The seminary experience is like no other, as some have described during the time spent learning about theological subjects and practical ways to teach the Christian faith. The faculty at Grand Canyon Theological Seminary (GCTS) all have had what is called a "ground seminary" experience. That means they attended live lectures in real classrooms with real professors for about three years to earn their Master of Divinity degrees. Some have jokingly teased that the seminary experience could have been equated to a cemetery experience, meaning that the most anticipated aspect of this educational journey was to have a mountain-top spiritual experience, but it was not necessarily so due to the rigor of academics.
In This Article:
The Desire To Learn
I have heard other stories about how the seminary experience can be so demanding that some do not make it through the entire program. I can attest, however, that my experience was an incredible journey from beginning to end, starting with night courses before making the transition to becoming a full-time student. My experience throughout turned out to be incredibly nurturing time filled with spiritual growth and discovery. I have the fondest memories of my professors and the subject matter they presented. I enjoyed learning so much that I took more than several audit classes (including Latin), to enhance what I was absorbing. I do wish others could have the same experience so I try to bring that same information into the online classes I am privileged to teach here at our seminary.
My desire to attend seminary was fulfill a childhood calling into ministry, but I also wanted answers to my questions regarding life and God. I am thankful to each professor who taught from their life encounters that changed and influenced my life, my current teaching and decades of church ministry. For this article, it was not easy to choose one professor and share what their lessons taught me. I was taught the biblical languages, the Bible and so much more by wonderful saints. Still, I have chosen professor Ray S. Anderson, who is now rejoicing in the presence of Christ.
Theology and a God Revealed
Professor Anderson’s class was a systematic theology course imparted over three ten-week terms. This class was a second-round systematic course that I audited on the recommendation of other schoolmates enthralled by his practical approach to orthodox doctrinal beliefs. I share this due to the great contrast between his approach and my first systematics course taught by Professor Colin Brown. That first course was a traditional academic course that taught me all the great lessons from the biblical witness and the many scholars who agreed and disagreed with those longstanding doctrines. I learned a great deal in Dr. Brown's class, yet listening in on lectures provided by Dr. Anderson was like sitting at the footstool of a seasoned pastor examining real-life situations as he applied the deeper applications of the Bible, beginning to end.
His background in philosophy that poured into his theology provided a unique combination of logic, critical thinking and a compassionate heart for the broken and outcast that the church might often overlook. The insights we took from his never-ending examples were nothing short of astounding, as we discovered something new about God’s great love and grace in each class session. Of course, these and all the other great lessons brought joy in seeing all things come together in a methodical and yet understandable way. Granted, life and ministry are not always neat and tidy, but my takeaway was to better understand God’s dream and vision for all of humanity; how Christ’s incarnation restores those broken dreams in some measure, making our humble role as ministers and practitioners more essential. I felt the great weight of responsibility to do God’s work well, but I also saw the incredible grace of God on a much larger scale. I felt free and empowered to be a small part of bringing people to the cross of Jesus, which is life changing. This realization was a game-changer seeing God’s role and work in my life with His full partnership in tow.
God's Grace Applied to Life
Dr. Anderson's seminal book “The Soul of Ministry, Forming Leaders for God's People” remains a considerable influence in my life. I recommend it for seminary students in some of the courses I teach. The book focuses on Jesus's genuine compassion for restoring each human soul from the deepest and darkness place by embracing Almighty God's genuine, healing love.1 It becomes very real and practical. No question is addressed lightly or left unanswered.
Solid use of one's mind through logic, one’s conscience and the solid teaching of the biblical narrative is at the forefront in his teaching, even when things are not explicitly explained. Amid the more challenging decisions and assessments that must be made in daily ministry, Professor Anderson always reminds readers to operate abundantly out of God's great grace and mercy. We cannot afford to do anything less in this postmodern, confused society, especially regarding various social issues. I learned that the orthodox church could remain secure in sharing what the Bible clearly teaches without yielding mindlessly to compromise or becoming frozen in the law alone in our attempt to maintain those principles. God’s truth delivered properly still works.
Life is not easy and neither is ministry. As we strive to be Christ’s servants in this work, we can take encouragement in Professor Anderson's writings that shared that "All ministry is first God's ministry. Therefore, every act of ministry reveals something about God, just as much as every act of ministry teaches something about God."1 These are lessons I continue to learn. Thank you, Dr. Anderson. See you in heaven.
1 Anderson, R. S. (1997). The Soul of Ministry, Forming Leaders for God's People. Westminster John Knox Press.
Approved by the author, The College of Theology on July 11, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.