This is why so many people look back on their seminary education with a critical eye. It’s why pastors will go to a two-day leadership conference headlined by seasoned pastors passing on their insights for effective ministry and feel like they gained more in those two days than they did in their entire three years of seminary education. It’s why quickly after graduation, Melanchthon gets dropped for Maxwell, Luther for Lucado, and the seminary’s continuing education program for the latest megachurch conference. 

Like so many others, I had gone to seminary to prepare for ministry, and I was not prepared for ministry. I was prepared academically to begin a life of teaching, which is, of course, invaluable. But in terms of the vocation of ministry beyond teaching? And even in regard to teaching, how to teach effectively? Not so much. Even worse was how ignorant I was about the life of ministry. I did not know how to manage my time, care for myself spiritually, or raise my kids in a way that was sane.

In other words, I never learned to do the things that I would actually have to be doing every day for the rest of my life. 

We need seminary. But in fairness to a seminary education, there are certain things it will never be able to impart, even if it tries. God bless professors, but most of them have never been the pastor of a church. They may have been interim pastors or had a short-term pastorate while in seminary, but they are, in truth, academics. They are not practitioners. We need them, and we need the academic education they give us. But we also need what they don’t teach you in seminary. We need insights and wisdom on leadership andrelationships,emotional survival and communication, hiring and firing, sexual fences and our struggle with envying the pastor across town. We need best principles about money and time, decision making and church growth.

And we need it from someone who has done it. We need the raw street smarts that can only come from someone who has been educated in the trenches.

This is why the United States Army has instituted a complete overhaul of its basic training regimen—the first such revision in three decades. Largely as a result of what has been learned from Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans, the army is dropping five-mile runs and bayonet drills in favor of zig-zag sprints and exercises that hone core muscles. Why? Because soldiers need to be prepared for what really happens in war. And in today’s world, the nature of conflict has changed, and it demands a new kind of fitness. Modern combatants must be able to dodge across alleys, walk patrol with heavy packs and body armor, or haul a buddy out of a burning vehicle. Soldiers need to become stronger, more powerful, and more speed driven. They have to know how to roll out of a tumbled Humvee. They have to know how to crawl for their weapons. Sergeant Michael Todd, a veteran of seven deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, said, “They have to understand handto-hand combat, to use something other than their weapon, a piece of wood, a knife, anything they can pick up.

So from someone who loves and appreciates what a seminary education offers but who’s been deployed in the war for a while, here’s what they never taught me while I was there—and in fairness, never could. 

Chapter 1 Emotional Survival  Qualifications of a pastor: the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros. -- Stuart Briscoe

I was having coffee with a fellow pastor who needed more than caffeine to pick himself up. Summer attendance was down. Key people were leaving because of disagreements about the direction of the church. And money was very, very tight.