Today was my last day teaching at seminary. Or rather, today was supposed to be my last day teaching at seminary. My last class actually had to be cancelled due to bad snow. So the end has already been and gone without me even noticing. No more chalk-dust or class debates. After 5 years teaching theology (the last 3 of which at CTS) I'll certainly miss it, but although the setting and the structure might be changing, teaching the Bible and Christian doctrine is not something I'll be leaving behind.
It's not just seminary students after all who need to be taught the truth of God's Word. Every Christian needs teaching. That's why Christ placed teachers in His church (Eph. 4:11) and not simply in educational establishments. That's why elders must be 'apt to teach' (1 Tim. 3:2) and not just able to organize. After all, one of the marks of the early church was that 'they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine' (Acts 2:42). So the teaching might take on a rather different style, but as a pastor my teaching role must continue. Shepherds must feed the flock, therefore pastors and elders must teach.
I've learnt many things from these last few years teaching at seminary (yes, it's not just the students who learn). Perhaps one of the most important is patience. Every year I'm reminded that I can't take it for granted that everyone knows what I'm talking about. Becoming a Christian doesn't suddenly mean an immediate understanding of Christian doctrine. And each year as a new first year class starts out, I'm reminded once again that in the church I need to make sure I explain what I'm talking about and not assume that everyone understands. But also every year I see the progress the students make and their growth, not only in knowledge, but also maturity. These things don't happen overnight, but neither do most good things. And such patience is necessary in church life as well; if we want to make disciples we're not going to see the finished product in 48 hours or even 48 weeks. Patience (and prayer along with it) are vital.
So as I leave I pray that the students would apply themselves to the study of God's Word, that they would be transformed and conformed more and more to the image of Christ by that Word, and that they would go on to proclaim that powerful life-giving Word to others. I pray that they would be patient and let God work in them by His Word and Spirit, and that they would have the patience to continue announcing that Word to others even when progress is slow in coming. I pray for CTS, that it would continue always to be an institution that upholds God's Word, teaches it faithfully and has fosters the faith that God would use the proclamation of His Word to the salvation of souls.