Since this interview, Rev. Sernas and his wife have added a son to their family.
What is the impact that WSC has made on your life and work?
Looking back on [those] four years, what I was taught at WSC in theory has been lived out, fleshed out in my life. As an ordained minister, I constantly rely on my seminary training in my preparation of sermons, Sunday school classes, and Bible studies. Every week, I comb through Hebrew and Greek texts. Throughout my seminary studies, my understanding of the Bible was amplified in studying the original languages, systematic theology, church history, and practical theology. WSC helped me to see the Scriptural and confessional basis for our biblical, Reformed beliefs.
I am thankful for having received an orthodox education from men who are committed to the Bible and the Reformed confessions. There was a shared commitment among the faculty to exposit and apply the Word of God as faithfully as possible. In a culture that is increasingly belligerent to the Christian faith, adrift in moral relativism, and awash in consumeristic hedonism, how many seminaries today can honestly say they affirm such a commitment?
As you have labored in ministry and experienced personal growth as a person and pastor over the past few years, what role does your education at Westminster Seminary California play in your life?
As I am asked theological and pastoral questions, I not only rely on notes and outlines taken in class, and books I had perused for papers, but also the immediate wisdom of my seminary professors. When certain church members held faulty understandings of Christ's resurrection, I was thankful to have been able to return to professors like Dr. Dennis Johnson and Dr. Joel Kim for help. I am sure my access to them is helped by my residence in Southern California, but I am thankful for their continuing availability to me all the same!
I especially hold dear the prayerful and fatherly care of professors like Dr. Bryan Estelle, Dr. R. Scott Clark and Dr. Hywel Jones. Their example, teaching, and preaching—even their confidence in me as a prospective minister who was at times unsure of his calling—presented to me a model which I seek to emulate, and a mentorship for which I am deeply grateful.
What particular truths or experiences that you gained from WSC do you find most important and valuable now?
WSC has taught me to appreciate the Word, Christ's gospel, and my Christian identity in a churchly, covenantal context. Ontario United Reformed Church has been my home church for the past eleven years, nurturing and growing me as a spiritual child in the faith. This church fed me doctrinal truths and nourished me with the Word when I was new to the Reformed faith, a young man right out of college. Ontario URC taught me to serve: I helped with the prayer ministry, taught Sunday school classes, and administered mercy as a deacon.
This church also provided the context in which I would meet and marry my wife, and have the sign and seal of the covenant applied to my two daughters in baptism. This church supported us during my time in seminary and sowed the seeds of my ministry when the church began a Spanish-speaking outreach out of a conviction to bring the gospel to our neighbors in the city of Ontario, which is predominantly Latino. The church started Spanish worship services during my first year of seminary, so I exhorted on a biweekly basis with Phil Hoadley (WSC '06), who also exhorted in Spanish (and to whom I am deeply indebted as a co-laborer).
Having raised me in the faith, this same church called me in February 2009 to be a minister of the Word and Sacraments in the United Reformed Churches of North America. Every Lord’s Day I preach and lead the Spanish service. Afterwards I teach a new members’ class. During the week, I hold two Spanish Bible studies as a way to reach out to the Latino community. I also catechize the youth in the Spanish ministry using the Three Forms of Unity. The relevance and importance of my seminary education crystallizes in the act of ministering to the parishioners. What I learned in seminary was not just theoretical or abstract ideas that I had jotted down in my laptop and later reproduced in an exam blue book, they were ideas of true life and death import. As I have been discipled by Christ through his bride, the church, so now I am called to do that unto others. What an honor, what a privilege!
What, in your opinion, makes WSC a unique and important institution? How does the Church benefit from the mission of WSC-to prepare pastors and leaders for Reformed churches?
WSC provides a valuable service to Christ’s church by equipping pastors and teachers who will one day feed God’s people the meat of the Word. There are very few seminaries with faculties who are as united and committed to the Reformed faith as WSC’s faculty. I am thankful that in God’s providence I was blessed with the education that I received there. It is my fervent prayer that the seminary would stay true to its mission. As long as it does, I will not hesitate to recommend WSC to other prospective seminary students. The harvest field is great, and the workers are few. May God continue to provide for all of the seminary’s needs as it faithfully trains more workers to go into the harvest field.