It is a very interesting place that I find myself. During my senior year of high school, I did what practically every other senior in high school did: decided whether or not to go to college. And since I wanted a good job with a good salary that involved more than flipping burgers, I without thinking said yes. Oh, how I wish I had known then what I know now.
For the last nine and a half years I have known beyond the shadow of the inkling of a doubt (that’s even more stringent than just a shadow of a doubt) that I wanted to be involved in full time Christian ministry. There just is no question in my mind. There wasn’t any then. There hasn’t been any in the last nine years. And there isn’t any now. So, I did what I thought any aspiring minister would do: I went to a Christian college and got a degree in Bible. And it was FABULOUS. I absolutely loved college. I finished in three and a half years, a little early. But it was good timing for me. And I don’t think I’d trade those three and a half years for anything.
During those years, I became enthralled with my professors. And I decided I wanted to be just like them: have a Ph.D. so that I could teach in a college or seminary that was located in a small town where I could also be a bivocational staff person. Most of my professors did something like that (at least some of the time), and I wanted my ministry to be like theirs. So I did what they told me to do: I went to seminary, with the expectation that I would move from seminary to a Ph.D. program. They even told me to go somewhere that would solidify my grounding and then follow that in a doctoral program that had a name I wanted (whatever it might be). Which I still think is great advice.
Anyway, so I did that. But seminary wasn’t exactly all that I thought it would be. For one, it was pretty repetitive with what I had done in undergrad. Believe me, there weren’t that many others who set in the eight-week intensive two-mini-mester Greek classes that passed the time in class by doing their homework for the week (like six weeks’ worth or something), then spending the rest of their time reading magazines and grading Hebrew. Yes, Hebrew. In a Greek class that was killing others. And don’t take that as a sign of my intelligence. I had just already had 18 hours of Greek as an undergrad.
And the rest of seminary kind of went that way. All it all, it was a pretty disappointing experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I went. But by the time I finished, and especially now with a couple of years of reflection, I’m not so sure that a professor is my career of choice. Don’t know what my professors would think of that, but, hey, it’s my life. And I think my time would be much better spent with the people, by serving in a church, than in arguing the finer points of inflection of the Greek article in a certain context with other theologians. (Don’t ask if you don’t know. Just know that I CAN do it, and I DO have an appreciation for the need for it. I’m just convinced that it is not for me.)
So now I’m out of seminary. I’ve done everything that I know of to do. I even served on staff at a church – both in college and at another church in seminary. I worked in a hospital for a summer (since much of a minister’s time is spent in hospital visits). I spent a summer as a missionary. I’ve taken all the right classes, crossed every “T” and dotted every “i”.
So I find it a cross between funny and really disturbing when church committees look at me and, in all honesty, worry that I am too educated. That’s right TOO educated. And it hasn’t been just a committee here or there. It’s been every committee I’ve talked to. And, if you are wondering, I’ve talked to several, and I’m still looking. Here I am, a reasonably intelligent guy who has done nothing but pursue what he thinks would help him in ministry – the one thing in all of the universe that he wants to do, and I cannot get a job in ministry for anything I could offer. Because I’m too educated. I don’t have the right experience. I’ve been a music minister, but I don’t have a music degree. I have a great educational background, but I have only been a music minister (for something like education or pastor position).
So I sat today and watched a good friend of mine get ordained. (Well, I did more than sit – I played the piano and led the music for the service.) And I wondered if that would ever happen to me. If a church would ever look at me, who has no desire greater than serving the church, and say, “We recognize God working in your life. Serve Him here with us.” (I feel the need to clarify this, there are churches abundant who are willing to let me serve – I’m in one now – but a worker is worthy of his or her wages, and none of these churches can do that for one reason or another.)
300 resumes on (and I don’t think that is an exaggeration, though I haven’t exactly kept count), I begin to seriously doubt. And I don’t have anything in my background that would help me do anything else, even if I had the desire to do it. I’m an intelligent guy with a 3.85 GPA in a master’s degree, and all that anyone sees me good for (in a full time position) is basic data entry or flipping burgers.
So I resonate with the story I linked to above, linked to here again. It is five reasons to not go to college. Two years after finishing my masters degree, neither of my degrees has done me a bit of good. Maybe I should have just apprenticed with a carpenter. I hear that’s a good profession.