Here’s a recent letter and it has taken me a few weeks to get it posted here:
As an aspiring college professor, I often wonder to what extent I should be engaged in church ministry as I am in seminary. I am trying to do well so that I can get a full ride into a competitive Ph.D. program. My commitment to my studies, therefore, naturally limit my time that I have to be involved at my church.
I am intentional where I work in sharing the gospel and trying to live the cruciform life. How many hours a week did you work when you were in seminary/grad school and how did you balance your academic responsibilities with your responsibilities to be engaged in the people of God on more than a superficial level?
I must say up front that I’m glad you are asking this question. I fear many don’t.
The first thing I would say is that you do have to find your own rhythm, balancing your whole life. But I would urge you to consider this most important of considerations: Our study of the Bible, if it is done with Christian integrity, is not simply an academic discipline or a historical investigation. All true biblical study must end in worship (love of God), in fellowship with others (love of others), and surrounded by what God has called you to do: to exercise the gift of teaching for the edification of the Church.
Far too many PhD students, and they really do begin the issues during their master’s degrees, learn to “bracket off” their faith in some sort of “objectivity” so they can learn to study the Bible without bias or faith commitment. If you learn to think about the Bible apart from your faith you will soon learn how to live without your faith. This is dangerous. We must not ever let our faith be bracketed off. We are first Christians.
Now I’ve not been wandering or assuming a bully pulpit here. What I’m doing is setting up this suggestion: your first commitment needs to be to your church. Keep that commitment healthy and let it cut into your academic work; you’ve got time for your academic work.
As for my seminary days … I worked at UPS for much of the time (appr 4am to 8am) and we participated in our local church, a small group, etc..
Overall, I’d say this: do your academic work well; if you need to slow down your academic work to maintain the proper balances of your life, slow it down. Some, you know, get their PhD and lose their families or their faith.
Our prayers are with you.