As I reflect upon the three years I spent at Westminster, I realize now what a huge impact Westminster has had on my ministry and on my life. It is far beyond what I could have imagined when I made the decision to attend this particular seminary. However, after interacting with men from a variety of seminaries, I realize now how formative those three years were—not only in my theology, but also in my ability to think biblically with regard to the various issues that face the churches today.
I have been serving as a Gospel minister for the past 15 years. Most of my time during the week is spent crafting sermons for preaching on the Lord’s Day. I am thankful for the tools Westminster provided for me to do this task. Dr. Mark Futato and Dr. S.M. Baugh taught me to be a student of the original languages, which is where the understanding of a text and the foundation of a sermon begins. Dr. Derke Bergsma and Dr. Joey Pipa taught me how to structure and deliver the glorious message of the gospel in a way that is accessible and memorable. Dr. Robert B. Strimple and Dr. Meredith Kline helped me to see how a proper understanding of theology would help in the understanding of any particular text. Dr. W. Robert Godfrey helped me to see how history informs and contributes to the understanding of the age-old message that is preached. Each of the departments, although different in their particular focus, were committed to the same goal—to help students in their ability to preach the gospel in all of its fullness and beauty to a hurting world.
But Westminster was more than just book-learning. It was an opportunity to get to know men from a variety of churches, federations, and denominations. Studying with these men gave me a broader picture of the catholicity of the church. The church is not simply made up of one type of Christian. There is a breath and a beauty to the various expression of the true Church seen in so many of God’s churches. The relationships that I developed with my classmates have continued to serve me well as they are now my colleagues. I am thankful for the opportunity to seek them out for their wisdom in understanding how other churches have and are dealing with issues in theology and practice today.
One of my fondest memories of Westminster, beside the beautiful southern California weather, is the time spent in our prayer groups. At least once a week, 8-10 students would meet together with a professor for a time of prayer. This too built strong bonds, not only between students, but between the students and the faculty.
My current role as minister of the newly-formed church that I serve has required me along with the elders to re-examine various practices in our congregation and choose the best way to serve God and his people. Westminster has given me the resources to think not only theologically, but also very practically. It has allowed me to distinguish between that which is a matter of principle and that which is a matter of practice. It has shown me in which areas we must have uniformity, and in which areas we may experience true unity but in its various forms.
As I reflect on the years since leaving the seminary, I can see again and again where my training has served me well. I was given the balance between strong theological conviction, and the application of that conviction to God’s people in a real and meaningful way. That is what I pray that Westminster’s legacy will be for the next 30 years and on into the future. I pray that by God’s grace they continue the tradition of high academic excellence in all areas of the curriculum. I pray that they continue their commitment to teaching historic reformed theology as expressed in the creeds and confessions. And I pray that both of these might be used in the furtherance of Christ-centered, biblical exposition from the pulpit which practically and meaningfully engages the hearts and minds and hands of the people who hear the life-giving message of Jesus Christ.