When you’re stuck in a Boeing 747 at 35,000 feet, how do you pass the time? If you’re J. D. Greear, odds are you talk with your neighbor about God. (And if that sounds awkward, trust us: he knows.) An author, theologian, and pastor of The Summit Church of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, Greear is one of those rare birds who is so passionate about evangelism that he’ll take almost any opportunity to strike up a biblical back-and-forth—even if, by his own admission, he crashes and burns as often as not.

You might think someone with that much ministerial fire tends to shoot first and aim second—“the fields are ripe for harvest,” after all. In fact, Greear is actually a big fan of waiting. Whether he’s helping young college students plan for their futures or writing about how churches stand to “gain by losing,” Greear always tempers his missionary fervor with the knowledge that God’s work often involves long periods of preparation. It’s part of why he thinks the years people spend in seminary are worthwhile:

[In seminary,] you learn how to learn, and you learn how to study. And you learn specifically how to study the Bible. The best courses are going to lead you to the tools that you can then use for the rest of your life. It’s rare that I am sitting down writing something, or talking with you, that I remember something one of my professors said and say it. It happens occasionally, but that’s rare. What I keep with me is “here’s how you use a library. . . . here’s how you research.” That was extremely valuable to me. Plus, [seminary] gave me a framework. I learned systematic theology. I learned church history. And so I had ...
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