Back to school (Matthew Barrett)
It’s the start of a new year for college and seminary students and if this is your first year then you probably are somewhere between excited and nervous. New teachers, new books, new classmates, new school. So here is some food for thought, at least from the perspective of a Christian studies professor.
For starters, actually read your textbooks. Life gets busy. Between school work and play, and the test the next week, you will find yourself cramming. Typically this means you skim the books to find the material you will be tested on. Does this method get you the grade you want in a short amount of study time? Probably. Will you retain the material and apply it to your life? Probably not. So plan ahead. Make reading a priority. Actually think through what you have read and then pray over the material, asking God to help you understand it and apply it to your life. If you are taking a theology class and reading a book like Packer’s Knowing God, you will find yourself richly rewarded by the end of the class. You have dug deep down theologically and you know the Lord more intimately than when you first started the class.
Secondly, don’t neglect devotional time with the Lord. This is usually the first thing to go and it feels extremely ironic if you are in seminary! There you are reading loads of theology books, and yet you have not taken time out each day to read your Bible and pray. This is a recipe for a spiritual catastrophe. No amount of academic study can make up for meditation on Scripture and prayer. You will end up with a head full of knowledge and a heart that is lifeless. So set aside time each day lest you get half way through the semester and find yourself spiritually malnourished.
Last, don’t miss an opportunity to learn from great professors. You will take loads of classes by the time you cross the finish line and get that diploma. Now, if you are at a top-notch Christian university or seminary, you will find yourself learning no matter what class you take. But my guess is that at many schools this is not the case. So, if you find yourself in a class with a professor full of knowledge and wisdom, take advantage of the opportunity. Ask questions, pick his brain, and find out what other classes he is teaching. Some schools even offer mentorship opportunities. Don’t pass those by. I know I still correspond with professors I had years ago. There ongoing investment in my life is invaluable.
Surely there is much more to say, but I have classes to teach myself.
Per Angusta Ad Augusta
Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. Barrett is also Senior Pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church. He is the author and editor of several books, including Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration. You can read about Barrett’s other publications at matthewmbarrett.com.