CURRENT ENDEAVORSPastor of Redeemer Reformation Church in Saskatchewan, Canada
At the time of this interview, Brian was a student at WSC. He graduated in 2009 and is now a pastor of a reformed church in Canada. He and his wife Julie have two children.
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Why did you decide to attend WSC?
I had a couple seminaries in mind. I first heard about WSC through one of my former youth group leaders, Brett Mc'Neill (Class of '03). In addition to his promotion of the Seminary, several things convinced me that Westminster Seminary California was the best place for me to be. One reason I chose WSC is because my home church, Grace Evangelical Church (URC), was so close that I would be able to serve there throughout my time at WSC. I would also be close to family and friends in Los Angeles. I also remember being very impressed with the preaching of several URC licentiates from WSC during the summer months before I enrolled at WSC. I also was able to meet Dr. R. Scott Clark beforehand, and he gave me a good pitch in favor of coming to WSC. My wife also really liked the things Dr. Julius Kim said so articulately on the WSC promotion video. However, the thing that convinced me was "Seminary for a Day." I remember being very impressed with the teaching during the classes I sat in on, with the kindness of the administration, with the welcoming atmosphere of the student body and with the Seminary’s commitment to historic Reformed theology, especially the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Westminster Seminary California’s unwavering commitment to the gospel is ultimately why I am here.
What is one of your favorite WSC experiences thus far?
Well, there are two:
When Dr. VanDrunen congratulated me on a good semester of two classes I had with him and followed it up by jokingly saying, "I didn't know you were smart."
Another favorite experience I’ve had is learning about covenantal theology and Christ-centered preaching. I thought that I knew Reformed theology before I came to WSC. I now know that I only had a pre-school understanding of it. I can't tell you how thrilling it has been to have these professors open the Scriptures and teach the drama of creation, fall, redemption and consummation and how every book of the Bible points to Christ (Luke 24:27, 44).
I understand that you've held an extended internship with your home church in Torrance and have also had a wide variety of other opportunities to preach. What has your internship experience led you to appreciate about your education thus far at WSC?
The best part about my internship in this URC classis has been the abundant opportunities to exhort. I have had the privilege of exhorting all over Southern California—once in Phoenix, AZ, once in Idaho, and twice in Kauai. My wife and I have loved meeting new people during these opportunities, and I’ve had the chance to put into practice what I have been learning at WSC.
WSC has taught me how to preach Christ from all of the Scriptures so that I don't preach allegory or moralism instead. I especially have appreciated learning how to preach Christ from the Old Testament. My wife and I grew up in churches where Old Testament sermons were about Daniel and David and other characters of the Old Testament and how we should be more like them. Now I have learned that Christ came to PERFECTLY fulfill these servant roles and to suffer the penalties of the law on our behalf so that we might be saved by grace alone and freed up to serve God in gratitude. Being taught how to preach in this Christ-centered way and to never confuse the law and the gospel has made all the difference in the world for my preaching. It has brought so much joy to my life and I am now unashamedly sharing that joy of the gospel with these churches. WSC is all about getting the gospel right and getting the gospel out. It is a privilege and blessing to be a part of that mission.
What do you plan to do after you graduate from WSC?
Seek Candidacy and Ordination in the United Reformed Churches of North America.
What advice would you give to prospective students? What would you recommend that their considerations be as they consider where to pursue graduate theological education?
One thing I can't stress enough is the importance of face to face training for the ministry. Being trained for the ministry is not only about getting all of the right information in your head. Indeed, you do need to learn the Bible and theology, but you also need to learn how to be a good pastor and churchman. This can only come as you live and work in a community. As much as I love Facebook, internet communities are not the way community is supposed to be (at least the church's community). When you become a pastor or professor one day, you will have to know how to work and minister to people face to face. You can learn this best through a face to face education. As Dr. Clark says, "Though there are many benefits to be had through the internet—you and I are using it right now to communicate—it can never replace the sort of community which exists between professors and students in the classroom, lunchroom, and the office." (Read the rest of Dr. Clark's article, "Why Pastors Need a Seminary Education.")
Face to face is still best (and WSC did not pay me to say that). I truly believe that after three years of in-person training that I am more thoroughly equipped to serve Christ's church. If you don't believe it, come to "Seminary for a Day" to see for yourself. And if I get to meet you, we'll play some Ultimate Frisbee with Dr. Estelle and then go to the Wrangler BBQ with Dr. Baugh to talk about it over lunch.