This weekend I had the opportunity to travel with a group of students from Northwestern to visit Western Seminary in Holland, Michigan.
At first I wasn't planning to go. I knew I would miss two days of school (including a test), I had projects to work on, and I was scheduled as one of the on-duty RAs for the weekend. But then the test was moved and a gracious soul said she'd cover the late night on-duty rounds for me. So I made the decision to tag along. And I'm so very glad that I did.
There were only a few of us that went, so our group was pretty small. We had four students along and one professor. Why were we invited to go? Well, the five of us (yes, my professor included) are part of a slightly larger discern group on campus. What exactly are we trying to discern? The group was established for students like myself who have considered ministry and are trying to navigate what God has called them to. So naturally, we made the trip to Western Theological Seminary.
We left campus on Saturday morning and returned Tuesday evening. During that time, we met with Western's President, Tim Brown, for pizza. We explored downtown Holland. We attended a favorite church of mine known as Pillar. We ate way too much delicious food. (Ever heard of Five Guys? Burgers and fries? I hadn't, but oh my goodness. Delish.) And we attended the Bast Preaching Festival on Monday.
What I didn't realize going into the trip was how many people I would know at the preaching conference! Family friends, area pastors, you name it. So many connections from so many different places. At the conference I had the opportunity to listen to several pastors speak, both in main sessions and break-out seminars. It was helpful for me to hear different pastors share their process of writing a sermon, what works best for them and what challenges them. I really wish I had taken more notes, there was so much valuable information to soak in.
One of my biggest takeaways regards the three marks of effective preaching: deeply engaging scripture, conveying the urgency of the gospel, and exhorting change and transformation. And that's really something to think about. How might a sermon bring about both individual and collective change? How might we seek to align lives with the gospel?
It was encouraging for me to hear the passion within these pastors, a passion to share the gospel with others. I heard from both men and women. And I will say that it's always encouraging to hear of women who faithfully follow their call to ministry. The gospel is to be shared by all, for all.
So many good things happened on this trip. Not near enough photos were taken. Not near enough description was given in my overview.
I'm thankful for my time in Holland and I'm very thankful for those who encouraged me to go along. Holland is a beautiful place full of beautiful people, and I'm thankful for the opportunity I had to visit. I certainly wouldn't complain if I were to find myself in Holland one day. We shall see where the Lord leads and what the future holds.