In 2011, I graduated high school and moved to Nashville to begin preparing for ministry at Free Will Baptist Bible College, now Welch College. I distinctly remember the words of Terry Forrest, who said, “If God has called you to preach then just preach.” I believed then and I still believe that a call to serve includes a call to prepare. At that time, I turned down opportunities to study at the University of North Alabama to follow God’s call to Bible college.
This pursuit of ministry training and a commendable Christian intellectualism has often been misunderstood by people I love dearly and people who love me and want to support me. So many struggle to understand why a God-called pastor would need all this education. Why not just leave seminary and pastor already? (Don’t ask me that when I’m discouraged. I’m already thinking it. It isn’t helpful.) Our culture is not becoming more Christian. It is becoming less. I committed to the process of theological training to have tools in my tool belt for reaching people. I have served in a local church in some capacity the entire time of my education, from Welch to NOBTS, and now SBTS. I have done ministry while I’ve studied.
This week I begin my tenth year of theological education. Saturday morning I was ready to completely withdraw from seminary and find a church to pastor. I was overwhelmed when I got my bill. As a non-Southern Baptist student my tuition is twice as much at Southern. I moved to Louisville with intentions of finally completing my M. Div. I planned to take the full course load and work. My goal was to finish this degree within two years. I started the M. Div at New Orleans Seminary in 2015. Many of those I started seminary with have already graduated.
The Master of Divinity is “normally”completed in 4-5 years. I’m learning to accept that maybe God’s plan might look different than mine. While some people ease through seminary with a breeze, that has not been my story at all. I have worked, failed, faced a health crisis, and had job changes over the years. I’ve kept on the path though, by His grace and the love and support of so many. I wouldn’t be where I am today if godly people didn’t believe in me. My point: One day I will walk across a stage and hear “Dustin Michael Walters, Master of Divinity”. To some that will just be the conferral of a degree. To others, it will be a cause of rejoicing and praise to God that I finished despite the obstacles of the journey. Some of you will be able to rejoice because you’ve seen me and supported me through good times and bad. It’ll be special to you when I graduate because you helped carry me when I couldn’t carry myself.
Surely as God is growing my character and perseverance that will benefit my current and future places of ministry. Maybe that’s God’s plan all along. Force me to grow in perseverance so I’ll have greater fortitude as a pastor. If there’s ever been a time for pastors to have an attitude of perseverance it’s now!
My journey may not look like yours and that’s okay. It’s my journey. We are all on a journey and those who know Jesus, have repented, and been born again, are on a journey to Zion. One day we will rejoice with the weary pilgrim Christian that our burdens are lifted at the sight of Calvary’s Cross. Until the day the burdens are lifted off my back, I will continue to love, trust, and obey Jesus.
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
To my readers and committed prayer partners, thank you! You are a blessing to me. If you feel led to support me financially, you may support through PayPal. I’m also on the Cash App as $DustinWalters. Snail mail checks are also a blessing.😎