For some reason God has made my theological studies take the long route home. After starting at one institution and playing around in some philosophy classes at a large state school, I have been slowly picking away at a degree at Southern Seminary. I take a class here and there, mostly during January and Summers when my ministry load is not as heavy. This makes the following exhortation perhaps easier for me but I still think it holds for all engaged in theological training.
Over my years of study I have found it quite natural to pass on and actively teach the things I am learning to those I serve in ministry. Whether it was athletes I was walking with in campus ministry or this weekend with some young adult leaders, I have found natural ways of translating that which I am learning into active ministry and discipleship.
Think about it for a moment. We can easily think that our course work will "apply some day" when I am in ministry while we study away. Yet the hard work of on the street ministry is connecting deep theological and biblical insight to common situations and people outside the academic guild. God has you studying XYZ, perhaps doing a pile of reading. Could it be that something you are reading is actually for the people you work with, walk with in church or your family? Now, some of you are thinking...yeah, how do I teach infralapsarianism to the guys I work with? Or, how do I talk about federal headship with my kids? Or, how do I teach the significance of chiastic structure to my Sunday School class? Such is your task to translate doctrine into people's real worlds. I have a firm conviction that what we are learning, can be readily conveyed to others. But it takes some meditation, it takes some work. It takes knowing the content of your studies and the world of people around you - and bridging those worlds.
Here is a simple example. In reading for a church history class I saw the same thing repeated about three times about the nature of the early spread of the Christian church. Over and over the author stated that the Christian gospel spread not primarily through preachers and missionaries, important as they may be, but rather through ordinary people, merchants, servants, families and friends. In encouraging some of our young adult leaders to live the gospel out in the open world, I shared this with them. It has always been the case that the gospel has spread through nameless Christians who faithfully live for Christ and share the good news of God's forgiveness through the work of Jesus on the cross
So here is my simple exhortation - teach someone what you are being taught. Your preparation for ministry will be significantly different in two ways. First, you will learn how to think and minister deep things at a popular level, moving your people towards depth and conviction. Second, you will not leave seminary and think "all that stuff I was taught doesn't help real world people" and be begin to dumb everything down because you have not learned to do the hard work of translating.
In fact, if you are a parent - this is a great parenting deal. Just teach your kids what you are learning about in life. Translate it into their world and level of understanding. Whether science, current events, sports, stuff you are reading, Bible, technology, history, gardening etc. Now, you may ask "What if I am not learning anything?" - My reply: quit being a moron and learn something. And make it helpful, good and useful knowledge...your kids need to know more than Xbox Live.