I was reminiscing the other day about those who encouraged me to become a pastor. I loved my religion classes, and studying the teachings and ideas of the Bible. The abstract concepts were really intruiging to me.
One early influence then, was a Lutheran High School Religion teacher, who had much advice to give. At one point, I told him I wanted to be a Religion teacher in a Lutheran school too. He said I should instead go to seminary, because, "The collar has all the power in the Missouri Synod" and also it would give me the felxibility to teach or do other things. Well, he convinced me. (This was the same teacher, by the way, who invited a select few of us to his home to listen to Tony Campollo lectures)
A caveat, though. He cautioned me, espeicially considering my personality (which I would have compared, back then, to Mr. Spock), that I was at risk. "Don't let them [the seminary?] turn you into a Doctrine Monster". This was his advice. "Doctrine" seemed almost like a dirty word to him. Perhaps he meant "legalist"? Anyway, I took the warning under advisement.
Now certainly, there was no danger of this happening to me at college. This teacher had encouraged me to go to Seward, because Bronxville had "no spiritual life" (which I found to be all too true at the time - although it was as much my own fault as anyone's). I often wonder if I even completely lapsed in my faith while going through my "questioning" (partying) time at college.
But then as I arrived at the Seminary, life changed. I had to shape up, of course, and act more reponsible. To be sure, the environment was different. My peers were different. And I was a little older. And, as I became engaged to be married, more and more, responsiblity seemed the way to go. I started to "put away childish ways".
But it was also there, at the seminary, that I learned and learned and learned theology. God's word. What it really means, and how to apply it. I experienced a personal "reformation". I learned that the teachings of the Bible, of the Church, and of Christ (all the same) were not simply abstract ideas for my own amusement and other's enlightenment. Instead, these teachings (this DOCTRINE) was a gift from God himself - which had a practical application - which had rich depth and wide breadth. I learned that doctrine mattered - to me personally - to my faith. I heard the Gospel anew and with clarity - crystal clarity - for what seemed like the first time.
To me, this was directly opposed to the advice of my former teacher. How could I NOT embrace such teaching, such doctrine? How could I not become a "Doctrine Monster"!? Or, as I call it now, a "faithful pastor".
Well, my former teacher went on (got "promoted") to teach in the Concordia system, and I understand eventually pursued his own "collar". From what I hear, he is a major, major advocate of contemporary worship in the LCMS today. But I thank God for the encouragement he gave me, though certainly imperfect, which God used to help bring me where I am today.