Copeland cautions students to watch their doctrine and life during seminary

Communications Staff — September 26, 2013

Seminary students need to watch their doctrine and character while in school, said Illinois pastor Ed Copeland in a Sept. 19 chapel message at Southern Seminary.

Copeland, pastor of New Zion Baptist Church in Rockford, Ill., for the last 12 years, spoke to students about the importance of beliefs that are in agreement with Scripture and are applied to the student’s life before ministry begins.

He preached from 1 Timothy 4:16 where Paul instructs Timothy to pay careful attention to himself and the instruction he receives. From this passage, Copeland urged students to verify against Scripture what they learn in and out of class, and allow it to inform their character and way of living.

“Sometimes you can be so focused on your learning that you forget about your burning,” he said. “You can be so focused on knowledge that you forget about the fact that it isn’t just about what you know but Who you know. And Who you know comes out in your deportment, your conduct and conversation.”

Copeland told the students that the goal of an education is character transformation. Education is necessary, but he said that students need to prepare for the “front lines” of ministry. Copeland said that a seminary student should not study Scripture and its meaning just to tell someone else. But, he said, what is learned should be applied to the pastor first.

“You can’t have the impact that God intends for you to have without having your doctrine straight,” Copeland said. “Study yourself like you study the Book.” Students need to live in a way that helps others know what is right, he said.

Copeland, a council member on The Gospel Coalition — a coalition of evangelical leaders, most popularly known for its blog and biennial conference — closed his message warning students to attend to their convictions and character, especially while in seminary when the temptation to be prideful is prevalent.

Copeland illustrated this by saying that there should not be a gap between what someone is learning and how they are living.

“It’s possible to know the right things, but if you’re not living it right, you don’t have the seasoning that you need in order to help other people know what’s right,” Copeland said.

“As you grow older, you will recognize that you are constantly changing and therefore you need more and more of God’s grace and you need to practice these disciplines in a greater fashion.”

Copeland is the author of Riding in the Second Chariot: A Guide for Associate Ministers, and he is also an attorney.

Audio and video from Copeland’s sermon are available at sbts.edu/resources.

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