An Alumni Story- Fred Wright
Submitted by Fred Wright
I am a 2004 graduate of Michigan Theological Seminary, and I am one of two pastors at Bell Creek Community Church (the other pastor is Joel Lindman, also an alumnus of MTS). Joel and I share many of the duties of ministry, but my primary responsibilities are to oversee the prayer ministry, and the discipleship of the men and women of Bell Creek. Our theme verse for prayer is Psalm 50:15 and it is the heart of our church. We believe that every good thing we have at Bell Creek comes from God, not ourselves and that is why we must pray.
Leading Discipleship includes giving direction to small-group and one-to-one training. Nowadays, the popular term for discipleship is "spiritual formation," but whatever you want to call it, discipleship is the process of becoming more like Jesus Christ in thought, feeling, word, and deed. This is a huge challenge for the Church in the United States. George Barna has commented that we (the evangelical church in the U.S) have produced the largest "baby nursery" (i.e. immature believers) in the history of Christendom because we have neglected intentional discipleship. This keeps me awake some nights. As leaders in the Church, we are responsible (and will be held accountable) for calling the people in our care to be disciples of Jesus. Its hard work making disciples of Jesus, but it's worth it.
Of course, to make disciples we first need to be disciples ourselves. One of the key periods of discipleship in my own life was my education at Michigan Theological Seminary. A couple of specifics come to mind - first the language courses. There are few of us who are really excited about taking Hebrew and Greek grammar courses - most of us are scared stiff. However, the quality of those courses and the attitude with which they were taught really made an impact on me. I walked out not only knowing the original languages better (and therefore having tools to be a better reader, interpreter, and communicator), but I also came away with a sense of awe that God REALLY had inspired the Bible. That does not come from simply learning vocabulary and verbs - it comes from the heart of the teacher. In Hebrew class, Professor Kunjummen teaches grammar while emphasizing the beauty and precision with which God gave us His Word. That kind of training stays with you.
Two other courses that are memorable were 1 Corinthians and Ephesians taught by Dr. Jelinek. I thought I knew those books pretty well, but I remember sitting in class some nights listening to Dr. J and thinking I had not even scratched the surface. It was obvious that he not only knew the Scriptures - he was EXCITED about them. Those classes still challenge me to dig deeper and look longer at the Word of God (which reminds me, I need to look and see if Dr. J has any expositions of a book coming up).
As well as being a pastor at Bell Creek, a significant part of my ministry is training pastors in the African nation of Zambia. This would be impossible without my education at MTS. My foundation in original languages, systematic theology, hermeneutics, and preaching are all critical to training developing-world pastors who have no opportunity for seminary themselves. Right now, one of the projects I am working on is the use of Internet technology for discipleship. We recently updated our church site to be able to handle online sermons, articles, etc., and we are also going to use it to produce videos with titles like "How to Pray" and "Which Version of the Bible Should I Read?" The Internet will never take the place of relationships, but we are neglecting a powerful tool if we don't leverage the use of the Web for ministry. I am also planning on using the Internet to develop Web resources for Zambian pastors. The great thing about the Internet is that it's becoming more and more accessible even in the Third World, and it gives us the ability to train leaders anywhere at anytime.
I lean on my training from MTS every day. I count it a great privilege to have been able to study there, and four years after graduation I consider my education at MTS as good as or better than anything I could have received anywhere else. I am incredibly thankful for Michigan Theological Seminary. In my opinion, if you are considering graduate seminary education you could not make a better choice.