2019 Internship Highlights: Ryan Thomas

Where did you pursue your internship (location/church)? 

New Life Presbyterian Church, Escondido, CA

What were your primary responsibilities (preaching, teaching, counseling, etc.)?

Teaching (Sunday school, bible studies, etc.), congregational prayer during worship, preaching, general discipleship in a variety of contexts, intern coordinator. From time to time, I might be able to help with a visitation, sit in on counseling, or assist on a mission trip.

How has your WSC education prepared you for the internship?

WSC has provided me with a firm theological foundation that is both informed and Reformed. We learn the original languages so that we can engage Scripture in all its fullness. We study the creeds and confessions to become well acquainted with the historical Christian faith. We not only learn about, but from those with whom we might disagree. We receive an education firmly rooted in the Reformed tradition, yes, but not in a way that allows us to live with our heads in the sand. 

This depth and breadth to my education has resulted in a humble confidence to teach and preach Christ from all of Scripture. Humble, because every semester I realize just how little I know. Yet confident, for what little I do know, I know it to be worth sharing boldly with this dying world. And every church, no matter how large or small, needs to be strengthened in the faith as they are rooted and built up in Christ (Col 2:7). My education has prepared me to do just that, with greater clarity, and more charity, than I would have otherwise been capable. 

What did you learn from this internship that seminary couldn’t teach you?

Books can fill your pockets with seeds of truth, but they will only bear fruit if you plant them in the heart. Seminary educates ministers in the gospel, but the church cultivates disciples through the gospel. In short, seminary can teach you everything you need to know (and more!) about sheep, but only in the church does one learn how to become a shepherd. 

Happily, a seminary education and church internship are not contradictory, but can (and should) be complementary. Seminary has equipped me to teach Scripture, yet the church has made me a better student of God’s Word. If “knowledge puffs up but love builds up” (1 Cor 8:1), nothing has so discouraged my pride yet encouraged my soul than the saints in Christ’s church. Perhaps I can put it this way. In Colossians 1:24, Paul wrote, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body.” Seminary has taught me how to read and interpret Paul’s words in Greek, but it has been my time in the church that has helped me to understand their meaning.

What would you say to future seminarians participating in internships?

Do not underestimate the people your internship will bring into your life. Most won’t know Greek or Hebrew, and few will be able to track with your full theology-nerd status. But make no mistake, they have much to teach you. Their piety,  prayer life, wisdom, faith, hope, and love may well exceed yours. And yet, do not underestimate your opportunities to influence them. Internships are just a small taste of full time ministry, true, but they also aren’t play time. You are dealing with real people, real souls, real sin, and real suffering. They need you to point them to Christ just as you need them. 

One of my responsibilities as an intern is to preach at a local assisted living center. If I may be forward, these men and women are old. Some are all but forgotten by family. Their attention spans are minimal. Their ability to hear, questionable. But they are precious! Some do not know Christ, while others have served as missionaries across the globe. What they all need is Jesus. And we have the privilege of bringing him to them. Make sure your seminary can show you how. I can think of none better than WSC.