Letter From the President
How God Built Upon My Seminary Foundation
by Kevin Kompelien
I consider my time at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School to be one of the great blessings of my life. The opportunity to study under Walter Kaiser, D.A. Carson, Gleason Archer, Harold O.J. Brown, John Woodbridge and many other godly and gifted professors gave me a love for learning, foundational skills and a toolbox of resources that I have used in ministry for more than 30 years.
In addition, I was significantly impacted by the deep love for the Lord, His Word and His church that I saw in their lives. These are some of the top scholars in the world, and they cared about preparing me to serve Jesus and His church well.
“I wasn’t excited about the requirement to do a meaningful ‘field education’ experience in a local church.”
As challenging as those days were academically, they were also formative in my life beyond the classroom. Initially I wasn’t excited about the requirement to do a meaningful “field education” experience in a local church while at the same time handling a full load of classes and working at a part-time job.
Yet, it was the time invested in the lives of junior-high students at North Suburban EFC that grounded my academic studies in the ups and downs of ministry in and through the local church. The opportunity to disciple a small group of junior-high boys kept my heart soft to God’s call to ministry during the rigors of a high-level academic experience.
I was also privileged to do a full-time, year-long internship at my home church as part of my seminary experience. During those months I preached my first sermon series, conducted my first funeral, planned worship services, attended elder meetings, visited the sick and learned the “people side” of ministry in a local church setting. Curtis Anderson, my supervising pastor, demonstrated a humble servant’s heart and a deep love for learning—what a model for my own service as a pastor and a leader.
The strong foundation that I received at TEDS has served me well. Yet I can also see how God built on that foundation as I walked alongside people in the day-to-day experiences of life and ministry.
I learned how to pray, for example, not from a book or a course but from a small group of men in the first church I served. We met every week for five years during our lunch hour—kneeling in the basement of my friend Al’s home, crying out to God for our church and our city.
I learned a great deal about leading and managing staff from a couple of church leaders during a challenging time with a difficult staff member. They loved the church, cared about me and had keen insights into some skills I didn’t possess. Rather than making me feel inadequate, they opened the door for me to learn from them.
“In reality, life and ministry are our classroom.”
I am a better leader today because the Lord has brought people into my life who stretch and strengthen me as we walk in ministry together. It’s exactly what a colleague has said to me: “At some juncture, none of us is ever completely prepared. God makes it that way so we can see the beauty of the body of Christ exercise its gifts precisely when called upon.”
My seminary training gave me the biblical, theological, hermeneutical and homiletical skills that I have drawn upon for my years of ministry. I learned to think deeply and biblically about issues, giving me a framework and a passion for being a lifelong learner.
At the same time, I am extremely thankful that through the years the Lord has consistently brought people into my life whom He has used to grow, shape and develop me even further.
When I hear pastors say, “They didn’t teach me that in seminary,” I often smile and reflect on the fact that much of what we need for effective ministry just can’t be learned in an academic classroom. In reality, life and ministry are our classroom, and the Lord will continue to teach us and shape us if we are open to see what He is doing and whom He is bringing into our lives to walk the journey together.