I love to learn. It’s not just a part of my job, it’s a part of my makeup. Whenever I pick up a new hobby or practice I don’t just start doing it, I have to research it, study it and try to understand as much as I can about it. For some reason, knowing more about it makes the experience all the richer. Others might call it being nerdy, I like to think of it as being appreciative of the depth and breadth of good things.
Theology, ministry and the church are, needless to say, good things in my life. I would seek to learn about them whether I worked at a church or not. Indeed, everything I do in ministry isn’t because I’m paid for it as much as the fact it is who I am…it is what fuels my fire. In addition to that, I want to live a life that maximizes my redemptive potential. In fact, it’s so important that this is the case for me, that every so often I ask myself if I’m really maxing out my talents and gifts for God. Often it puts me in short seasons of deep and honest reflection. The latest season brought me face-to-face with something I thought I would’ve done a long time ago but didn’t because I never felt it was the right time.
What is it? Getting a doctorate. Yes, I’m planning on going back to seminary. Something about my redemptive potential, my love for my church and things I can’t yet put a finger on has me feeling that this is the right time for pursuing a degree. It’s funny. I’m generally a thinker, but when it has come to the bigger decisions of life, it has to feel right to me. I’d like to think that feeling is the culmination of many things, not the least of which is the Holy Spirit’s movement in my heart and life. Running after a doctorate finally feels right to me. So I’m going back to school.
My Senior Pastor, who is more partner than boss and also has a doctorate, encouraged me to think about getting a Ph.D., saying it would better match my intellectual abilities and need for challenge. His sincere counsel blessed and flattered me. But I’m not going to take him up on it. I love the local church (specifically my local church) too much to leave it for an extended amount of time (can you say “years”) on a seminary campus. Besides, I want a doctorate that best parallels my working and serving the local church, which in my opinion is a Doctor of Ministry. Therefore, this spring I will hopefully begin my doctoral studies.
So today I’ve submitted an application to the seminary, written a personal essay for the admissions office and distributed referrals to friends (even my wife has to write a piece on why she’s okay with me pursuing a degree). It’s been somewhat different for me, being that I haven’t done anything officially academic for almost 15 years. But that’s okay. Now’s the time. It’s back to school. Again.
What about you?
Is there anything God is calling you to pursue? Or do you find yourself tempted to simply run in place, walled in by that which is too comfortable, too relaxed, too easy? Are there stories you keep telling yourself to justify living a life that’s less than you know it needs to be? What does “school” look like for you? What do you need to do to maximize your redemptive potential? You only get one life to live, so ask God to give you the courage to do it!