This month we would like to introduce Traever Guingrich, who started his studies at Westmintser in the fall of 2013. He is also a student at the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies, a program on campus that provides a challenging curriculum of theological, historical, and pastoral courses that complement the WSC Master of Divinity program to provide a comprehensive preparation for pastoral ministry in Reformed Baptist and other churches. If you are a Reformed Baptist thinking about seminary, this is a wonderful program!
What led to your decision to pursue seminary?
It was becoming increasingly obvious in my life that the primary gifting I had received from God was most beneficially used in full-time ministry. Although working as an engineer, my priorities and passion were focused on serving in the local church. I had an increasing desire to expand my role and was making significant progress in usefulness to the church through self-study. I began to have friends and family question if I planned to attend seminary or even suggest I go. I approached my local church elders and expressed willingness and desire for seminary with plans to enter full time ministry upon completion. I asked to be evaluated with that in mind. I think one of the greatest disservices potential seminarians can do is separate the seminary decision from their local church and elders. I found much benefit in putting my decision before and ultimately in the hands of older, wiser men who serve in a position I hope to hold one day. After the meeting I was asked to work directly with the senior pastor of my own church and later one from a church planted by my home church. I likewise continued my normal teaching roles I had been involved in. Over the course of a year I developed a more concrete goal and desire for seminary education. The elders confirmed the Lord's calling me to ministry and my family and I departed for WSC with much encouragement and joy…and a bit of fear and intimidation.
What are the main reasons that you chose WSC specifically?
There were four primary reasons I choose WSC:
1. The Institute for Reformed Baptist Studies. Quite simply there is no better place in the country to get a distinctly Reformed education as a 1689 LBC confessional covenantal Reformed Baptist. See question below for more details on IRBS.
2. The school's emphasis on confessions. Not only does this keep a continual unchanging standard for everyone, but it allows you to know the primary theological positions of nearly everyone at WSC. This becomes even more crucial as a Baptist since it allows me to learn better from all the professors (even if I disagree with them) because I know exactly what they believe and why. There is little need for guessing about where people are coming from theologically when there is such a strong emphasis on the confessions. I wanted seminary to be a period to soak and learn in the Reformed theological tradition; not to be a time to do doctrinal battles and defend the basics of the faith.
3. Confidence in the faculty and academic focus. This may be mostly because of the school's emphasis on the confessions but it is also because they are churchmen. These men serve and love the local church. Rarely do you sit through a class when the matters being discussed are not applied to a local church setting. WSC is intensely academic yet without being an "Ivory Tower" situation. They are preparing their students to shepherd of flock of God's people through thorough an unmatched education.
4. The small size. Although this can have just a couple downsides, the small size makes the most important part of seminary life better—the classroom learning. Likewise relationships are easier to develop with fellow students.
Talk about your experience at the Institute for Reformed Baptist Studies.
IRBS is what really made me willing to move all the way across the country with three kids and live like a pauper for three years. It cannot be overstated what a distinct privilege it is to study under Dr. James Renihan. IRBS cannot be discussed without give him due credit. He is truly one of the most humble and brilliant men I have ever met. I doubt anyone exists that can better communicate the history and theology of the Particular Baptists from which the Reformed Baptists draw their roots. The IRBS classes sizes are nice and small and anything but boring. There is a wonderful community of Reformed Baptist to work together with in learning and worshipping. Like I said above there is no better place to get a distinctly Reformed education as a confessional covenantal Reformed Baptist and that is true because of IRBS.
I was somewhat curious prior to coming about potential animosity between paedobaptists and credobaptists at WSC but have seen nothing but brotherly affection and interaction. There is occasional good natured ribbing and from what I've seen the level of participation in discussions on paedo/credo distinctions is entirely dependent on one's desire to interact specifically about it.
What are a few things that you have enjoyed about life here thus far?
As everyone immediately says, it's hard to beat the weather in southern California. But more than the geographical location, it's the small seminary community that is so easy to tie into to that is so nice. There are families and singles and people from across the globe. The wives work together to make family life easier for each other. Last semester a new and now dear friend watched all three of our kids so my wife and I could audit a class together (which spouses can do for free—another amazing benefit of WSC). We are planning to return the favor so she and her husband can do the same. The workload at WSC is intimidating but the community and people are the exact opposite. That applies to the professors as well.
Where do you plan to go after you graduate from WSC?
As of now I plan to serve in the local church as a pastor whose primarily focus is on classroom teaching, but still frequently preaches. Those two roles may be reversed as needed and if called, but as of now that would be my goal. So far WSC has taught me very well how to do both.