How SWBTS Prepared Me for Pastoral Ministry

20240103 BIble Books 161

In the fall of 2019, I found myself in a season of life characterized by change. I graduated from the university I spent my entire life dreaming of attending. I married the cute girl with whom I went to church. We left the comfort of our college town and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to start a new chapter at Southwestern Seminary. Just a few years prior, I would have never imagined stepping foot onto such a place.

The butterflies of the first-day nerves filled me as I considered myself inadequate compared to others. Anxieties I thought I conquered in middle school returned. I had no idea what the future held for me at Southwestern, but I anchored myself in these truths: that God had called me to pastoral ministry, did not make a mistake in calling me, and He knew this before I was even born (Jer 1:5); that to do anything else besides surrender to this call was disobedient, and by His grace my heart had been transformed to desire His will for my life, no matter what the cost; and that a call to ministry was also a call to preparation for ministry.

I could never imagine how God would use my time at Southwestern to form me for His call, and my time on Seminary Hill will forever hold a special place in my heart. I wholeheartedly believe that Southwestern provided me with the best training and education I could have hoped for, and my experience comes to life in ministry in two primary ways: treasuring God’s Word and shepherding God’s flock.

Treasuring God’s Word
At Southwestern, the conviction that the Scriptures are inerrant and sufficient permeates every class—systematic theology, counseling, preaching, the languages, evangelism, and every other class in between. Specifically, in my Greek and Hebrew classes, my professors passed along a passion to grow in my understanding of the Word. Vocabulary and paradigm charts were never the end goal. The purpose was so that we would faithfully handle the text. In our preaching courses, the truth that Scripture is enough encouraged us to remember that people do not need our intellect, wit, or abilities. They need Christ – the Word who became flesh and who fulfills every page of Scripture. My professors’ delight in Scripture brought me to recognize the necessity of treasuring God’s Word in both my private life and public ministry.

Shepherding God’s Flock
Southwestern also instilled within me that the call to pastoral ministry is a call to shepherd God’s flock, the body of Christ which is the local church. In an age where everyone seems to have a platform, and success is determined by the size of said platform, my classroom experience taught me to recognize that pastoral ministry is a call to die to myself and to serve Christ’s church. Our job is to care for souls, not amass online followers. Just as the shepherd is intimately involved in the life of his sheep, and our Great Shepherd has joined us in our lives, we are called to serve our people by entering into their lives.

While this lesson was taught in classroom lectures, I learned this by example from many at Southwestern outside class. Southwestern has world-class faculty who have achieved much in their field, but their end goal is not simply academic achievement. Time and time again in my own life, I saw how professors cared for the souls of their students. Some of the greatest lessons I learned during my time at Southwestern were not in a lecture, but in walking around campus, grabbing a coffee, or sharing a meal inside the home of a professor. Their aim was not to see the name of Southwestern be great. They aimed to send students out so that the local church would flourish and the name of Christ would be glorified. This is why so many of my professors at Southwestern were willing to take the time and invest in my life, and it is a reminder for me today that we are relational beings called to live life with the flock we shepherd. Furthermore, some of my best friends—from fellow classmates to professors—have come from Southwestern. I thank God for His goodness in these friends who continuously point me to Christ and encourage me to care for His church.

My Greatest Lesson at Southwestern
Going back to 2019, the advice I received at my New Student Orientation remained with me throughout seminary and beyond my graduation. It turned out to be the greatest lesson I received: for some people in some classes, it is a sin to get anything less than an A. This is because the only reason you did not get that A is simply because you did not steward your time well and work hard where God has called you. But for other people in other classes, it might be a sin to get that A, because it meant sacrificing your family, church involvement, or even your own time of fellowship with God at the altar of academic success. This lesson stayed with me because it was a reminder that God knows our circumstances. He knows what He has called us to and He will provide what is necessary—but He never expects us to compromise our souls for idols that are not supreme. I have found that this principle remains the same in ministry.

Southwestern taught me in both word and example that the idols of success and increasing platforms are worthless. We have been redeemed by the living, Triune God and are called to pastoral ministry so that others would also experience, behold, and enjoy Him. What you have in Christ is enough, so treasure His Word, shepherd His flock, and you will see His power do what you cannot. I will forever cherish and thank God that He brought me to Southwestern to learn and grow in this calling.

A native of Houston, Texas, Harrison Frueh earned a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2023. He is currently the pastoral resident at the First Baptist Church of Mansfield in Mansfield, Texas.