Nearly 20 years ago, God first put it in my heart to get a PhD. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in my first year at ORU doing an undergraduate degree in theology. I had no idea I would go to post graduate work. In fact, I didn’t even know how to get to that level of education. My parents had both finished a masters in education in college. But neither of them stayed in education. And I don’t remember going to college being stressed all that often growing up. But that day in my first year at ORU, I heard God speak and ever since I have been on that journey.
In 2000, I graduated with my Bachelors. I also started working full time in ministry so I wasn’t concerned about doing my masters right away. But it soon became clear, I couldn’t get away from it. So in 2002 I started a masters and finished 5 years later. At that point I knew i was ready to start post-graduate work. My professors insprired me with a love for theology and encouraged my gifts. In 2008 I started applying. I loved ORU so much I wanted to come back to be a teacher there. But you can’t teach theology without a terminal degree. If you were to ask me at that point, why I was doing it I would have said, “so I can teach at ORU.” At that time, in my mind, I needed degree to get where I am going. I needed a PhD.
In 2010, God called me to pastor at New Life Center and I put that dream on hold. Something happened during that 5 year break. God has slowly been teaching me that my whole life is a calling. Pastoring has a way of purging your own desires for the sake of God’s dreams for your life. Everything God asks me to do in my life is a calling. Who I marry, how I parent, where I pastor and what degrees I pursue. He told me to be a pastor. It was not my choice. There is no end game. I am not serving in order to become something else. Pastoring is not a stepping stone. It is a calling. I do it for Him and for as long as he needs me to do it.
Five years later, now that I am back pursuit of a PhD, I do it for different reasons. I don’t need a PhD. I am not doing it gain the necessary credentials to be a professor. I am not doing it achieve a level in church ministry. I don’t even care about the title. At this point, I don’t even care if I ever end up at ORU like I had dreamed years ago. I am doing my PhD because I am called to do so. God has an assignment for me, whether I ever “use” this degree or not.
This is the beauty of my journey right now. I believe the work I am doing in my research on the Assemblies of God is valuable in and of itself. It will ultimately be a gift to the body of Christ that God has called me to give. This degree is a calling. I don’t need it, but do need to do it. God has called me. So I write. And to quote Eric Liddell, “When I write, I feel His pleasure.”