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Seminary students: Don’t be “that guy”

With the new seminary semester kicking off at schools all across the country, my plea for student is: don’t be “that guy!”

Over the last eight years at Southern Seminary as a student turned staffer turned professor turned administrator, I noticed several trends among some students that troubled me. Often, people could intuitively recognize these patterns and would refer to the student as “that guy.”

So, let’s think through five ways every seminary student should avoid this infamous title:

  1. Don’t be the overzealous question-asker: This is the most commonly visible example of a student who is “that guy.” You know the type: They give two minute preambles before they ask a question; they make a statement rather than asking a question; they ask a question to try to show off how smart they are; they often claim they are “just playing devil’s advocate.” Instead, your questions should be intentional for learning and proportional to the size of the class. Save the rest for after the period ends.
  2. Don’t be the awkward girl-pursuer: Many people meet and marry while they are in seminary, but that doesn’t give you license to awkwardly pursue every girl on campus until you finally have success. No awkward pick up lines: “You must’ve fallen from heaven because you look like an angel!” No awkward semi-stalking: “Isn’t it crazy, we keep bumping into each other at the cafeteria? Maybe that’s showing us God’s will!” No awkward get-to-know you questions: “How many points of Calvinism do you hold to? What’s God teaching you in your devotional time?”
  3. Don’t be the social media surfer: If you find yourself paying more attention in class to Facebook and Twitter than the Bible and your professor, you might be “that guy.” You get one shot to get a seminary education to prepare you for a lifetime of ministry effectiveness. What if staying current on the latest celebrity news and Instragrams of what your second cousin ate for lunch is robbing you of the preparation you need to face a future ministry crisis?
  4. Don’t be the Greek Bible snob: One of the most valuable things you can do at seminary is learn the Bible in the original languages. But you shouldn’t deliberately brandish your Greek text everywhere you go. As my friend and ERLC president Russell Moore says, “Want to know if you should bring your Greek New Testament to church? If you are living in a Greek speaking country, then yes. Otherwise, no.” Most of the time, people wield their Greek Bible in order to show off their superior knowledge and intellect, which isn’t helpful to the church.
  5. Don’t be the closet porn addict: There is an unspoken crisis among some seminary students—they have all the outward appearances of a thriving student, but behind closed doors, they can’t take their gaze off the digital prostitutes of pornography. What does it profit a man (or woman) if he spends thousands of dollars and countless years to make all A's and attain the highest level of ministry training yet is captive to pornography in a way that may wreck his ministry and spiritual life in the future?

“That guy” can take on many forms as a seminary student. But in each case, it is a manifestation of pride:

  • The pride of the overzealous question-asker is shown through his efforts to prove his intelligence to his class
  • The pride of the awkward girl-pursuer is shown through his overconfident quest to find a wife
  • The pride of the social media surfer is shown through his belief he can still drink deeply of the truths of God while addicted to online status updates
  • The pride of the Greek Bible snob is shown through his desire to demonstrate his spiritual superiority
  • The pride of the closet porn addict is shown through his belief he can manage his sin rather than destroy it.

So, how do you avoid this pride?

First, you must look to Christ, not your circumstances. If each of these versions of “that guy” is a manifestation of pride, the way to conquer pride in your life is by humbling yourself at the foot of the cross.

Second, watch and learn, especially if you are a new student. Observe others who you think are doing seminary well, and learn from their lifestyle patterns.

Third, find a mentor. Whether it is a local church pastor or a professor, find someone who you can serve and who will invest in your life to help you identify and root out sin.

Be it resolved, seminary students: don’t be “that guy!”

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