10 Mar Why I’m Studying a Doctorate
Some have asked why I’ve started studying a Doctorate of Ministry (See A Tale of Two God-Decisions for how it happened!) ie. Why am I spending three years of my life reading thousands of pages of books, talking to dozens of people about their experience and agonizing over a 60,000 word thesis, when I already have a full-time job running a growing ministry?
It’s a good question! I asked the same thing myself while sitting in my first class last week surrounded by piles of readings and assignments.
This is why.
A Flawed Theology
For 20 years of my life I never knew God personally. I’d never heard God speak to me about the specific concerns of my life. I knew God in the same way most people know the Queen of England – through the eyes of someone else. My relationship with God was secondhand; lived out through other people’s sermons, the doctrines held by my parents and the stories of bible characters.
The reason for my lack was a flawed theology. It was because a few hundred years or so ago, someone developed a theory about how God stopped talking when the Bible was compiled and then wrote about it. That idea and the books that spread them meant that 400 years later my spiritual life was empty – a dried up rusk of what it is today.
Here at God Conversations our aim is to equip millions to recognize the voice of God. My team and I work to help the local church globally to hear God’s voice and to follow it. In order to do that effectively, we need to help people understand how to hear from the Holy Spirit and how to do it safely. Even in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches who have longed believe that God still speaks, there’s a lot of confusion. There are all sorts of unanswered questions: How do we know it’s God speaking? Is it okay to say, ‘God told me’? How does the written word of God balance with the spoken word of God? Does my pastor need to test the words I hear? What do I do with the things God tells me? We struggle so much with this incredible gift God has granted us.
But my heart and the heart of my team is not just for those who’ve already had some experience hearing God’s voice – it’s also for all those churches who still think that God has stopped talking – and even for those who’d like to hear the voice of God, but haven’t met him personally yet!
Why Theology Matters
Doing a doctorate is not about gaining more knowledge or a title. It’s not about scaling an academic ladder. The truth is, the more I know about the Bible, the more I realise how little you really need to know. The gospel in its essence is very simple – love God and love people – and I can spend my whole lifetime just doing that. But on the other hand, our experiences are defined by our beliefs and our thinking. Our theology (knowledge about God) shapes our experience and vice versa. Some of the greatest movements in history began with an idea. In my case, one set of teachings defined my entire spiritual experience and resulted in me nearly walking away from my faith.
My goal is to help others avoid the mistakes I’ve made. In that, God has given me gifts and opportunities and I want to steward them well – I want to use my mind to its utmost potential to build the kingdom. I want to think and strategise and ask what it means to be in a two-way conversation with God. I want to apply thoughtful reflection to spiritual experience using both my heart and my head to understand what God is doing and then, I want to use everything in my power to get what I’ve learnt out to you and millions of others around the world!
So at the end of three years, there’ll be a thesis, there’ll be a fancy title (“Rev Dr…”), there’ll be a huge party (already in the planning!), but there’ll also be a book for pastors and leaders for the church who hears God’s voice. There’ll be articles published in the academic world that challenges the status quo. There’ll be manuals and resources for how to do this better… And yes, there’ll be a whole lot more people who are living out the joy and power of a two-way conversation with God in their own lives.
Will you pray with us? Will you join with us in helping others to get the word out?
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