The Formative Years

By: Jason Hall

The most formative experience? Wow, that is tough, because there were so many. I’ll mention two particular things. I’m not sure I would call them experiences, but they were instances the Lord used to remind me of key truths about him, and I have recalled these lessons well in the years since.

The first was when I was sitting in my first pastoral ministry class. At the time, I was probably about four semesters into the M.Div. program. I can’t recall the exact details of the lecture, but I distinctly remember thinking, in a clear way, “So this is how it all fits together.” What I realized at that moment was that all of the biblical studies, theology, ethics, philosophy, languages and so forth found their end, not in the increase of my knowledge, but in the usefulness of my mind and heart for God’s kingdom work through the local church. Pastoral ministry and God’s work in the church wasn’t ancillary but central to my seminary education.

The second was when I was in the second semester of the Ph.D. program, reading through my copy of Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation of the Word” for the third time in the past four years. I finished chapter two and realized with joy that I was actually following the argument the author was making (keep in mind this was the third time I read the book during my seminary years). I then had a second realization: The forming of my mind and heart for God is always going to take repetition and hard work. I may have to read and think about something more than once — often many times — to understand its significance, but the word of God and the task of theology is a worthwhile, lifelong pursuit.

I’m sure that many others had these thoughts — the primacy of church ministry and the importance of hard work and repetition — more quickly, and more clearly, than I did. But God has made those two instances stand out in my mind, and he used Southeastern to do it. I am eternally grateful for that.