To say I could have been a better student in high school is a bit of an understatement. In fact, I was on the “five-year plan.” That is why I say being a senior was the best two years of my life. That was my story before coming to know Jesus at nineteen years of age. Once I became a Christian, I became a consummate student. So much so, I peaked in college, graduated with an undergraduate degree in Biblical studies, and made it a point afterward to read one hundred books a year. I kept this habit until I started writing books and leveled out around 50-60 books a year.
More tools for your tool belt
When I became a pastor, and later a church planter, continuing my education was always a dream. However, the further away I got from my college years, the less likely it seemed that I would pursue this desire. Marriage, kids and a growing church were my priorities, and I had no idea how to fit in time for a master’s degree. Then 2020 came into our lives and all of the cultural shifts it brought. It was a strange season for all of us, but certainly for pastors. As a pastor, you get criticism when you make bad decisions. In the COVID era, you got criticism for any decision you make. No matter the issue, there were critics on both sides who were happy to make their disapproval known. It was during this season that I knew I needed to add more tools to my ministry toolbox. That was when Trinity International University – Florida walked into Calvary Fellowship in Miramar (the church I founded and have pastored for nearly 23 years)! We are church partners with Trinity, so they set up a table in our lobby to encourage our congregation to pursue Christian education. However, I look back now and recognize that day Trinity was there for me. I struck up a friendship with the dean, and he invited me to apply for their Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS). This is what I had been looking for. The following week I applied and was accepted as a student. I did not expect to be forty-seven years old and back in school.
My first class was Systematic Theology. I told my professor I had not taken a test or written a paper in twenty-seven years. He laughed and assured me I would do fine. What happened next surprised me. I could not get enough. I took two classes in each of my first two semesters. I regretted not taking on more. Then I took four classes and later five classes per semester. The classes were challenging but thoroughly invigorating, both intellectually and spiritually. I felt like I was growing like I did when I was young in the faith. It was the experience I had been seeking for two decades.
How far will God take you?
I was scheduled to graduate in May 2023 and did not think I could be happier than I was to finish and fulfill this dream. However, when I got a call from the admin office telling me I had been selected as the valedictorian for my class, I hung up the phone and cried. I realized how far God had taken me from a kid who had only read one book in his life before becoming a Christian to the top student in his class.
So, to borrow a line from Solomon, what is the conclusion of the matter? Maybe God is calling you to go back to school. Maybe God has been nudging you toward going into ministry, and you do not know where to begin. Here is a great starting place: get educated and be prepared for all God has for you. You will never regret being too prepared or too equipped. I believe when we step into the arena of Christian education, we are doing what Jesus commanded us to do “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37). Who knows, you might end up giving the valedictorian speech at graduation.
Bob Franquiz is the Trinity International University-Florida Graduate Valedictorian, 2023, having earned a Masters in Theological Studies. Visit tiu.edu
For more on university graduates, visit https://www.goodnewsfl.org/knox-theological-seminary-graduates-31st-class/