The chapters he found most interesting were those on the topics he finds myself most interested in: life and character; study; pastoral care; the responsibility to lead, etc. However, in the midst of these topics (in the preaching chapter – another he enjoyed), Derek Prime’s thought on training for ministry was particularly striking to him:
“One reason I would discourage a young man from training for the ministry straight from school or university is that he probably does not have that experience of life that will be so important in relating his ministry of God’s Word to men and women’s real life situations.” (128)
Learner says he resonates with Prime’s recommendation, both intellectually as well as experientially. Coming to seminary twelve years after college and after some wonderful hands-on ministry experience in a diverse set of people situations, he feels much more prepared and able to contextualize the deep teaching and theology he's now getting. While not true in every case, he does sense an advantage in being one of the “older” guys here, as the seasoning of having been in the trenches with people is very preparatory, much more so than can be taught in a classroom.
At the same time, a few disadvantages of his semi-late seminary start come to mind: lacking a well-developed ecclesiology; missing out on some earlier formal education to help categorize aspects of his theology (his friend/mentor, Paul, says that 90% of education is simply naming things, with which Learner says he agrees); and probably missing the window of pursuing doctoral work after seminary (which seems to be less and less a desire/option with each month, at least from a chronological, stage-of-life perspective).
Still, he says he's grateful for the time invested before seminary, during which he spent less time wrestling with the answers of life and instead took some time to recognizing life's questions. You can read about them in books, he says, but until you walk through the process of helping someone come up with and begin to wrestle with them, you’re just a theoretician and consultant, not a pastor (a role Learner is becoming more and more interested in long-term).