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Where Professors Learn

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by Barry York

At the heart of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is learning from Him. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32).

As a new professor at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) in Pittsburgh, I came eager to help the students learn the ways of Jesus at this institution that honors highly the Word of God. Yet what has humbled me the most in my short time here is how much Christ is teaching me. RPTS is a place where not only students but professors learn.

Please let me share with you three of those lessons.

The students here have incredible life and ministry situations that instruct me in the way of the cross.

After the very first class I taught, one of the staff persons here took a picture of the students and me. However, two of them had to be left out of the photo. Why? They come from a nation that is hostile to the gospel. Their identity must be protected. How humbling to be teaching men who will be making sacrifices for the gospel I had only heard or read about previously.

Lessons of the cross are being pressed upon me daily. I have not yet heard my homiletics students from this communist country fail to mention suffering in their chapel sermons. In teaching church planting and discipleship, men from other cultures speak of hundreds of conversions they have witnessed and I wonder as I listen if we need to trade places between lectern and desk! Some international students are university professors who are already more educated and gifted than I am. They are unknowingly schooling me in Christ’s ways as they treat me with love and respect.

The varied background of the seminary community is teaching me to exercise the love of the Triune God.

When we gather each morning for chapel, I am amazed at the diversity of students I see: the man from Singapore leading our singing; the couple from India preparing to church plant; the African American women from nearby who want to serve their churches more knowledgeably; the Haitian student beaming with smiles as he greets us; the men from Asia whose wives and children, living nearby, come each morning to worship with us. In addition, I see brothers preparing to serve in other NAPARC congregations, Baptist pastors who love the commitment to God’s Word here, and students from a variety of non-denominational churches. Chapel has become a slice of the heaven we will enjoy where all the tongues and tribes will be represented!

With so many different backgrounds represented here, being at RPTS has reminded me of the importance not only of doctrine but of love. Again and again, I am being taught while I teach to be patient with those who differ, to seek to patiently correct those I believe are wrong, and to appreciate what God is doing in different places in His vineyard.

The challenging changes in the academic landscape are stretching me to use new tools and approaches in education.

Seminaries have had to adapt to the changes technology has brought to education. According to Pew Research, 89% of four-year public colleges and universities offer online classes. Whether a seminary will provide online education is almost not a question anymore, and with its developing distance learning program RPTS is no exception. Also, increasingly students are not wanting merely training in orthodoxy, but orthopraxy. They want not only their heads addressed but their minds and hearts involved.

Consequently, I have had to learn many new skills in being a teacher. Becoming accustomed to being recorded and providing online resources over educational platforms for our growing number of distance education students has been a new experience. Corresponding with students across the nation and even in different lands whose faces I may have never seen has been unique. Turning some classes such as homiletics or mercy ministry more into workshops with a strong emphasis on assignments being done in local congregations has stretched me, but both students and their instructor are learning more about His kingdom.

Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29). At RPTS, I’m feeling his yoke and its lightness in a whole new way. We invite you to come and learn with us.

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