Gordon-Conwell Blog

My Seminary Experience, Part 1: Struggling with the Idea of Going Back to School

November 04, 2011


Author’s Note: Journeys are strange. You hardly ever end up where you thought you would, and you definitely never get there in the manner that you conceived. That has been as true for me as it was for Jonah the morning he woke up to take a leisurely cruise to Tarshish. Over the next few weeks I will be writing a series of blog posts exploring how I came to and through seminary. It’s a strange tale with no straight lines. But it’s my story, and it is the path that the Lord has led our family down. It’s not idyllic. I hope that encourages you.

Ten years ago, I was a youth pastor at a small youth center in my hometown – Pagosa Springs, CO. Life was great. I had a degree from a good university. My wife and I had just brought home our first baby girl to a house that we had built down the street from my parents. We lived in one of the most beautiful locations in the United States, and I had what I thought was my dream job.

Things were great, except for the fact that things were not really that great. Living near my family was wonderful, but my job situation had slowly deteriorated as I had continued to chafe at some of the doctrines and practices within our ministry. To put it succinctly, there were many moments where form was valued over function. While struggling with this, I also concurrently suppressed questions that I had about my own faith.

I was lost in fundamentalist limbo, and I needed help.

I began groping for relief from this suspended state. When I mentioned to my closest mentor that I had a desire to return to school and learn for the sake of both my own soul and those to whom I was ministering, I was consistently met with a response betraying a chary feeling towards education: I could go to school but…you know…1 Corinthians says that knowledge “puffs up”. The nonverbal exhortation I received was clear, and it never fluctuated: “Well, you can go to seminary and be a Christian, but you won’t be a very good one.”

Again, fundamentalist limbo.

It was nearly a decade ago that I finally reached my breaking point. I began to spiral into a deep depression as I perceived that I had to choose between my inner conflict and my faith. My desire to learn felt like a worm that was eating me from the inside out. Prayer was too silent. Reading the Bible felt flat. I had reached a state where I had not properly nourished my mind and my lopsided fulfillment of the Great Commission was having noxious effects on my soul. I had focused on loving the Lord with all of my heart, soul, and strength. Yet, the neglect of my mind caused an atrophy that was spreading like a cancer over my entire being.

In the fall of October 2002, I knew that something had to be done for the sake of my soul, my family, and my ministry. I did not know where things would go from there. I did not know if Jesus was on the other side. I just knew that I could not continue in my current state. So one night I turned in my letter of resignation and decided that I would find a job that would allow me to study as well.

And then I moved on.

Brian has an M.Div. (2010) from Gordon-Conwell’s Charlotte campus, a Th.M. (2011) in Historical Theology from the South Hamilton campus, and is currently strengthening his language skills while in the MACH program. He hopes to matriculate into a doctoral program in August 2012 that will allow him to continue in his study of the thought of Augustine of Hippo. He has a wonderful wife, three great children, and spent ten years in ministry to teenagers, primarily with Young Life International.

Tags: Author: Brian , current students , equipping leaders for the church and society , future students , student blogger

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Larry: Allow me lavish copious amounts of praise, perhaps leading to a panegyric, upon you for noticing my GRE word. However, now I may have to be chary of you stalking my posts... Heidi: Small world, eh? Who would have ever thought that two Pagosans would end up living within five miles of each other in Massachusetts? I'm going to see if I have a picture from back in the day with you and/or your sisters to put in the next post for the sake of nostalgia.
Brian Gronewoller 9:59PM 11/06/11
Having begun my faith in that same Pagosa Springs youth center, I can definitely relate to this. Although I ended up a few miles down the road at Gordon College about 10 years ago. Looking forward to the next post.
Heidi 3:09PM 11/04/11
Thank you for using the word "chary." And for sharing your story.
Larry 10:55AM 11/04/11

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