The following are the notes from the chapel presentation I gave on Tuesday morning, January 21, at Harding School of Theology (Memphis, Tennessee). Perhaps you will find this encouraging and a good reminder.
This is the first chapel of 2014 at Harding School of Theology. This is the first day of classes.
No doubt as you meet with your class, there will be a syllabus. There will be books to read. There will be papers to write. There will be lectures.
There is also a call.
We have a purpose and mission that is larger than ourselves.
We believe that we are accountable to God for our lives. What we do as students, professors, staff, and administrators matters.
Congratulations on being here! It takes a lot to be able to come to a place like HST to study. I know. It took a lot for us to come here. We moved here from Waco, Texas in December. I started my ministry here on January 2.
It costs a lot to come to seminary.
It costs your money.
It costs your time.
It costs your energy.
It costs your attention.
You are paying a price to come here. If you are married, you and your spouse are paying a price. If you are working with a church, they may be paying a price for you to be here. The professors and the staff who serve on this campus are paying a price. We moved here after serving the Crestview Church in Waco for 20 years. We were very happy where we were. I was a very happy preacher. We paid a price to come here.
Yet, the words cost and price don’t do justice to this moment. After all, this really is an investment.
As a student, you are investing in your calling. You are investing in your ministry. You are investing in Gospel work.
This is not about getting a job.
This is not about career enhancement.
This is not about achievement.
Fundamentally, ministry is about a calling. It is about something more than getting a job, pleasing a group of people or making a career move. Responding to our call is about desiring to please God with every fiber of our being. At this school, it is about learning to have a heart for God in an environment of high standards for ministry and scholarship.
My friend Barry, a longtime minister in Waco, said he once heard a seminary president warn students. “Too many students come to seminary with their heart full and their head empty and leave with their head full and their heart empty.”
This doesn’t have to happen. If you have a deep and passionate love for God, your study here ought to stoke the fire within you. Your love for God ought to be enhanced and deepened. At the same time, you will be learning how to think and how to practice the Christian faith. You will learn the languages, the text, and drink from the wells of those who have gone before us.
You are studying under professors whose heads are full of knowledge and wisdom and whose hearts love God. You can be the kind of student who leaves here with both head and heart full. However, you will need to be intentional about doing this.
Whether you are reading a book for class or writing a paper. Whether you are listening to a lecture or talking with a fellow student. Whether the class is one you like or whether it is not your favorite.
Do it all in the name of the Lord.
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord.”