From left to right: Brad Wetherell (MDiv ’15), Dennis Colton (MDiv ’09), Luke Young (MDiv ’22), and Meritt Raup (MDiv ’22) | Photo courtesy of The Orchard
By Gabriela Clarke
Attendees of EFCA-affiliated church The Orchard know it for its solid biblical basis and strong preaching. Many of its pastoral staff members have something in common: they have been trained at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Pastor Brad Wetherell (MDiv ‘15), Pastor of Family Ministries Dennis Colton (MDiv ‘09), Pastoral Intern Luke Young (MDiv ‘22), and Pastoral Intern Meritt Raup (MDiv ‘22), among others, all say they have been challenged and refined at TEDS.
“A theological drift has happened in many seminaries in the past century. TEDS is distinct because it has held its ground, and I love that about Trinity. I encourage others to consider it because of that.”
TRACKS TO TEDS
Each of the four men were drawn to Trinity after their undergraduate studies by various aspects. Reputation via both word of mouth and the legacy of TEDS-educated pastoral staff members played a major role. Raup recalled that several pastors from his home church had graduated from TEDS, and after doing some research he found that the school checked all of his boxes and was an ideal fit. Similarly, Wetherell was familiar with TEDS’ reputability and found it a natural place to turn to for his seminary education. “TEDS is known for great ministry training and a high caliber of academic rigor and excellence. There was a strong academic reasoning behind it for me,” he said.
Upon arrival at TEDS, they found exactly what they were looking for: an education that stretched their limits, leaving them with greater capacities for discerning God’s Word and sharing it with others well. The work was not easy, but it was good. “It was difficult,” said Colton, “but that’s what I was looking for. That’s why I came to TEDS. I wanted to be challenged like crazy.”
Abundant learning occurred within the walls of Deerfield’s campus classrooms. Studying Scripture carefully, dissecting the text, and drawing meaning from it were all core components of the education they received. At times their already existing strengths were further built upon; Colton recalled how his Introduction to Preaching class yielded one of the most valuable lessons he learned at seminary. Public speaking had never been an issue for him, but the course provided him with a structure by which he could do so faithfully and biblically. His ability to clearly root messages in Scripture and communicate that connection vastly improved.
Outside the classroom, Wetherell, Young, and Raup all said that they especially valued one of the opportunities afforded to them by Trinity: their internships at The Orchard.
“Application of biblical knowledge to actual church contexts was the best thing offered to me by Trinity. It broadened my theological training beyond simply theoretical and transformed it into tangible application that touched people’s hearts and lives.”
OPPORTUNITY AT THE ORCHARD
As part of his MDiv degree, Wetherell began interning at The Orchard in 2012. The intern position lasted only a semester before he became the interim high school pastor and then started working full-time at the church. When asked what his most valuable lesson outside the classroom was, he did not hesitate. “There’s no question,” Wetherell said. “My time at The Orchard was the most beneficial seminary component. Application of theoretical biblical knowledge from TEDS classrooms to actual church contexts was the best thing offered to me by Trinity. It broadened my theological training beyond simply theoretical and transformed it into tangible application that touched people’s hearts and lives.”
Young and Raup, who are both current TEDS students and interns at The Orchard, agreed. The hands-on nature of interning at the church offered a treasure trove of practical knowledge and experience. As Young pointed out, while TEDS’ classroom instruction was exceptional, certain ministry components needed to be learned by doing. “The most valuable thing I’ve learned outside the classroom at TEDS is how to have a pastoral presence,” he said. “Having an internship at The Orchard helped prepare me for vocational ministry.”
Pastoral care became tangible as the interns visited assisted living facilities, officiated funerals, and checked in on individuals going through dark times. The internships also involved leading small groups, facilitating group discussions, connecting with individual church members, and occasionally delivering Sunday morning sermons. The interns grew in helping believers understand biblical truth, guiding them to flourish, and assisting them in processing difficult times.
“Space for dialogue within biblical orthodoxy and solid theology is amazing. People come from different backgrounds and denominations to hold up Scripture as the ultimate authority together.”
Wetherell, Colton, Young, and Raup all view their seminary experiences at Trinity as transformational and beneficial. Wetherell and Colton look back on their time fondly, and Young and Raup are soaking in their remaining time at Trinity. Something all four of them especially appreciate is TEDS’ adherence to biblical orthodoxy and simultaneous openness to humble community dialogue.
“Having space for dialogue within biblical orthodoxy and solid theology is amazing. People come from different backgrounds and denominations to hold up Scripture as the ultimate authority together,” Raup said, adding, “Being exposed to different opinions while still being grounded in the gospel is central.”
Colton agreed. “A theological drift has happened in many seminaries in the past century. TEDS is distinct because it has held its ground, and I love that about Trinity. I encourage others to consider it because of that,” he said. “I loved my time at TEDS, and I would do it again if I had the chance.”