I got back yesterday from a 4 day and 1500 mile road trip to visit Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago and Bethel Seminary
in St. Paul. It was a really good trip. I am really glad that I made it
happen. It gave me a lot of insight into both schools, though I am not
any clearer on where I want to go.
Trinity, on the one hand, is a rigorously academic school. They take
great pride in this. And it is reflected in both the faculty and the
students. The professors are highly esteemed in their respective
fields. They seem to be kind and courteous, but they are very
professional. One building has a large glass case that is filled with
books written by current faculty. It is rather impressive.
The students are intelligent. The ones I met seemed to be aware of this. I spoke with a couple of them who were
finishing their MDiv’s in 3 and 3 1/2 years, respectively. At 25,
neither had any previous ministry experience, but were looking forward
to go intern somewhere. Unfortunately though, it seemed they were more
excited to talk hermaneutics than ministry; more concerned with church
history than church future; more interested in starting their careers
as professional clergymen than getting out and loving people. On my way
to Minnesota, I called my buddy Eric (a friend and graduate of Trinity)
in hopes that he would tell me that these students were the exception,
not the norm. "You just described the typical Trinity student," he said.
As I left Trinity, I concluded that I liked the school. The level of
study, although daunting, excited me. I felt that it could really be a
season of growth and challenge for me. But I also concluded that if I
attended there, Megan and I would need to have life, friends and
community outside of the institution. Because I am not going to connect
with most of the student body. But I figured this would probably be
true of any seminary I ended up at.
Bethel, however, would prove me to be wrong.
I almost didn’t go to the Bethel open house. That afternoon I had
met with an old friend named Dennis to talk about a potential
Residential Director position opening up at Bethel College. Meeting
with him was a big reason that I took the trip. Working with college
kids sounded like fun, and it would afford me free tuition for
seminary! But after our meeting, I concluded that I had no interest in
the position. (Even if I had, he estimated receiving 160+ applications
for the single opening! Crazy.)
I found this to be devastating. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I had
been secretly counting on taking the job and going to school for free
in the twin cities – a place Megan and I both love – where we have dear
friends that we greatly miss. Perhaps I felt like working for Bethel
College would somehow makeup for my never getting to go there or
graduate with so many friends who attended. Whatever the case, I felt
like I had reached the end of a promising road abruptly and
unexpectantly. I felt disappointed. And I felt really lost.
Ultimately, i did decide to attend the Bethel Seminary open house. I
figured that I might as well since I had driven so far. As soon as I
walked in the door I sensed something very different than what I sensed
at Trinity. The spirit was different here. If Trinity felt like an
institution, this felt like a family. It felt like home.
The students were real, personable, and sincere. In conversation, I
found them to be passionate about their relationship with the Lord and
in their desire to serve Him with their lives. I found the same to be
true of the staff. I found the whole experience to be inspiring. I left
feeling rejuvenated and energized. I was filled with hope again…for
seminary and for my future.
That being said, I still don’t know what next year has in store for
us. As much as i loved Bethel, I may not be able to afford going there.
(Ironically, this is precisely why i didn’t do my undergrad there.) I
have a sizable scholarship opportunity to Trinity, but not to Bethel.
In addition, Megan just so happened to manage an event put on by
Trinity in Lincoln a couple days ago. After which, my wife was
unofficially offered a position with the school! So although I loved Bethel, do I take this as a sign of God’s
I don’t know. I’m not sure how to translate all of this. There is definitely much praying to be done.
I’m not stressing out about it…but it certainly is consuming my thoughts.