A Letter To Prospective Students

 

Dear Prospective TES Student,

 

Thank you for your inquiry into The Expositors Seminary. As a graduate of the seminary, now in full-time
ministry, I want to write you about my unique preparation for ministry at TES. This happens to be one of my
favorite things to do, telling others about the distinctive training I received at TES! And it’s important for you
to understand the distinctiveness of the training you too will receive should you attend any campus of The
Expositors Seminary. So from a student’s perspective let me reflect on my own training at TES.

 

I quickly discovered that TES aims to train men in far more than just academics. Their burden is to see men
become true shepherds who care for the sheep like the Chief Shepherd. If I graduated from seminary summa
cum laude with a Master of Divinity and yet did not know how to handle the Word with a shepherd’s heart,
how to lead my family with Christlike love, how to disciple and admonish sheep in their sanctification, how to
live an exemplary and holy life, how to raise up leaders who will labor alongside of me, and how to make Christ
my chief affection, then my training would be woefully deficient. This is not the TES way of training men for
the most important and privileged responsibility on earth – to be a shepherd of God’s precious flock. How has
my training been different? Let me tell you my seminary story. I like to call it my “TES Experience!”

 

From the very beginning I noticed the uniqueness of the application process. The seminary office enlisted the
help of local church elders from the campus I chose to attend. Those pastors and elders evaluated my
application and helped determined my readiness to begin the seminary training that was about to happen
within their local church. In fact, I found out later that the affirmation of those elders was essential to my
acceptance at TES. The Expositors Seminary is first and foremost a training ministry of local churches! The
seminary believes that the authority for theological training resides with local church elders. They carefully
evaluated my readiness to begin a seminary journey as part of their church ministry. They interacted with my
references listed in my application. They got to know my background, my family, my character and began to
pray for me. These elders were involved in my life before they even met me! Think of that! From the inception
of my seminary training there already existed relationships with local shepherds who would walk with me and
my family for the next four plus years. And the elders who began the process with me were the same men who
literally stood by me on graduation day and affirmed my character and my preparation for ministry. It reminds
me of Paul picking up Timothy in Lystra in Acts 16, mentoring him, and then eventually launching him to
shepherd the Ephesian church with the affirmation of the men who trained him (1 Timothy 4:11–16).

 

After my acceptance, our family was warmly received by the whole church family who by the way, was well
prepared to accept a significant role in my training and the support of my family. The church knew that their
first job was to love on us and to help us assimilate into the life of the church. And they loved doing this! I had
many church members who asked how they could serve our family and stood ready to meet our needs. I
realized that the TES experience meant full immersion into the warmest fellowship and body life I could ever
imagine. My wife was immediately engaged by godly women who offered to serve and come alongside her and
our children. She had the comfort and support of the elder’s wives and the Seminary Wives Fellowship, which
also gave opportunity for my wife to know all the wives of the students and even to learn from all the pastor’s
wives of all eleven of the campus churches of TES. My kids quickly met new friends within the life of the
church. As they grew they came to value and understand what true spiritual friendship means. And there were
many godly, patient leaders and church members who were eager to entrust to me (2 Timothy 2:2) all that
they had heard from trusted mentors, so that I too would be able to teach others also. Everyone seemed
motivated by the reality that every properly trained man of God has the potential to impact hundreds, if not
thousands, of souls for Christ.

 

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that TES has uniquely designed my training experience to take
place in a local church! TES is not just housed in a church, it is a core ministry of every one of our 11 local
churches. This is hard to describe without seeing it in action. Classrooms are not merely a place to gather
students while church life carries on independent of their training. No! My training was viewed by my local
church and elders as a direct ministry of the church. Body life, church ministry, and classroom training were so
tightly connected that I couldn’t begin to separate them out. They all became to me as one big TES training
experience. Even today I sometime catch myself saying I was trained at my local church as often as I say I was
trained at The Expositors Seminary. Whenever I left the classroom, I walked into the living laboratory of body
life and ministry. I was invited to elder meetings, staff meetings, hospital visits, premarital counseling,
weddings and funerals. There was no part of pastoral care I didn’t experience and was guided every step of the
way by experienced and mature men of God. Over the course of my training I was thrust into every element of
church life. I became part of a leadership team that gives oversight to an adult fellowship group. I had multiple
elders and godly men who mentored me. And I don’t just mean that they took me out for coffee or told me to
read a certain book and checked in with me from time to time. No! These men brought me into their life and
family. They modeled faithfulness for me. They patiently helped me grow as a husband, a father, an employee
and a churchman. They gently admonished me, challenged me, cared for me, and examined my progress
toward maturity. They walked with me in trials and challenged me to grow in areas I was weak. They did what
elders are supposed to do. As Paul told the Thessalonians, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were
ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very
dear to us.” These men have become my examples of genuine ministry (Hebrews 13:7). This is what made my
TES Experience so unique!

 

I hope this is the kind of training experience you long for. I have to tell you it is not always comfortable. Sharing
my battles with sin, my pain, my weaknesses, even my struggles in marriage and parenting, was not easy. But
the patient and skillful shepherding I received in those areas, allowed my progress as a young man to be
evident to all (Timothy 4:15). And it modeled for me the kind of caring shepherd I want to become. But, I must
warn you that if your character and personal holiness are neglected, or the leadership of your family is derelict
in some way, spiritual leaders will ask you to step back, or even step out of seminary for a time. To allow you
to continue accumulating knowledge with unrepentant sin in your heart is unloving to you (1 Corinthians 8:1; 1
Timothy 4:12). If it becomes clear that you are in seminary for selfish gain, selfish ambition or personal
preeminence, rather than to serve others in humility, you will be asked to suspend your classes (Philippians
2:20–22; 1 Peter 5:1-5). I welcomed this kind of loving accountability. James tells me, “Let not many of you
become teachers my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment,” (James 3: 1). I will
always be grateful that my TES Experience was more than reading, exams, and writing papers.

 

That brings me to the seminary classroom, where my success was as much about learning self-control,
integrity, character, and a disciplined work ethic as it was about A’s or B’s. But make no mistake, there was
plenty of reading, exams, and writing papers! In fact, I am pretty sure that TES has more biblical language
classes than any other seminary. The rigorous course of study is second to none in my opinion. The scope and
sequence of the curriculum requires more language study, more hermeneutical precision, and more exegetical
labor in the text than you could ever imagine. The professors are relentless, and appropriately jealous to see
every man leave TES as a careful exegete, rightly handling the Word of God. Yet the course of study is designed
in such a way that as you progress through seminary, you will be given more and more opportunity to take the
tools you are acquiring in the classroom and apply them in ministry to the lives of the sheep on a weekly basis.

 

I believe a significant distinction of TES is the faculty. All of my professors were pastors in the campus
churches. TES literally has never hired a full-time professor. The faculty are true pastor-theologians. They love
academics and the vast majority of them have earned doctorate degrees, but they also love the flock and
spend their life caring for the sheep. When a man teaches the disciplines of exegesis and theology with the spiritual care of the flock in mind, it changes his whole approach to teaching! These men understand that
theology and exegesis are never mere theory. They step down from the pulpit each Sunday and tenderly walk
with sheep in order to present them complete in Christ (Col 1:28-29). The TES faculty are practitioners of the
truth. They are men who have the heart of God as it relates to careful shepherding and replicating leaders.
Every truth they teach and every tool they provide have the souls of men in mind. They were not only
concerned that I can teach a clear, compelling sermon, (which is essential!) but that I love the flock.
Furthermore, these pastor/professors also challenged me to develop other leaders and showed me how to
grow leadership teams under my care. These are the amazing men who mentored me and taught me! They
walked with me every step of the way through my seminary experience.

 

How do these 11 churches with a faculty of 18 pastors come together to teach in one seminary? Every TES
campus church is committed to maintain a dedicated state-of-the-art classroom in their church building. A
pastor/professor teaches his class in his own church classroom, not just to his own local students however but
to all eleven classrooms via live and interactive video conferencing technology. This works so effectively and
efficiently. Each pastor enjoys the extension of his ministry beyond his local classroom to include all students in
every campus church and each student benefits from the diverse knowledge and shepherding experience of all
eighteen faculty pastors. I love this model for training pastors in the local church!

 

Graduation day was a profound experience for me. As I said earlier, the local church elders who started this
process with me were there beside me, along with all of my professors from every TES campus church. These
men were affirming my gifts and godly character, and my readiness to handle the Word of God and to love the
church. As much as I was grateful for my M.Div diploma, what meant more to me was the affirmation of my
local church mentors and elders who invested in me during my time at TES. That was invaluable!

 

One of my greatest joys is the spiritual friendships I now enjoy with my fellow students, professors, elders, and
church members. TES classes are typically smaller which is great for interaction with your professor but also
easier to forge lasting friendships with classmates. From the beginning I was greeted by fellow students who
were eager to welcome me into a new brotherhood. Now, years after graduation, I am part of a fraternal of
brothers that I know will last for a lifetime. We continue to encourage and strengthen one another to this day
from our various ministry locations around the world.

 

So my friend, should you apply to The Expositors Seminary and complete your training at one of our 11 church
campuses, you too will receive the TES Experience. You will graduate with your 96 academic credit hours but
your training will be far more than academics. You will graduate a churchman! You will have a great sense of
joy over such a tremendous accomplishment. Your heart will also be full as you look at the fruit God has
brought from your preaching and discipleship in the local church. Your wife will be beaming with gratitude for
the deep investment made by the mentors in your life. She will have confidence in the way God will use you
because she has witnessed your progress and knows the depth of your preparation. Your kids will know that
their dad is a man who leads their family and teaches them the truth of God. Graduation day will indeed be a
time of great joy, with the future anticipation of being ordained and sent out by your local church as a useful
instrument to shepherd the precious flock of God for His glory.

 

 

For the Sheep,
A Fellow Worker With the Truth

 

 

This letter was adapted from a letter received by a 2015 TES graduate.

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