This blog post is written by former Pastoral Intern, Joshua Duemler
Do students enter seminary with the desire to become pastors? I can only speak from personal experience, but I suspect it applies to others: I’m often tempted by the desire to become a great preacher. I want to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. But I don’t want to become a servant; I am rich in self-importance but poor in humility; I want to preach, but not pastor; I want to be heard, not shepherd.
Being a pastoral intern at University Reformed Church (URC) helped me realize that Christ doesn’t call men to be preachers without calling them to be shepherds. Through the internship, God challenged me and taught me about a pastor’s heart, and by His grace I hope the internship will continue to produce fruit in my life, and in the life of the Church for years to come. I am thankful for this opportunity and I hope that more churches might develop pre-seminary internships.
What I did
After being accepted as an intern, I attended a weekend training seminar on support-raising (where I met MRN founder Rev. Confex Makhalira). I raised support over the summer, meeting benchmarks set in place by URC. By August, I was fully funded and had a financial and prayer support team, with which I still keep in touch.
The internship involved three main components:
I read all or parts of 26 different books for the internship on theology, personal devotion, polity, biography, leadership, and writing papers on several of these readings.
I attended weekly prayer meetings, a monthly gathering of local pastors, session and diaconate meetings, staff meetings and events, presbytery, and General Assembly. I received training at weekly intern seminars, pastoral staff meetings, leadership training class, and new members class. Pastor Jason Helopoulos brought me with him on hospital and home visits. I also was required to meet with every elder on the session once during the year (this was one of the best parts of the internship).
As the year progressed, I was entrusted with more leadership tasks in the church. I befriended and discipled a young man through the second half of the year. Every month, Confex and I alternated preaching at the Lansing City Rescue Mission. During the winter we co-led pastor Jason’s small group, as well as a six-week adult Sunday school class. I spent time teaching the five and six year-olds and youth group. I led the congregational prayer twice and I preached for three evening services.
What I Gained
When people ask me what the best part of the internship was, I like to say, “sitting and watching”. Although the internship involved a fair amount of “doing,” the opportunity to see how ministry in the local church happens has impacted me most.
I watched URC go through transition as a beloved senior pastor departed and the search committee and congregation chose his successor. I watched Pastor Jason serve faithfully under stressful conditions as he and his family awaited the committee’s decision. I watched as the congregation called him to be their next senior pastor. I witnessed Confex’s ordination service. I sat and watched Jason and Confex discuss the very beginning of the Malawi Reformation Network (MRN). I sat in on every elder meeting and watched them pray, laugh, and handle difficult pastoral cases. I saw how many people help a worship service run smoothly. I sat in on the assistant pastoral search committee meetings. Sitting in my office, I watched over my own heart.
Most of all, I gained a greater desire to be a pastor. One year into seminary, it is easy to get lost in the books and forget what my end goal is. I’m tempted to preach for my own glory and teach so I can hear myself talk. But as I reflect on my time at URC now, I remember those late Thursday nights, sitting and watching the elders, heads bent, hard at work praying for the men and women they love and care for. That example of love and sacrifice for others brings me back to Christ’s call to follow Him and feed His sheep. I need that reminder daily as I prepare for ministry in Christ’s Church.
I am excited to see University Reformed Church partner with MRN in training faithful gospel ministers by providing internships to them while they attend seminary. Through their internships, these men will get to witness the heart of pastoral ministry on display in the life of the church. I have no doubt that their internships with Confex have already begun to prepare them for service in Christ’s church. It is my prayer that through these internships Christ will raise up men who love Him, His people, and His Word.