In the last few years, multiple books have been published to specifically address seminary and how to get the most out of it. This is for good reason, as seminarians are at a unique juncture that demands unique (and unvarying) instruction. It’s likely the seminarians of today will be the pastors and denominational leaders of tomorrow, which means this: we need every evangelical seminary to succeed and every seminarian to be competent and qualified. Historically, a chief strategy toward forming students has been the seminary’s chapel worship gathering. In the points below, I want to highlight the seriousness of chapel and God’s good purposes in it for the seminarian.
Chapel re-centers our life on God. The fight to be supremely satisfied in God is the most critical battle for the seminarian, minister, and Christian. Thus, the importance of chapel stems from its role in giving students a greater sight of God in His beauty. To the degree that God is displayed as valuable in chapel is the degree to which students should value chapel. Because God’s Word is expounded in word and in song in the setting of chapel, it can be used by God to restore our joy and strengthen our hearts in God. For this reason, we ought to do our best to relax all other duties and deadlines to attend chapel.
Chapel reminds us of the primacy and profit of God’s Word. Attendance in chapel should have far less to do with who is speaking and everything to do with what is being spoken which, hopefully, is the Word of God. Our posture toward chapel should be informed by the words of Jesus, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Every word of Scripture is inspired and every word is profitable (2 Tim. 3:16-17). This means whatever is preached upon at chapel, if it is from God’s word, will be profitable for our lives and ministry (Isa. 55:11).
Chapel reinforces the non-negotiables of a corporate worship gathering. All of seminary can be instructive, including the order of service for chapel. As a minister, you will have to plan an order of service. What will you include? At the very least, in being observant of the order of service in the chapel service, you know Christians should gather under the Bible, pray the Bible, read the Bible, sing the Bible, and preach the Bible. These indispensable components of a corporate worship gathering are exercised in the chapel service and should be imitated within the local church.
Chapel renders valuable ministry insights. Another benefit of attending chapel is that it provides a context for those who do not have much previous local church ministry experience. The chapel setting affords a unique opportunity to gain second-hand experience from a diversity of gifted ministers who have a variety of experiences. Who knows, maybe what is spoken in chapel next week will save you a hundred headaches in your ministry.
Chapel reduces pride. This is not automatic, of course, just like the other benefits chapel presents. First, chapel can be humbling because we are most likely off the stage. Though our ministries will revolve around declaring the Bible, in a chapel setting, we are under the Bible while we're still in our seats. Being in a chair and not behind the pulpit should remind us that our first calling is to Christ, then to ministry. Second, we aren’t alone in the room. Being in a room of a couple hundred students should tell me something about the seminary, namely, that it doesn’t revolve around me. Other students are being trained for ministry. Unfortunately, seminary can be a grenade-filled ground of comparison. Let the chapel hour be a regular time in which you pray against envy. Third, the preached gospel is a cup of humility to those who drink it rightly and regularly. Near the end of his life, Carl F.H Henry was asked a question by D.A. Carson on how he fought personal ego throughout his impactful ministry. He answered this way, “How on earth can anyone be arrogant when standing beside the cross?” In chapel, we come back under the cross of Christ and are humbled there.
Chapel restricts us from staying in the study. Time in seminary is precious. Time alone in study is also indispensable. Yet, we must be reminded that we are not studying just for our own sake. In other words, we study to share what we have learned for the spiritual benefit of others. The chapel hour provides a time in which we talk with other students, professors, staff, and friends about life and truth. In fact, chapel arguably provides the best consistent time to dialogue with the greater seminary community. By regularly attending chapel, we are forced to get out of our study, and that’s a good thing.
Here's a final thought: Academic prowess and a devotional posture ought not be detached from one another. Yet, each day these habits seem to naturally drift and must be reined back in. In chapel, thinking and feeling meld together, or at least they should. The habits of reading, praying, thinking, and singing in the same setting is a wonderful example for us to carry out through the week. So, take chapel seriously, and ask God that he would use those hours each week to mold you further into a faithful minister.