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Third-degree burns?

The most common question asked of graduates is “What are your plans now?” We ask that of high school grads, college grads, and graduate school grads. Since seminary is a specialized form of graduate school (technically, it’s a professional school in the historic vein of medical schools and law schools), I’ve gotten that question a good bit lately.

There’s a few reasons for that. First is the natural curiosity. After all, I’ve been telling people I’m in school, so now that I’m done, they want to know.

The second is that, unfortunately, we Baptists tend to class our churches as places you go before seminary, during seminary, or after seminary. There’s an unfortunate tendency to think that now that one has a new degree, one needs a new ministry position.

Third is that, well, there is one more degree to pursue after the Master of Divinity. Actually, there’s two possibilities. One is the Doctor of Philosophy, a research/study degree. The other is the Doctor of Ministry, a practical/experiential degree. The former means more books, languages, and a lot of writing. The latter means more books, developing a practical project, trying it, and a lot of writing. Many pastors chase and obtain the D.Min., as it has more of a “doing the work” feel to it. Academics, nerds, and people who can’t face reality chase the Ph.D., because it’s about research and writing, preparation to teach and expanding knowledge into unknown areas.

For example, the D.Min. would be pursued by developing a plan to build disciples in the local church by teaching church history. The Ph.D. would research examples of how that was done in the past, prove that it’s a good idea, and theorize about the reasons. Ph.D. candidates would examine across cultures and languages, as well as timelines, while the D.Min. would seek information about how to learn from (and replicate) any time it’s been successful.

That’s oversimplified, but you get the idea.

So, what am I going to do?

I’ll give the same answer I used in high school and college.

I have no idea. I will do what I think is what God has directed me to do.

In that light, I am pursuing a bit of language study that will enable me to do more academics if the opportunity is there. I would like to do so, but there’s a lot of investment for that.

I will continue to serve the church I serve until the work I’m here to do is done. Yes, that’s nebulous. It’s business meeting night here in Almyra, I could be done in 2 hours if the body here decides that I am. The Lord could leave me here for years, even as things change and times shift. I have plans to preach Sunday, and serve indefinitely. I think that’s the way most of us who are pastors should approach it.

I do have other long-term type plans, such as getting around to writing the stuff I’ve been putting off. Doing a better job of pastoring and not just filling a space. Serving and helping other churches as well.

Will I go for the third degree? I think that’s a necessity one of these days—I can feel my neck burning to have the hood I saw the doctoral graduates get. I want that third degree. Of course, they may not take me, too, so that’s another matter.

It’s just a matter of making life about more than putting another piece of paper in the file.

So, what am I going to do?

This week, I’ll preach, teach, write, father, husband, and pastor, just like I did before graduation. After all, the degree was a marker of working through a process of becoming—it’s not a magical grant that I am now complete. Just that I have passed a mile stone.

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