Mock Draft 1.0 for the Upcoming Pastor's Draft

The coverage of the 2015 NFL draft has taken over sports media. Who is the best player? Who will be drafted first? Which team will blow their future for a marginally better player in this year's draft? These are the pressing questions of the day.

However, a more significant question is out there. That is, who are the top prospects available for the 2015 Pastor's draft? In this post I'll take a modified "Big Board" approach to list my top prospects for this year, with commentary. I'll also stop at five, because that's about how long anyone might care.

1.    David Blakely is the top prospect on my Big Board this year. He’s an all-star student that can really bring the house down when he preaches. The best things about him are that he plays the guitar AND the organ, and he’s got experience as a church janitor because that's how he paid his way through seminary. He comes as a twofer, because his wife will get her MA in Biblical Counselling this Spring, and has spent the last six years working in early child education. She can bring home the bacon and run VBS, which makes this couple the top pick in this year’s pastoral draft. Blakely has no leadership experience, but that makes him ready to be controlled by a solid deacon board. He’s likely to go to Crick River Baptist, who finished at the bottom of their association last year after the volunteer Youth Leader and Pastor ran off together.

2. I think the next prospect off the board will be Eli Felluten, though it's not because of quality. Eli declared for the pastoral draft early by taking an MA instead of the MDiv. He says it’s so he can “get on mission” sooner, but sources say that it was the D- in Hebrew that scared him off biblical languages. At any rate, he’s likely to be off the board early because his name is Felluten and Felluten Baptist Church of Felluten, Alabama, which is in Felluten County, wants an Associate Pastor to serve under Reverend Elvis Felluten, who happens to be Eli’s Grand-daddy.

3. Philbert Dolittle is the near the top of the talent pool in this year's draft. He was a top student in each one of seminary classes and always produced when it came to paper time. Everyone remembers the Hermeneutics paper where he delivered the blow-out 35 page paper on the 15 page assignment. This guy has staying power. The downside is that he comes from a Calvinist system, so there are questions about what kind of scheme he will fit into and whether he can adjust to associational politics in Georgia or Louisiana. I think he's a solid first round pick, but his stock is likely to dip a little come draft day because of the "TULIP" tattoo on his right forearm and his mismatched socks. Though he's got the chops to be an every Sunday starter from day one, his stock may fall until he gets selected as a Youth Pastor at a large church, where his X-Box skills will serve him well, even if his overall talent is underutilized.

4. The next guy on my Big Board is Thaddeus Pig. Pig brings in the bacon at a meaty 302 pounds, 5 feet 7 inches. He has the physical characteristics of the average mid-career pastor, so he's way ahead of the game. Pig is also known to be a top performer at church potlucks. In fact, his numbers were off the charts in calorie consumption at the Combine.  This guy excels at the apt art of alliteration and avoids conflict like a treadmill, so he's a good fit for a number of small churches. His lack of theological awareness was a liability in seminary, but it will stand him in good stead when he gets into their pulpits. Look for this guy to go early and then disappear into the rural church system.

5. Julian Barnsworth is really the best prospect in this year's draft, but I've got him pegged at number five on my Big Board just because he's not likely to get much attention. When you watch the tape on Julian, he's got good delivery. This guy stands in the pulpit and reads the congregation well. He needs a little polish on his sermons, but the intangibles are there and I think he's the most pastor-ready of all the candidates. His theological accuracy is way beyond the rest of the field. However, since all the tape on this guy is in the practice setting and scrimmages--you know, class assignments--it's unlikely he gets picked in the first three rounds. You just can't get a job without experience, which makes it tough for guys like Julian who have families and can't take youth pastor positions. Julian is a second career pastoral candidate who spent ten years as an Electrical Engineer and Supervisor for a major corporation, which should be credited to him as experience, but it's likely churches will be concerned with how well his people skills will translate to the local church. This guy is a late round gem if he doesn't decide to pull out of the draft and get a PhD.

Editor's Note: For those that aren't aware, this is satire. Which, of course, means that it is probably more true to life than I choose to admit. Any likeness of names, descriptions, and personalities in this to anyone you know or have heard of is incidental, because when I wrote it I was going off of stereotypes and not individuals. Really.

On Student Questions

Don’t be that student at seminary (or any other institution of higher learning).

Yes, I’m talking about that one.

Every class has that student who wants to teach the professor and the whole class something.

It goes like this: The student read this book. Or, maybe he’s read several books on a topic. Or, perhaps her pastor taught a series of sermons on a particular topic with a particular slant.

None of these qualifies this individual as an expert. Remember this, lest you become “that student.” The reason students are students is because they do not have the knowledge or expertise that the professor has.

This seems like a simple idea that would be clear to everyone, but educators themselves have allowed "that student" to continue to exist, in part, because they are too soft on ignorance.

Are there bad questions?

There is an adage among educators that “the only bad question is the question you don’t ask.”

This isn’t entirely true. First, there was the time when a student raised his hand to ask where we could get the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I realize this was the first day of class, but that was an insanely stupid question. The professor did a remarkable job in responding graciously. Nevertheless the question was both asked and bad.

The second kind of bad question is the non-interrogative question. This can take two different forms. Sometimes these “questions” can be phrased as comments that are long and rambling, after which the speaker adds, “What do you think?” That is, if they bother to make it a true question at all. These are usually designed more to demonstrate the questioners brilliance or to teach the audience something.

Another form often taken by the non-interrogative question is the “bear trap question.” These are used when a student has a nugget of information––usually trivia––that they want to surprise everyone (particularly the professor) with. These questions are usually tossed out in ways that, whether intended or not, break up the flow of the lecture or discussion. More often than not, they end up making “that student” look foolish to everyone else, though wise in her own eyes. Fortunately for “that student” Scripture is silent on this topic. Or not.

The reality that seems to escape the understanding of “that student” and his inbred cousins is that no one in the room is paying to hear him speak. 

No One Paid for Student Commentary

Everyone that has paid tuition to sit in a class is expecting to gain insight information from a highly qualified professional, usually a Doctor, who has invested countless hours reading, researching, discussing, teaching, are writing about the topic under consideration.

This means that the fact that “that student” has read a recent book is extremely unlikely to shatter the foundations of the professor’s worldview.

In reality, since I’ve been hanging around the academic community for a while, I’ve realized that most new books just rehash old books. Therefore, in the unlikely event that I’ve actually read some new book my professor has not read, he or she has likely encountered the thesis of that book in a dozen books previously.

The democratization of education has led to the feeling that everyone has an opinion that counts. Wikipedia, blogs (like this one!), and growing ease of self-publishing (particularly e-publishing) lend credibility to quackery and foolishness. They also increase the popular misconception that one can make a contribution to any field of interest nearly instantaneously merely once one has done a little research.

If you think this, you are wrong. Feel free to do your research, but please hold all comments and pseudo-questions until the end. This is part of stewardship of the education of you and those in the class with you.

Far from being a mere rant by a student about his peers. I am actually hopeful that this discussion might change lives. Perhaps even yours, dear reader. With that in mind, I’ve included this helpful flowchart for when and how to ask questions. This did not originate with me, but it is so important that it bears sharing across the world and among all generations.

The moral of the story is not, “Don’t talk in class.” Instead, we should demonstrate neighbor love through our class participation. Only ask questions that will contribute to everyone’s understanding. And NEVER ask questions to show how smart you are. Most likely if you do, you’ll only end up looking dumber anyway.

Link photo courtesy of Sean Dreilinger. Used under a creative commons license in an unmodified state. The source of the photo is: 

Three Vital Relationships for Every Seminarian

It’s the beginning of another seminary semester. Several hundred new students have enrolled in classes that have started this week and the education of another batch of pastors, missionaries, teachers, and other faithful servants of Christ has begun.

This is always an exciting time on campus. The energy level that the students bring to campus can be sensed as we sing together in chapel, see people in the library, and interact on the walkways.

At the same time, when new members are introduced into a community, there are always periods of adjustment as the new faces (and sometimes the returning ones) try to figure out how to relate to people around them. What does it look like to be a seminary student?

I think there are (at least) three categories that need to be discussed along these lines for beginning students. There are three basic, and new, relationships that an incoming seminary student needs to develop.

What about my relationship with God?

Even though students that come to seminary do so for the purpose of gaining skills and knowledge that are helpful for serving God, one of the first things that gets neglected in the hustle of seminary life is often the vertical relationship with God.

Seminary takes years to complete. It often requires students with families to work full-time and take classes on the side. Or, it requires them to take classes full-time with a part-time job. In addition to that, there are ministry opportunities, the needs of family, and general life situations that pile up.

It is easy for a seminary student to neglect his or her first love--the Triune God.
Therefore, the first advice every seminary student needs to hear every semester is to be a good disciple first and foremost. Everything else must fit into place around that.

Churches need pastors who are personally holy more than professionally competent. Education in languages, biblical studies, theology, and history fill in some of the professional competence. Seminary cannot, however, make a student holier.

Students need to make growing in their relationship with Christ the first priority. Don’t let devotional Bible reading, Scripture memory, and Christian fellowship slip because you have a paper due.

What about my relationship with students?

Seminary can be a time of growth, personally, spiritually, and intellectually.

For many new seminarians, this is the first time they have had real contact with someone who doesn’t share some of the same doctrinal convictions as others. Here at Southeastern we are mostly Baptist, but there are numerous places where there is diversity amongst the faculty and students with regard to interpretation of biblical passages.

Beyond core support for central tenets of orthodoxy and certain aspects of Baptist identity, Southeastern has latitude for faculty and students to nuance a variety of doctrines. Hence, in our classrooms and meetings, there will be five point Calvinists sitting next to three pointers, with a few classical Arminians thrown into the mix. There will be dispensationalist pre-millenials sitting next to amillenial believers engaging in learning God's word.

This is a healthy mix as long as students from any theological persuasion keep a few things in mind.

1.    Outside of basic beliefs central to orthodoxy, there should be room for gracious discussion on topics. Just because “you’ve always heard” does not mean it was ever correct. Students come to seminary to learn something, not just to be reinforced in their existing beliefs in every case. This means that conversations need to be gracious and seasoned with salt.

2.    Other students are people, too. Even the foaming at the mouth egalitarian deserves respect as a person made in the image of God. You will have more success convincing them of your position if you listen and then dialogue rather than blasting their character for believing differently than you. Additionally, it is possible they (like you) haven’t figured everything out and some of the course reading will help to shape their understanding as the program goes on.

3.    Other students paid to hear the professor, not you. While your opinion may be significant to you and your immediate circle of friends, you are a student. This means that class time is not the opportunity for you to lecture your fellow students (or the professor) on the book you happened to have read or the sermon series your pastor preached once upon a time. Respect other people’s time and financial investment during class. Grind your axe in the hallway after class.

What about my relationship with professors?

This is one of the more important aspects of your time at seminary and it can impact how successful you are.

The professors at Southeastern, and most others, are godly men and women who have invested years of their lives in getting terminal degrees and ministering to the body of Christ. They didn’t get into teaching for the money. They want to help equip students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission.

Part of equipping you is teaching you how to deal respectfully with people, whether in person or in electronic communication.

Your professors are not your best friends. Even though your English profs at your liberal arts school may have allowed you to call them by their first name in class, this should not be an assumed privilege for seminary professors. Once you graduate and move to a church, there will be people you need to treat with professional respect and formality.

Calling someone by their appropriate title (Dr., Mrs., Mr., etc.) does not mean that they are a more valuable person than you. It does, however, demonstrate respect for their position. It also helps establish a healthy learning environment which, while cooperative, recognizes the expertise of the individual leading the class.

Additionally, although many of your professors actually exist outside of the classroom and may have an informal relationship with you at church or on social media, this does not collapse the professionalism required in the classroom. There is room for banter, but allow your professors to be professional in the classroom.

Although social media lends itself to banter and fun in the electronic world, Direct Messages and Facebook comments are not the place to ask about your assignments (which are detailed in the syllabus) or why you got a ‘D’ on the paper you wrote so poorly.

Professionalism in the classroom makes everyone’s life a little better.

Are there things I’ve missed? Write your suggestions below.