Keeping Knowledge from Puffing Up

I have a friend who, by the time of this posting, will have finished her dissertation defense. By God’s grace, I’ll be in that spot in about a month. After people complete their defense, they are the proud owners of an infinitesimal amount of knowledge in a section of a section of a section of a sliver of the knowledge pie. Their dissertation goes on the shelf of a library somewhere and will barely ever be referenced again (in most cases). (I have a friend who said he was considering putting a $20 bill into his dissertation just to see if anyone would ever take it off the shelf and thumb through it.)

Knowledge is an interesting thing. Some people crave it; others run away from it. We don’t want to be too “heady” and lose the heart, or so we say. At the same time, we are supposed to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind (Matt 22:37). We hear that knowledge puffs up (1 Cor 8:1) so we might wonder if there is any use for knowledge and growing in knowledge. I find at least two ways to keep knowledge from puffing up . . .

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Things I Didn’t Learn in Seminary [Updated] | Premarital Counseling

Four and a half years ago I wrote this post about premarital counseling. I had visions of grandeur and making post after post of things I wish seminary had taught me. Well, I wrote a total of three posts and my post on premarital counseling was the whole reason I started the “series” (that’s poor word choice, it was really one post with two other ones tacked onto it).

Since that post, I’ve actually gone almost another four whole years in seminary (again) and added another batch of weddings and their counseling to my pastoral experiences. I don’t think that I do the best weddings. I endeavor to make weddings Christ-centered, personal for the couple, light-hearted, and relatively brief.

Thus, I felt like it was time to update the post with what I do, what I still don’t do, and what I’ve learned. Continue reading “Things I Didn’t Learn in Seminary [Updated] | Premarital Counseling”

Five Tips for Reading Books, PhD-Style

I don’t like reading. I usually have to force myself to read. At first, it was by setting bets with my friends or by making other people read books with me. I had a bet with Evan to read The Lord of the Rings. I had a bet with my friend David that I’d finish The Hunger Games before him and, if so, he had to buy me lunch. He did, and it was Chick-fil-A.
photo-1431608660976-4fe5bcc2112cI’ve also simply asked people to read other books with me. I led a men’s group and had five books be part of the curriculum (they were five books I wanted to read). Jonathan and I meet almost weekly and have a book we are discussing (since coming on staff it has been this one, this one, this one, and this one—soon to probably be this one).

Now the pull is school, with each semester requiring twenty books or more (this semester is twenty-seven). The reading is different than my previous bets. It is non-fiction, and it is more academic (some of you might call that more “boring”). While on Thanksgiving break with the fam I had to slam four of them just to try and finish the semester’s reading on time (which still isn’t a slam dunk).

It’s more books than any human should have to read. And it’s cruel and unusual punishment by our professors (who I think do this to us because they had to). But it must be done, so this is how I survive it . . . Continue reading “Five Tips for Reading Books, PhD-Style”

Imposter Syndrome

I write this form a hotel on the campus of Southern Seminary. Home Alone 2 is on AMC for the fifteenth time this week, it hans’t snowed one time, and most students have disappeared for the semester—it is the perfect time for guys like me to creep onto campus and take a few classes. (And tonight is the perfect night to blog because it distracts me from how badly I’m missing my family.)

I have been unsuccessfully hiding the fact that I have started a PhD program. Anyone preaching in my stead mentions it, and throughout November I’ve been in “cranky mode”—that time where the reading, writing, and research stacks so high that my fuse gets a little shorter and the staff graciously tolerates me.  I’ve been surrounded by pastors, missionaries, theologians, book writers, other students, people from all over the world, and pictures of Billy Graham.

Seminary students in the first years of PhD studies have a term: imposter syndrome. It’s when we realized we are, always have been, and always will be, the dumbest people in the room. I was feeling OK until yesterday, when I started reading the work of my fellow students.

Does this place know what they got themselves into in accepting me? Do *I* know what I got myself into? Did that other American guy who just walked by me just strike up a conversation with someone else in Chinese?!?! Everyone else seems so much smarter and writes so much better.

All this, and much more, circles around my head most days. . .

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Things I Didn’t Learn In Seminary Part 3 | Developing Staff

This post doesn’t apply to all churches, I know that. Many churches have a single staff member to do everything (to those of you who have that situation, I salute you). The Chapel isn’t that. We have a big staff. Bigger than I even knew. They all serve in a unique role in our church, but all of them are on the team.

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One thing that I seminary gave me almost zero tools for is how to care for this staff.

Continue reading “Things I Didn’t Learn In Seminary Part 3 | Developing Staff”

Things I Didn’t Learn in Seminary Part 2 | Funerals

Only two things are certain in this life: death and taxes. My maternal grandfather passed away on April 15, 2009, proving that point entirely. I was actually visiting my hometown for a job interview the same weekend he passed, so it was a bittersweet blessing to be home at the same time Grandpa Jimmy died. He was my third grandparent to die while I was in seminary (proceeded in death by both of my dad’s parents) and the third funeral that I was asked to “preach.”

Though I was finishing up my seminary studies and graduating only a few weeks later, my third funeral during seminary made me realize this: I was ill-prepared to officiate funerals.

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