So what’s up with getting an education?

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Some time ago, I shared how I’ve been considering getting a formal education. This hasn’t been an easy road to consider since:

  • I’m in my mid-thirties and therefore can’t do full-time school; and
  • it costs a lot of money to do this (money which, at the moment at least, I do not have a lot of).

So… what have I been doing since I last shared about this and asked you all to pray with me?

In mid-August, I applied to a Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies program at a very reputable seminary. The program allows me the flexibility I need to maintain a healthy-ish schedule while getting a quality education. As of this week, the only thing that remains is for them to receive a copy of my transcript from the college I attended here in London. Once they have that, they will be able to make a decision on whether or not to accept me as a student. If so, I’ll potentially be starting school as early as January, 2015, which is kind of exciting.

There are other questions beyond acceptance that remain as I start planning for the possibility of becoming a student again:

  • How will I manage my time effectively?
  • What impact will this have on my blogging schedule?
  • How am I going to pay for my tuition?

There are a few options we’re considering, but I wanted to share a conviction that’s arisen about school: this is not something to which I’m willing to add another cent in debt. As you can imagine, this brings up more challenges. So I’m considering a few ideas that I’ll tell you more about should my application be accepted.

While there’s clearly not a lot to report, probably the best thing in the entire process to this point was taking the first step on the application—taking action on something I’d been hesitating on for a good long while. Whether I am accepted or rejected, I will at least know an answer. It won’t be another one of those “What if” things. And that is liberating.

So we’ll see what happens. I look forward to sharing more soon—and you wouldn’t mind praying for my acceptance, I’d certainly appreciate it.


Photo credit: kern.justin via photopin cc

Links I like

The Supreme Court Agrees with Hobby Lobby, But Your Neighbor Probably Doesn’t

Trevin Wax:

A generation ago, a person’s religious observance was a public matter, a defining characteristic of one’s identity, while a person’s sexual activity was something private. Today, this situation is reversed. A person’s sexual behavior is now considered a defining characteristic of identity, a public matter to be affirmed (even subsidized) by others, while religious observance is private and personal, relegated to places of worship and not able to infringe upon or impact the public square.

The culture clash today is less about the role of religion in business or politics, and more about which vision of humanity best leads to flourishing and should therefore be enshrined in or favored by law.

Television’s Rape Epidemic

Tim Chalies:

I don’t watch a lot of movies these days, largely because it’s rare that I can find something that promises to reward me more richly than spending the same amount of time in a good book. That said, I do enjoy the occasional miniseries when I can catch it on Netflix or iTunes; I guess I find it easier to part with forty minutes than two hours. Even with that limited exposure there’s something I have observed and something that has spelled the end of my interest in more than a few shows: Rape is in.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And of course, after hitting publish, I learned about a few more:

Finally, for those interested, Vintage Jesus and Vintage Church are also $1.99 each (though, I’ll be honest, they don’t hold up that well).

Outclassed by a kindergarten kid

Sam Freney:

I think my daughter is a better evangelist than I am. She’s five years old.

Largely it’s because she hasn’t yet learned the unspoken rules: that other people might find what you believe to be offensive; that it’s just not ok to discuss religion or politics in polite company; that you must simply conceal, by whatever means necessary, any suggestion that you are part of, attend, or are in any way associated with church.

In other words, she loves Jesus, she loves her church, and she loves telling people that. Or singing Colin Buchanan songs in full voice on the train. Or writing stories at school about what she did with her church friends on the weekend. Or making a connection to something that’s happened and saying, “That’s just like what Jesus said in the Bible, isn’t it?”

Free Online Seminary Classes, Courses, Programs, and Book Recommendations

Kevin Halloran’s put together a pretty massive list of free online seminary classes, courses and programs, as well as several book recommendations. Go have a look.

Why am I thinking about getting an education (again)?

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“Why don’t you just go to seminary? You’ve got the mind for it, and you could probably get it done without too much difficulty.”

I’ve had that conversation a lot over the last few years. And I’ve had it at least a couple of times over the last few months.

As some friends know, I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with the idea of seminary. I love learning, I love the Bible, and I love learning about theology from older, wiser people. Years ago, thanks to iTunes U, I listened to a number of courses from RTS and loved it. To this day, I’m still feeling the influence of those lectures.

But there are other things that make me nervous about going to seminary. The potential for crushing amounts of debt is absolutely terrifying to me. On top of that, I have the added problem of only having a 3-year diploma, rather than a bachelor’s degree. This, as you can imagine, has the potential to limit my options pretty drastically. And then there’s also my need to maintain my job in order to provide for the needs of my family…

So why am I here once again thinking about this?

Am I foolish? Maybe. Probably.

But there are a few really practical reasons for it, but the biggest is simply this:

There are real limits to what I can do without a formal education.

I’m not an education snob by any means. I don’t believe a degree makes one person more qualified than another. I know of many journalism majors who are actually pretty terrible writers. I know of graphic design grads who have no visual sensibility. And I know of men with PhDs in theology who most assuredly don’t know Jesus.

But the fact is, I do run up against barriers because I don’t have a formal education. Sometimes it’s a knowledge gap issue for me (which I usually resolve by reading more books). There are also the limitations on where I could go in terms of service in a church, depending on the leadership’s position on whether or not an M.Div is required for pastoral ministry (that’s not me saying I’m planning to move in that direction, by the way).

But I also have the challenge that sometimes my position—no matter how well reasoned it may be—essentially amounts to being just my opinion in the eyes of some. It’s not that this happens often (by and large, I tend to deal with people who are very humble and open on these matters), but it does happen. And, as you can imagine, it can be incredibly frustrating, especially in those times when it really matters.

From a positive perspective, though, I’d be interested to see what kind of doors a formal education could open for me. Would it be beneficial to me in my current job or in a future one? How would it shape my ministry within my local church and beyond? Would it allow me to help people know and love Jesus to a greater degree than I can now?

These are some of the questions I’m wrestling with right now, even as I send off emails to various schools (including RTS and Covenant Theological Seminary, which seem to have the best online/distance programs available) to see what possibilities exist for a guy in my position.

What do you think: Does a degree matter? Have you thought about going to seminary? What factors played a part in your decision?


Photo credit: kern.justin via photopin cc

Links I like

21 Reasons why you don’t want to be a Seminary Professor

David Murray:

Why do so many young Christian men want to become seminary professors, often with little or no pastoral experience?

As someone who was a pastor for twelve years, before becoming a professor for six, and now deeply grateful to be doing both, I think I can speak with a measure of knowledge and experience.

Eleven Reasons Pastors Are Trusted Less Today

Thom Rainer:

A day does not pass that I do not hear from a hurting pastor. Serving in that role has to be one of the most challenging vocations today. Sure, there are some bad and immoral pastors. But the vast majority of our pastors serve their congregations in a way that honors God and makes a difference in the community.

But both anecdotally and by objective research, we learn that pastors are trusted less and held in lower esteem each year. A recent Pew Research poll found that the favorable view of clergy had declined to 37 percent of those surveyed.

Why are pastors no longer held in high esteem? What is behind the precipitous drop in favorable ratings almost every year? Allow me to offer eleven possible reasons. As you will see, they are not mutually exclusive.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week, Crossway’s put a whole bunch of great books on sale for the Kindle:

And a few other deals you’ll want to take advantage of:

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abortion

Thabiti Anyabwile:

This past week featured two annual remembrances in much of the evangelical world: “Sanctity of Life Sunday” and the Martin Luther King, Jr. public holiday. Some churches, like Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, have long made the two days a period of intense focus on the protection of life and racial reconciliation.

It’s an important juxtaposition orchestrated by divine providence. If Dr. King were known for anything it would be the protection of human life and dignity. We think of him as the great Civil Rights captain marching his troops to justice. But in every step of his march was the firm conviction that all men are made in the image of God and created equal. Had he not held that more foundational belief, along with a deeply biblical conception of love, it would be difficult to imagine so sturdy a fight for equality and inclusion. Those twin commitments have rightly made him an American hero, an icon representing the best of American ideals.

So, it’s worth asking: What would Martin Luther King, Jr. think about abortion?

A Softer Prosperity Gospel: More Common Than You Think

David Schrock:

For those with eyes to see, signs of soft prosperity are everywhere in evangelicalism. Christian radio offers a “positive, encouraging” experience, with innumerable songs beckoning listeners to be overcomers. Christian publishers market books that help Christians look better, feel more confident, and reach their maximum potential. Likewise, Jeremiah 29:11 and Philippians 4:13 continue to be championed as mantras by Christians who want to make an impact on the world.

But of course, these examples are only symptoms, and the solution is not to demonize Christian retailers. Rather, we all must learn to think more deeply about the content of our faith and to refute the errant teachings of the soft prosperity gospel (Titus 1:9).

Educated into Slavery

It’s been eight years since I graduated from college.

I went to community college paying my way nearly entirely by student loan. And when I graduated, I not only had a shiny diploma and no job, but a brand new friend:

About $15,000 in student debt.

I understand that for many, this is not a lot of money. But for a graphic design graduate—a field that in London pays slightly better than minimum wage—this was terrifying.

Paying the minimum payment every month, it would have taken ten years to clear out my loans (thankfully, we were able to get this taken care of a lot sooner). However, I know far too many men and women who are still paying off their education long after they’ve left the field.

Today, the average university undergrad degree costs between thirty and fifty thousand dollars in Canada (this includes housing and food).

That’s a crazy amount of money for a degree that may not ever get used.

While I’m grateful for the education I’ve received and for the skills that I picked up that led me to becoming a full-time writer (wait, what?), it seems to me that we’re at risk of educating ourselves into slavery. [Read more...]