“I knew I needed more training. I wanted to learn. But when I cracked a wry grin and asked the dean if full-time seminary was even realistic for a married, working guy, I was already pretty convinced that it was not,” says Ben Tertin. “He told me about the rigors of upper-level graduate studies, and he asked me questions about my life at the time and where I hoped to end up.”
Ben grew up in the Midwest and had never set foot in Oregon until he moved here to study Bible. Entering into Multnomah Biblical Seminary, he had no clear picture or plan for his future path. But his bachelor’s degree and limited ministry experience was restricting him to only a few, low-level options. In conversation with other pastors, professors and ministry leaders, Multnomah’s seminary kept coming up and caused him to make the decision.
“I still don’t have the future dialed in,” he says. “Teaching? I’m prepared for that at both the undergrad and graduate level now. Pastoring? I am a full-time pastor right now, and I love leading my junior high, high school and college students in downtown Portland. I have no plan to switch things up, but with Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Multnomah, I’ve got big keys that open so many cool doors.”
Building a foundation on faith
Ben enrolled not with a confidence in his guaranteed future vocation but with a trust in the Word of God and an ability to understand it, live it and teach it to others. He says he will likely pursue a Ph.D. one day because it will form him into the kind of person who can function with excellence across many different workplaces.
“The cool thing about the M.Div. in theological studies program is that its requirements for graduation mirror the requirements to get into most Ph.D. programs,” he says. “Too many grad students are desperate for acceptance into any program they might possibly qualify for, but I’m nowhere close to desperate. Multnomah set me up to qualify for a wide range of options and choose the best one. I don’t think I even realized how innovative and reputable Multnomah was until I was well into my studies.
“Nothing I’ve experienced has so powerfully and quickly changed my life. Ali, my wife, and I see our years living in the married student housing as the richest time of both of our lives. We moved in as a newly married couple with no children, nervous about making friends. Within three years we had two kids and so many solid friends.
“Every day, you wake up with and eat with and laugh and cry with fellow believers who want to study and talk about and live according to God’s Word. Search this planet over a million times and you’ll be hard pressed to find that kind of goodness. And for Ali to have those other young moms 10 feet from our front door, all of them taking care of each other – what a gift. And with all of the single friends we made, there are tight-knit bonds in every direction.”
Following God’s calling
Regarding his time at the seminary, Ben tells a story of intense trial and high demand, especially during the last two years when he was finishing his Th.M. He was a full-time worker, a husband and a father of two, and a full-time student.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat – wouldn’t think twice,” he says. “I already miss my professors who spent so much time with me, expanding my understanding of Christian community, teaching me to dialogue with the ancient Church fathers, the medieval theologians and reformers and Puritans and you name it. I can study the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew now and teach and preach at any level, from conference speaking to Sunday sermons, to young adult teaching and program development. What an awesome school.
“Was it realistic to stop life and enter into this full-time, rigorous, demanding way of life? No, not according to the world’s measure, which would call the whole endeavor a stupid move. But I think that if we take the call of God seriously and understand his kingdom values as superior to those of the world, the life of biblical learning and theological growth is vibrant and priceless. Pastoring, teaching, counseling, leading, you name it: fluency and strength in the Word of God is about as realistic as it’s going to get.”