It’s early February 2019. I am a few weeks away from being at about the halfway mark (in credit-hour terms) toward the completion of an M.A. in Christian Apologetics.
When I decided to enroll in graduate school, I chose to study apologetics for a number of reasons. For one, apologetics is an interdisciplinary endeavor. It draws from philosophy, theology, history, psychology, the physical sciences — the entire range of human inquiry, really — in order to make a rational case (defensively and offensively) for the Christian faith.
I’ve always been passionate about learning, reading, and writing broadly and generally. I’ve also felt the call to serve in some ministry capacity for some time. I used to think pastoral ministry was the only option, but studying apologetics has taught me that it’s not. In the end, studying apologetics allows me to indulge my omnivorous reading/writing passion while gaining knowledge and skills that can be put to work in the church.
Another reason why I chose apologetics as a field of study was because I saw a need in my own church.
I first got turned on to apologetics around 2009 when I read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. In that book, I read arguments and facts and evidence that I — a third-generation Seventh-day Adventist Christian who, at the time, was serving as an associate pastor and Bible worker — had never heard. The lesson being, we don’t have a lot of rigorous apologetics going on in Seventh-day Adventism — at least not to the extent to which such work is being done in other evangelical Protestant denominations.
The greater problem arising from that is that our church members and students are not being adequately trained in the rational basis on which Christian faith rests. That has a whole bunch of implications. For one, having a rational basis for faith makes one less likely to walk away from that faith. It also makes one better prepared to share that faith in an increasingly hostile secular environment. And, as far as the youth of the church goes, having a rational basis for faith means better preparation for the challenges one faces on university and public school campuses.
This all prompted me to start paying better attention to what and how we teach in the church — in our worship, in Sabbath School at all levels, and in our learning institutions. What I learned is that we are reluctant, in many ways, to embrace emerging and new methods or technologies for teaching and learning. This is especially true in how we educate adults and children at the congregational level.
Which brings me to the point of this post, which is really about me fleshing out my ideas about where I’m at in terms of my own educational trajectory.
At the beginning of each class, we have to introduce ourselves to our professor and fellow students. Part of the introduction is to include our goals regarding our current degree program and how we hope to use it or employ it in the future. Most people have stories about currently being missionaries or associate pastors or worship directors. Me, I just tell them the truth. I know God wants me to study what I’m studying and I have no idea where it’s going to lead. I’m just going to keep following the breadcrumbs he leaves for me. For now, that simply means finishing this degree, although I always offer that I hope to move on, at some point, to doctoral-level studies.
Inevitably, someone asks, “What kind of doctoral program are you thinking about?” To which I offer the same reply about following God’s breadcrumbs.
However, now, as I contemplate all that I’ve just written about along with possibilities for my final capstone/thesis project in the Fall, I’m leaning towards continuing to the PhD level in instructional design and technology.
Because I’m concerned about what and how we’re teaching in our local congregations. I’m concerned about what (if anything) members of all ages are actually learning in our churches. Because I want to be impactful in the area of congregational learning and teaching. Because I think it’s just as important to know how to foster learning as it is to know what should be taught. And I believe that being called to the Christian life is to be called to a lifetime of learning and teaching — disciples constantly learn in order to constantly teach new disciples.
There’s always some level of trepidation in going on the record like this. But there it is. For now, it appears that God’s breadcrumbs lead in this direction. But I’ll leave the final destination up to him. This is just a reflection and an act of self-accountability.