Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Seminary Professor And Personal Trainer: Two Roles That Go Hand In Hand

There's more to teaching in seminary than standing in front of a class and waxing eloquent on all sorts of things. The classroom is an important component to seminary education. There's absolutely no question about that. But, and this is a big "but," there is more–way more–to being a professor. Not a day goes by where I don't think about Luke 6:40 and 2 Tim. 3:10-11, the two most important verses that explain what it means to "train" like we're told to do in the Great Commission. There's more to "training" than just content. There's more to "training" than just knowing what the teacher knows. Real training teaches material, but it also attempts to get down below the surface and touch that part of us that God is conforming into the image of his Son.

I've only had a personal trainer at a gym once in my life. Just once. I was thinking about that experience today. My trainer was focused on me. There were a lot of people at the gym, lots of members, but I was the only that mattered to him when we were working out. He did more than tell me about the weights, the different exercises, or what the best smoothie or protein shake was for a post-triceps burnout. He got into my life. "So what are you eating?" "What time are you going to bed each night?" "What are you doing with your stress?" He wanted to know what my goals were: Did I want to be a body builder that could one day put Arnold to shame with my chiseled bod, or did I just want to get rid of that panza that just won't disappear no matter what I try? And he didn't assume I knew everything, not even the second and third week when I showed up to L.A. Fitness. He went back over things that he had already showed me, making sure I got it right, especially the way certain machines needed to be used and how good form mattered a lot so that I wouldn't injure myself and so I would get the most of my reps and sets. He used to show me how to use the equipment, not just tell me how to use it. For some of the machines at those gyms, you need someone to show you. That diagram stuck on the side of the machine can sometimes do more damage than good. I remember another thing about my trainer. He wasn't the smoothie guy. He was the "expert" on getting in shape, and he was in shape himself.

Students in seminary need some personal training too. Some just need a half hour, some an hour or two. But that personal attention is important for grasping what they need to learn. And students need to know that if they need some personal training, the prof is ready to go! Being the professor and personal trainer go hand in hand. With my students, we're not lifting weights or getting physically buff. But we are doing some serious workouts. The Greek classes are hard. No question about it. And these students are breaking a major sweat each day of each week. We are learning how to use some equipment, but ours are books–Greek grammars, lexicons, dictionaries, commentaries, and Bible software. And we are learning how to do the exercises, things like identifying and thinking through a syntactical issue or diagramming a discourse unit in Greek. And we do a whole lot more. We talk about life. We talk about our walks with the Lord. We talk about the main thing and living the life Jesus wants us to live. We talk about ministry. We talk about ups and we talk about downs. We talk about how the best grade you can get in a seminary is an "F" for "Faithful" (Matt. 25:23). We talk about how much is required of those who receive much from the Lord. And we pray together.

The two roles go hand in hand. I'm convinced that if I want to be the most effective professor, I have to be the most invested personal trainer to those who need it. After all, the same applies to me doesn't it? "To whom much is given, much is required." I'm committed by God's grace to having a "much" ministry. And tonight I'm thanking the Lord for "much" he's given and done in my life.

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