s Surviving and Thriving in Seminary (Lexham, 2017).

Mailhot aggregates several lines of advice, but one particularly key piece is the anecdote that

A mentor of Ben’s recalled writing in his Bible as a young seminary student, “I’d rather burn out for the Lord than rust out!” Reflecting on that memory nearly fifty years later, he regretted such a perspective and encouraged all who were in the room to do neither! Burning out and rusting out are both ways to ruin one’s legacy. Neither one is the calling that God has placed on the leaders of his church. Rather, as a seminarian you are called to live in the tension between studying and ministering.

Whether specifically in seminary, another form of higher education, or another place of heavy demands, trying to learn to live well with this tension requires healthy boundaries for those various demands. And as a help in maintaining those boundaries, it can often be useful to recognize the “opportunity cost” of saying “yes” to a commitment when there are—as there always are—finite resources with which to fulfill that commitment. A “yes” to Netflix or a given “one more” ministry opportunity will, by definition, be a “no” to something else like time in study or with one’s family. That tension probably never disappears, but it does need to be navigated as wide-eyed as possible to avoid the blindness of “Lord, did we not …?” (Matt 7:22–23).

For the balance of Mailhot’s reflections, see his original post. For Zacharias and Forrest’s volume, see Lexham Press or Logos Bible Software. For some reflections about developing healthy boundaries, see Henry Cloud’s Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life (Zondervan, 1992).

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