Book Review: What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary
I finished this book a few weeks ago and wanted to share my thoughts. This is the type of book I really enjoy. I love learning from other experienced pastors, and this book is full of practical wisdom and advice. I was especially interested in this book since I recently finished up my seminary degree. The author, James Emery White, is both a successful pastor and a former seminary president, so he knows what he is talking about. I fully agree with his reasoning behind the book.
We need seminary. But in fairness to a seminary education, there are certain things it will never be able to impart, even if it tries. God bless professors, but most of them have never been the pastor of a church. They may have been interim pastors or had a short-term pastorate while in seminary, but they are, in truth, academics. They are not practitioners.
I saw this first hand in several of my classes. There was a disconnect between the academic world and real-life ministry. Seminary really doesn’t prepare you at an emotional level to lead a church. It is not always easy helping people in crisis situations or resolving conflict within teams and ministries of your church. This book shares principles that will help any pastor lead their church. The author shares about church structure, leadership, boundaries in ministry, parenting, conflict resolution, preaching, team-building, vision-casting, and much more. Again, I really enjoyed this book. It’s the perfect blend of practical instruction and Biblical wisdom.
Here are a few passages I highlighted from the book
- First, the bad news: there’s not a quick fix. Ministry is just flat-out tough and often emotionally draining. You won’t ever escape the hits and the hurts. They come with the territory. Now, the good news: you can develop a way of life that protects, strengthens, and replenishes you emotionally. You can cultivate a set of activities and choices that allow God to restore your soul.
- There is a myth that churches are successful because they do certain things; in truth, churches are successful because they know why they do certain things. In other words, they have a clear missional target on the wall.
- Leaders must look deeper than the latest model or program, conference or style, and realize that the process inherent within a thriving church has not changed in two thousand years: you must evangelize the lost, then assimilate those evangelized, then disciple those assimilated, and then unleash those discipled for ministry.
- Do ministry not from memory or mimicry but from imagination. This means you are the originator, the creator, the one who is fashioning new solutions and opening new vistas.
- What are the consequences of my decision in ten minutes, in ten months, and in ten years?
- I made a vow: we will not die of old age! If the natural flow of the church is to skew older, then that means the leadership of the church has to invest a disproportionate amount of energy and intentionality in order to maintain a vibrant population of young adults.
- Committee: The unwilling picked from the unfit to do the unnecessary.
- Church structure may be the single most underrated dynamic of effective church ministry. I’ve even called it our biggest “secret” to success. Why? Because church structure either releases the gift of leadership or stymies it. And churches rise and fall on leadership.
- For example, committees keep the people who are doing the ministry from making the decisions about the ministry. Authority and responsibility become separate from one another. An effective structure lets the individuals who are the most intimately involved in a particular ministry, and the best qualified, make the day-in, day-out decisions regarding that ministry.
- Do only what only you can do. Delegate everything else.