The helpful guide should be available to all seminary students. The target is especially those in an academic institution (namely a brick and mortar institution); but it is also applicable to those receiving their theological education online. The authors address the balance of academic and spiritual growth that is so necessary in the preparation of pastors.
The authors identify the primary problem: “Unfortunately a good number of students graduate with a head full of biblical and doctrinal knowledge, but with a heart that has grown cold to God.” (p.7) In the introductory chapter they list four “Warning Signs of a Shaky Balance.” They are: “confusing your identity in Christ with your identity as a vocational pastor,” “growing isolation and privatization in your academic studies,” “lack of zeal and service for God and others,” and “lack of time for prayer and reflection.” Even this list is worth a look by every pastor who long ago left seminary.
The authors cover six chapters that provide insight and guidance to deal with underlying problem and many associated manifestations.
Christian Maturity and Higher Education
Learning about God and Living for God
Disciplining Heart and Head
Avoiding Spiritual Frostbite
Family and Friends
Each chapter covers critical topics related to the seminary student and the seminary challenges. The breadth of material means that the writing is terse and discussion is not drawn out. That actually is a very good thing in this kind of book. In other words, it is a readable book with excellent advice. But the style also permits quick reference in the future.
A couple of points regarding clarification and complementary concepts to help sustain the balance. In chapter 2 (“Learning about God and Living for God”) they include a reference to Luther’s dictum “sin boldly.” However, the authors seemed to miss what Luther was actually addressing. Luther’s advice did not have to do with Melancthon and a problem with hypocrisy in his preaching, as the authors assert.
Chapter 3 (“Discipling Heart and Head”) offers some excellent advice on discipline. However, there seems to be a gap. They write about “ancient disciples today” but then jump from the New Testament to the 21st century, as if the church throughout the ages does not offer any advice, insight, wisdom regarding disciplines. Thus, all of the types of discipline they mention are very good, but they are also basically individualistic. The church through the ages recognized that discipline is also incorporated into the community, and especially through the hours of the day (Matins, Vespers, Compline, etc.). While that may seem rustic or quaint, there is great value in such community disciplines to complement the individual practices advocated in this book (all very good).
Again, one item missing from the book is one I have mentioned in other Kregel Academic book reviews: there is no index (subjects, Scriptures, etc.). With a hard copy of the book, such a tool is essential for maximum benefit of the book.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. The only caveat is to note the missing historical church practice of community disciplines. Other resources can be found to supplement that area.
Thanks to Kregel Academic for the copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.