P.J. Tibayan was no stranger to theological education when he enrolled in the D.Min. program at Southern Seminary. He had been a pastor for several years and had completed his M.Div. studies at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California, but he knew he still had more to learn. His tools could be sharpened; his reading of Scripture further enriched. He needed more training in order to, as Paul says, “rightly handle the word of truth.”

Tibayan experienced a call to ministry at age 12 but resisted because he wanted a more financially lucrative career. That changed suddenly during his first semester in college when he felt what he called an “unbearably heavy burden” to know God better.

“The burden to teach my friends what I was learning from the Bible was so heavy that every time I saw people, I would teach them what I was learning from my devotions,” Tibayan said. “I couldn’t avoid teaching and I couldn’t avoid feeling burdened for my friends. At that point, my love for money and security broke.”

“After I started my D.Min. program, I preached Matthew 1-7 at my church. It rocked my world.”

He dropped out of his secular college and enrolled at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California, where he earned his undergraduate degree and later his Master of Divinity from The Master’s Seminary.

After he started ministry, it became clear to Tibayan that he wanted more training in interpreting and preaching the Bible. He wanted a program that was rigorous in the biblical languages, biblical theology, and practical application for the life of the church. He needed a program that seamlessly blended his desire for a stronger grasp of the biblical text with his passion for teaching his people faithfully.

Southern Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program was the place for him. Here, he would not only improve his preaching and discipling ministry — he would learn how the Old Testament related to the New Testament, and how the story of the Bible is a cohesive whole that culminates in the person of Jesus Christ. And even more, he would learn to help the people of his church grasp the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors.

He has especially benefited from the teaching of Jim Hamilton, professor of biblical theology at Southern Seminary, who helped him become more attuned to how various themes throughout the biblical storyline fit together.

Currently a pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in Bellflower, California, it didn’t take him long to see the fruit of that extensive training blossom in his own ministry.

“After I started my D.Min. program, I preached Matthew 1-7 at my church. It rocked my world,” Tibayan said. “Not only that, it electrified the members of our church so much that they began to ask ‘How does the Old Testament relate to the New Testament? How does this all fit together?’

“To see not only how my studies affect me, but also affect the way my members read their Bibles, it becomes clear that it’s going to affect their souls, their discipling ministries, and their teaching of the gospel to the nations.”

Tibayan’s experience has helped him see the value of merging the deep and careful study of Scripture in the academy and the powerful and winsome preaching of Scripture in the local church. This underscores the critical importance of being involved in the local church while studying in seminary, according to Tibayan. Each believer’s main relational identity, whether they are a pastor in the church or a scholar in the academy, should be their membership of the local church.

“Make all of your seminary learning apply to the church,” Tibayan urges current students. “Always try to edify someone in your church, taking what you learn from seminary and immediately applying it to conversations and relationships for the purpose of building them up. It will change the way you do seminary and it will help your church grow.”