Several times a year, Dr. Swindoll preaches in chapel, including Seminary Preview Day, to encourage prospective students. Here is an excerpt from one of his recent chapels.
Let me say to you who are looking over the school trying to make up your mind regarding where you should go for your graduate school education in Bible and theology—you have a big decision in front of you. Think carefully. Decide slowly. Pray fervently. If it happens to be DTS, plan to stay. Don’t come and go or simply get a taste of it and leave. Consider everything the Seminary has to offer.
The full range of programs here at DTS have been put together by minds—greater than ours—who have served in ministry longer than most. Those scholars knew what they were doing when they put the courses together. It’s a well-arranged curriculum that will make sense later. It won’t happen at the beginning. I often refer to it as putting a puzzle together.
The first two years, students put together the corners of the puzzle. It won’t be a clear picture, but by the third year, it comes together. Students will look back and will feel grateful for not acting on impulse and walking away when things got tough.
It may get discouraging because there’s such an urgency to get out there and minister, but God is preparing students for a lifetime of ministry, and this will be the only time spent in the classroom poring over things at length and in great depth . . . so stay at it.
Most great preachers will say that if they could have done anything over, they would have prepared better and longer. I have heard some say if they had only three years to minister, they’d spend two of those years getting ready. So think of the time in preparation as invaluable.
I look back on my four years here at DTS, and I regularly give thanks. I continue to draw on what I learned. The habits I formed, the truths I picked up, the books, the authors I became acquainted with—and I filled my library with similar kinds of works—I’m so grateful for those formative years.
I often think that most who study at DTS are here because they can’t help it. It was the great preacher of the Victorian era in Great Britain, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who said, “Do not enter the ministry if you can help it.” If you can’t, you are entering into something as permanent as marriage, till death separates you. You are in it for the long haul . . . for life.
A calling of God fuels the passion of the one going into ministry. He’s the One who lights our fire and fans the flame. There is no magic in these buildings, in the desks, in the library, or in the books. Seminary is extremely hard work. Students think more in-depth than ever in their lives. They endure rigorous testing. They don’t casually arrive or come on a lark—they pray about it. They seek advice, and because they can’t help it, they come. They are in it because they can’t stay away. They are compelled by the Spirit of God to be here!
I can’t imagine being fulfilled doing anything else other than ministry. Could I be successful in doing something else? Maybe. Could I find fulfillment? Never. It’s the most fulfilling, the most rewarding of all callings. The most magnificent life a person can have is to be in the nucleus of God’s will, and for those who decide to study at DTS, that’s called preparing for a lifetime of ministry.