Book Review: 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me

This volume provides a collection of wise, short, and practical chapters from a number of pastors

Now, before you think the book totally dismisses the need for the seminary, you should know that the presidents of two seminaries also contributed to this volume. Albert Mohler of Southern Seminary wrote the foreword, and Danny Akin of Southeastern Seminary has penned the chapter “How to Shepherd My Wife.”

 

I don’t remember much of the content from my university days when I studied commerce. (It was almost 20 years ago!) But a few things do stand out vividly. A rather alarming statement was made in the first week of orientation classes: “Unfortunately, there aren’t enough Steve Jobs and Bill Gates for all of you to shadow . . . because that would be the ideal training for future business-people.”[1]

No doubt, the rigors of university study are rarely a waste—many necessary skills are gained through the classroom. But the point was well made: classroom learning has severe limits in preparing one for the real world of work. Much of the skill in any vocation—ministry or otherwise—is only acquired on the job after years of experience.

And it’s this conviction that underpins this new book 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me.

SUMMARY

Edited by The Gospel Coalition’s Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson, this volume provides a collection of wise, short, and practical chapters from a number of pastors. Together, the contributors trace an impressive number of issues that pastors face—from leading your elders to leading to your wife to dealing with your own ego to exploring ways to shepherd your church through seasons of suffering.

Throughout the book, readers will find precious counsel for pastoral ministry. Allow me to highlight just two pieces of wisdom. Juan Sanchez, in his chapter “How to Lead My Leaders,” gives sound advice: “When we model faithful handing of God’s Word, this increases listeners’ confidence in the Bible, and their confidence in our competency to handle Scripture will grow. Faithful exposition week in and week out models character, competency, and a care the congregation” (60).

Matt McCullough’s chapter “How to Raise My Kids to Love the Church” might get my award for the most important piece of advice on pastoral ministry. McCullough writes, “The local church must be the people you share life with and belong to before it is a place you go to work.”

Now, before you think the book totally dismisses the need for the seminary, you should know that the presidents of two seminaries also contributed to this volume. Albert Mohler of Southern Seminary wrote the foreword, and Danny Akin of Southeastern Seminary has penned the chapter “How to Shepherd My Wife.” Without downplaying the crucial value of the modern seminary, this book offers a helpful corrective to the zealous and perhaps over-confident theological student.

ASSESSMENT

Furthermore, the chapters are short, the language is accessible, and the various contributors write with warmth and humility, which makes for an edifying read. Though I’ve been in the ministry for almost eight years, there were many occasions when the book moved me to reflect and pray over my own ministry.

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