How seminary changes your relationship with your church


I’ve got a new post up at Going To Seminary where I talk about how the difficulty of finding one’s voice in the midst of all the heroes you have going into seminary and the new ones you find. We end up doing a lot of mimicking and daydreaming about other people’s spiritual lives and gifts; it’s hard to find our truest selves in the midst of it. Further, I talk at length of the various ways that seminary changes the way that you, as a developing leader, relate to the leaders at your church. It’s also an interesting post to read on this All Soul’s Day. (On a side note, this post has a lot more to do with my experience years ago moving from one state to another for seminary than my current experience at my current church.) Check it out, and let me know what you think! Here’s an excerpt:

For many of us, attending seminary ends up changing our relationship with those people that have shaped and supported us and led us to that moment. For many, they are leaving supportive church families and leaders and doing school elsewhere. I’ve watched many of classmates have to go through a sort of internal “break-up” with their home churches and those pastors with whom they spent so much time. It hurts. They wonder why their pastors “back home” who were so supportive of seminary training won’t return emails. Can’t get together for coffee on school breaks. Won’t talk about possible job opportunities in the future.

Read the full post:
All My Heroes are Dead

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

[image credit: “St. Jerome” by Caravaggio]

Seminary for the Whole Person: Practical Theology & Preaching Classes

I recently had two more pieces of writing go up at the website Going to Seminary. They both have similar themes about freeing ourselves to engage in seminary with our whole selves. The first about how to make the most of your preaching class. Here’s the intro:

In seminaries, the most hit-or-miss class might be the occasional course on Preaching. I’ve had the unique experience of taking two different preaching courses at two very different seminaries. One course was incredibly dry, unhelpful, and boring. The other was life-giving, challenging, and skill-enhancing. And I’m here to tell you that a good preaching course in seminary can change so much more than how well you do behind a pulpit.

Read the rest: “Don’t Waste Your Preaching Course

The other post is about the most maligned set of courses in most seminaries: Practical Theology. These have the reputation for being the obligatory wishy-washy or touchy-feely classes that all the theologians just want to roll their eyes had. And yet, at my seminaries, I’ve had the opportunity to take Practical Theology courses that ended up being the most important classes I’d take. Here’s a preview:

As I’ve grown older, the sermons that used to feel so “applicable”, “practical”, and resonant now seem to have less and less resemblance to reality or the world around me. They seem to be words offered to imaginary, disembodied people I’ve never met; people that can simply receive the proclamations of God from his ordained authorities and then live lives of passionate obedience and response–those who can simply “hear the Gospel”, “preach it to themselves”, and be changed. That’s a fantasy world. It is not reality.

Read the rest: “Practical Theology: Seminary’s Red-Headed Stepchild

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

NEW POST: Christian (Seminary) Community is Hard & Painful


I’ve got a new post up at Going To Seminary where I talk about how it’s hard to make and sustain community, even in seminary. I’m writing mainly about my experience at in in-residence seminary program (my experience with distance learning has been quite different, as you can imagine). But, even if you’re not in seminary, the lessons in the piece are entirely applicable to general church life as well. Check it out, and let me know what you think! Here’s the intro:

Seminaries are weird creatures. In the beginning, most everyone is new and has to do the awkward dance of forming relationships while at the same time trying to find a flow for school to survive. It takes a unique person to really be a part of both the academics and communal side of seminary. And let’s face it: no one is holding your hand there; you mostly have to be self-motivated and spiritually self-sustaining, because the usual church structures that motivate, support and counsel just aren’t there at seminary. Even things like prayer groups and chapels are still only as helpful as the attention you put into them.

Read the full post:
Seminary Community is Hard & Hurts

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

(On a side note, I’m sorry that the picture above only has men in it. I hate that, but it represents some of the themes of the piece really well.)

NEW POSTS: Apps for Organizing Your Seminary Study


I have a couple of new posts over at Going To Seminary on helpful apps for reading and studying while you’re going through school.

It won’t take you long upon your arrival at seminary how much things may have changed from previous generations of seminary educations. One of the biggest differences is just how digital everything is. Most seminaries have some sort of online class management system through which you will track grades, assignments, schedules, and get documents and readings necessary for your classwork. Lectures are on PowerPoints that are often shared online. Likely the very first official seminary swag you’ll get is an email address.

Things have changed, for sure. But luckily, we live in a time of unparalleled resources to help you engage all the more deeply in your seminary education; resources that help you focus on what you need to focus on while letting technology do much of the heavy lifting.

Read the rest:

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

Some of the Best Must-Reads for #Baltimore & #FreddieGray

If you’re anything like me, your social media feed is overwhelmed by chatter about Baltimore and the ensuing unrest after the death of yet another unarmed black man, Freddie Gray, at the hands of police. I have my own thoughts, emotions, and passions in all of this (some of which I’ve talked about before), but at the end of the day I’m still a white man–there’s only so much I can speak to these issues.

With that in mind, I want to offer the voices of others in some of the most thought-provoking pieces I’ve read the past few days (in both good and bad ways). I hope this offers context, understanding, and perspective, stretching our minds and getting us thinking (and hopefully talking) in ways we perhaps have not been. Add links to any of your favorite pieces in the comments below.

Mandatory Reading

“Nonviolence as Compliance” | The Atlantic
“When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself…. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con.”

“David Simon on Baltimore’s Anguish” | The Marshall Project
“[How to fix Baltimore?] We end the drug war. I know I sound like a broken record, but we end the fucking drug war [that’s destroying] police/community relations, in terms of trust, particularly between the black community…”
(This is the best summary I’ve read on the context of what’s going on. But it’s long. If it’s too long for you, The Washington Post has a brief summary.)

Continue reading

NEW POST: Why Sleep is an Essential Seminary Course

I have such a love-hate relationship with sleep. I love it when I’m in it, but avoid it at all costs. I also have a new post on Going To Seminary in which I talk about sleep and the seminarian. No, it’s not just about how sleep is good for you, but how it actually affects us spiritually. Check it out. Here’s the intro:

In any school, especially graduate school—including seminary—one of its greatest costs is to one’s sleep. At least, I know that’s the case for me. I spent most of my adult schooling years with an average nightly sleep duration of 4 to 6 hours. And let’s be honest, for most of us that find ourselves staying up late, it’s often not that we’re doing school the entire time. Sometimes we’re trying to recover from the school work we’ve already finished, or maybe further putting off the work we’ve yet to do.

Read the full post:
“Sleep: One of Your Most Important Seminary Classes

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

New Seminary Post: Holy Week Music & Readings on Death

Jesus & The Cross

I have a new post on the site Going to Seminary. I am putting up occasional posts giving different things to read around the interwebs, and this week focuses on Holy Week and its theme of death–Christ’s Death, Our Death, and Death conquered. I also give some classical music suggestions for this week (more Lent music suggestions here). I link to articles about a sister in Christ who recently died well, a New York Times piece about watching family die, and some writings by non-Christians about death. It ends with one of my favorite quotes ever. May these writings help you press into this time and our Savior all the more deeply.

Read the full post:
“Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

Weekly Must-Reads {2.12.14} | Creation, Masturbation, & Communism


Well, it’s been a good long while since I’ve posted a Reading List for you all to enjoy–too long, in fact. These were some of my favorite things I read this week. What were some of yours?


In defense of creationists | The Week
Michael Brendan Dougherty

I referenced this at the end of my post yesterday, but this is a stunningly beautiful piece that wrestles with humanizing those that frustrate us the most in the Christian family. A must-read for sure.

Escaping the Prison of the Self: C.S. Lewis on Masturbation | First Things
Wesley Hill

Don’t overlook this piece too quickly. It is an incredibly powerful piece that speaks to how all of us–married, single, gay, straight–engage our sexuality in this world. It showed me how having celibate unmarried people in the world is necessary for healthy marriages, as well as how masturbation ruins even good friendships.

Continue reading

The best, most entertaining resources on the NSA leaks

When it comes to the political news this week, I’ve felt a large range of emotions. I’ve felt just a little bit of “I told you so” vindication, joy over the attention the media is giving to it, anger at the government, pride in some brave politicians, and frustration over the fact that no one else in my life seems to be paying attention to this or even care.

I’ve also felt a certain futility in grasping all off this and being able to distill it in a concise, communicable way. I’m going to do my best next week on this blog, but in the end, I don’t think I could do better than these three shows in doing so.

First, nothing helps ease the shock of learning that your government is storing your entire digital life than a little laughter. And to that end, there’s no place better for that than The Daily Show. Jon Stewart is gone for the summer, but he is being ably covered by John Oliver. This clip below is Oliver’s first night hosting:

Full episode: [Daily Show] [Hulu]

Continue reading

Read Austin Ricketts’ Short Story “The Quiche”

schrott-austin-birdsOccasional contributor to the site (and full-time stud), Austin Ricketts, has a new short story that he has published in the online literary magazine, The Momongahela Review. This is the first fiction piece of his I’ve read in a long time, and… wow, it’s really good (especially the last half).

And I don’t say that lightly. Really. Especially after my own recent forays into fiction, part of my pride doesn’t like when I admire so highly a work in a similar field in which I create, done by someone I know.

It’s a story about time, relationships, memory, and how those things change us; it’s beautiful, sensual, and intellectual. It starts on page 70 of the journal (and the pdf). At least peruse the other pieces of the journal, as there are also some beautiful pieces of poetry and other prose pieces (that admittedly, I haven’t read yet).

You can download the pdf at the site, or read the full issue on Issu. All for free.

Did you catch that? Free. Good. Writing. You have absolutely nothing to lose by at least downloading and looking around.

Check it out:
Continue reading

2 amazing hours on the Christian end of the world

A few people have asked about my blogging absence (I have felt honored that they have noticed!) Anyway, I’ve been sick, first with a stomach flu, and now with an upper-respiratory thing. I lost my voice last week and am only now recovering it. It’s weird; I hardly ever get sick.

Anyway, this has kept me from blogging, but it’s given me the chance to watch and read some amazing things (about which I’m sure I’ll write more in the weeks to come). One of the highlights of my time was this video, An Evening of Eschatology, hosted by Bethlehem Baptist Church and moderated by John Piper (here’s some background to this talk):

This is an amazing discussion, and very insightful for those of us Christians that either have passionate views on the end of the world or don’t think about it much (as a friend used to say, “I’m a ‘pan-millennialist’: I believe in the end it’ll all just pan out.”).
Continue reading

PSA: now has the NRSV Bible for free

For those that care, the website now offers the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) [Wikipedia] as one of their many English translation options.

If you’re looking for a Bible verse or passage, or if you do lots of web writing about the Bible and need a good online Bible with lots of options, I’ve found to be the best, especially for copying-and-pasting elsewhere.

This is also the most widely-used Bible site that now has access to this translation of the Bible. Before this, I couldn’t find it anywhere free online except at a weird, obscure site or two.

So why have I been eager for this translation (and why should you be)? The NRSV is the most ecumenically-used translation in the English-speaking world. It’s the standard translation used by Catholics, Anglicans, many Eastern Orthodox, and my own church. It’s also the standard translation used in academic Bible study.

And so, even though I still have a soft spot for the ESV, I like feeling like I’m swimming in the same stream as my church leadership (and academia, but that’s not as big a deal). And so, I prefer the ESV or the NRSV for in-depth Bible study, while I’m a lot more flexible in my more casual Bible reading.

So compare some versions and see if you like the NRSV yourself. Hopefully this new availability of this resource makes your continued engagement with the Bible all the more fruitful and exciting.

And so

Weekly Must-Reads {3.7.12} | abortion & Obama’s abuses

In light of the recent birth control controversy, there’s been a revived discussion about abortion and the “personhood” of babies, especially after a paper justifying the aborting of newborns was published in a major journal. Also, in response to rising criticisms for how the Obama administration has abused their seizure of Executive power to pretty scary levels, Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, gave a speech [transcript] at Northwestern University on Monday defending the administration’s actions. Today’s articles deal with these issues.

Grab some coffee, and let’s go.




The New Scar on My Soul | American Thinker

If you read nothing else from this post, please let it be this. I found myself crying in the middle of the coffee-shop I was in as I read this. Please, anyone, help give me a reasonable framework from which to respond to this. I need something beyond empty rhetoric, powerless outrage and sadness, and unrealistic policy aspirations. And also, please, if you find yourself on the pro-choice side of this, I would love your thoughts on this topic after reading this post. I’m really struggling here.

The Obama Administration and Targeted Killings: “Trust Us” | Council on Foreign Relations

Such a good article giving a brief–yet substantive–analysis of Holder’s speech and how it holds up to legal, moral, and common-sensical scrutiny. Please read this. Also, for a very comprehensive (yet fairly brief and easy-to-read) summary of the history and background of this all-important topic and its relevance today, CFR put together this Backgrounder.

Continue reading

Weekend Must-Reads {09.09.11} | church leadership retreat edition

This weekend I find myself with the honor, joy, and privilege of heading to a two-day long leadership retreat for my amazing church, liberti church: center city. In honor of this, I wanted to post articles by myself and others focusing on Church philosophy, community, and such. Some of them are a bit longer than usual, so feel free to grab a cup coffee before digging in. I hope you find these helpful and encouraging no matter where you find yourself in relation to the Christian Church. Have a great weekend. And be sure to stop by next week; I’m pretty excited for the stuff I’ve got planned for the blog then.

And Thus It Begins: liberti home meetings & my heart | the long way home

liberti: center city’s home meetings start next week. I wrote this blog post last year the day before I began leading a brand new group in the Rittenhouse neighborhood of Philadelphia. It’s wonderful to look back over the past year with these people and see that God has answered every prayer I had in this post. I’m still serving these amazing people as their leader, and I can’t wait to see them on Tuesday.

On the State of Contemporary Theology | Fors Clavigera – James K.A. Smith

Here, the author of one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, Desiring the Kingdom, offers his thoughts on the current state of theology, denominations, and theological education. A quick must-read for all.

Continue reading

Weekly Must-Reads {08.30.11}

Admittedly, this week’s Must-Reads are a bit random, but I think you all will enjoy them. There are no consistent themes this time around, just a little hodge-podge of humor, politics, theology, etc.. As usual, feel free to add your own links for myself and others to read in the comments section, as well as comment on these articles.


Things Organized Neatly

This site is starting to make its rounds amongst our crew here in Philly. We’re obsessed, but it’s so worth it. I’ve taken some of the pictures and have them rotating as my laptop background to reflect my interest in bookswritingcoffee and breakfasthistorymy favorite board gamedressing nicelybeing coolfacial hair, and shaving.

God, Math & the Multiverse | the Veritas Forum

I haven’t actually watched/listened to it yet, but it should be pretty phenomenal. Thanks for the link, Colin.

Continue reading