By David Leister
In the fall of 2008 while living in Brazil and managing an international consulting firm, I felt God nudging me toward a new life path. I was not sure if that entailed a new career path, an international move or whether God was leading me toward new ministry opportunities. But one thing I knew for certain was that God was calling me to know Him better, to study His Word and to become equipped for future vocational ministry.
During this time I consulted a ministry mentor in San Antonio, Texas about seminary or some sort of online course I could take to enhance my formal study of God’s Kingdom. I was informed about an online seminary named Rockbridge Seminary that was worth checking out. A few of this mentor’s ministry colleagues at his church (Community Bible Church) had enrolled at Rockbridge. Being thousands of miles south of the border with no viable opportunity to simply uproot my family and move to America and enroll in a residential seminary, this immediately sounded promising.
After much prayer, contemplation and consultation with family, friends, mentors, and Rockbridge admissions personnel, I knew in my heart that God had placed Rockbridge Seminary squarely on that new life path.
There were a few major factors which initially attracted me to Rockbridge, and were immediately confirmed, and emphatically reconfirmed, throughout my six years as a Master’s in Ministry Leadership student at Rockbridge Online Seminary.
Mentors. The first factor was the fact that I worked in a secular senior management position in Brazil and was simultaneously becoming heavily involved in bi-vocational ministry in a number of fields. I was mentoring at-risk young men, teaching men on parole about God’s Word through my local church missions, and I was occasionally invited to preach the Gospel at different churches and even in a state penitentiary. The fact that the Rockbridge class format requires students to establish mentor relationships and to actually practice what they learn in live ministry situations seemed like the perfect fit for me.
Relational. The second factor that made sense to me was the fact that although I was a committed, ministry-active Christian upon enrollment, I was a secular leader with no vocational ministry experience. Being able to come alongside fellow students from different life and ministry backgrounds, building relationships and learning from one another’s experiences, was a major plus. Each course often brings in a handful of fresh faces and a new professor. The collective learning and collective ministry experience sharing dynamic helped me not only gain academic knowledge of God’s Kingdom, but it gave me the confidence and encouragement to become a ministry leader.
Learning Design. The third factor that drew me to Rockbridge was the design of the online learning experience. In addition to plenty of reading, as would be expected in a residential seminary environment as well, students are required to interact with one another on forums. It is during such interactions where lifelong friendships are forged and a continuous outlet for expression and dialogue is in place. I experienced a couple of major life events while a student at Rockbridge. The first was the birth of my daughter and the second was the sudden death of my father. When I look back at both events, representing two extremes on the emotional spectrum, I thank God for all of the support and love I received from many different people at Rockbridge, from students to faculty. I learned that Rockbridge is more than “just a seminary” in a convenient online format. Rockbridge is a holy institution where real people come together to have their lives transformed to become real life Kingdom servants.
As a recent graduate I fondly look back at the financial and time commitments as well as hard work put into my seminary studies, and I know that I would do it all over again without question. I am also considering pursuing a doctoral degree in the future!
About the Writer: David Leister is a recent graduate of Rockbridge Seminary whose international management career has relocated him to multiple countries and led him to many international ministry opportunities, most recently in Brazil. David currently works as a Senior Business Development Executive at a Professional Employer Organization called Resource Management, Inc. He also serves as a volunteer global ministry leader at Oak Hills Church, reporting directly to Senior Minister Randy Frazee.