Westminster Seminary California
 
EDUCATION
M.Div. 1998
CURRENT ENDEAVORS
James Hoekstra (M.Div., 1988) is pastor of Immanuel Church (OPC) in Andover, MN.

Jim Hoekstra

Jim Hoekstra

WSC is a family. The small size of the school and the warmth and love that the students, staff, and faculty extend give it a flavor of what true communion of the saints is like. The family community is a little piece of heaven. During my years at the seminary, I spent time in numerous professors’ homes and a number of the men mentored me. I have tried to bring into the church communities where I have served the quality of relationships that I experienced at WSC.  From faculty to staff, the Christian life was modeled so faithfully. I was affected not only by the learning but also by the piety of the faculty. 

In regard to models for ministry, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Bergsma modeled how to be profound but simple—how to take the deep things of the Word but make them accessible to the average Christian. As Spurgeon once said “Jesus said feed my sheep; He did not say feed my giraffes.” Dr. Bergsma modeled how to study the Word and then how to faithfully and effectively communicate that Word. In my ministry I have tried to follow his model of how to handle and communicate the sermon text. People who are hungry for the Bible have latched onto this kind of preaching.

At WSC you are taught to think, discover, investigate, and learn deeply from the Word. You are trained to be a lifelong learner and investigator of the holy Scriptures. You are a specialist not only in ministry skills but also in the Bible. Merely learning ministry skills will lead to drying up in the ministry. If you as pastor or teacher dry up, it will result in your people drying up, too. If you don’t get a good foundation in studying the Word, you’ll always be at a disadvantage in ministering the Word. You will be like a workman without his tools.

Practical theology courses at WSC taught me to think conceptually about the church. As a church planter, this has been very helpful as you need to know what a good church looks like. When I was involved with church planting efforts in Texas, the doctrine of the church was almost non-existent. New churches start with a mish-mash of people and your job by the Lord’s grace and Spirit is to form them into a corporate church body with proper shape and contours.  It is true that Christ alone builds His church (Matthew 16) but He gives us the privilege of being his instruments in that building process. Often, I learned to work backwards. I asked myself, “What does God want this group to be and look like in five years?”  Now how do we begin to get there – what sermon series would be helpful, what discipleship training in Sunday school will help us to achieve this goal, what attitudes and graces do we need to grow in, what does a Presbyterian or Reformed church look like, etc.?

In summary, my seminary years were some of the finest years of my life. I found Westminster Seminary California to be an uncommon seminary for our day and time. I hope you will appreciate its uncommonness and show that appreciation with financial support, regular prayer, encouragement, and open hearts and churches to hear from its faculty and graduates.

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