I was spending some time yesterday afternoon preparing for my Intro to the Bible course for this fall. It is getting close to the start of the fall semester, which is hard to believe. One of the textbooks I’m going to use for the course is my former colleague (that still hurts to say!) Scot McKnight’s book The Blue Parakeet. In the first chapter He has a poignant reflection from his teenage years when he was filled the the Holy Spirit and received a vocation to study God’s Word. He writes eloquently:
I had no idea what I was getting into when I asked God’s Spirit to fill me. I had no idea that I would go to college in Grand Rapids and become a bookaholic, buying books with money I didn’t have have! . . . I had no idea that I would then go on to seminary and from there for doctoral studies in England (Nottingham). I had no idea how hard it might be to find a teaching position. But I have lived a privileged life, teaching at a seminary for a dozen years and now teaching undergraduates at North Park University for nearly fifteen years. I had no idea that I would eventually travel to and speak in churches around the world, that I would get to write books about Jesus and Paul and Peter and the Bible, and that I would become friends with Bible scholars from all around the world. I just had no idea that teaching the Bible mean these things when I asked God’s Spirit to fill me. All I know is that from the time I was converted, I wanted to study the Bible. I’m sitting right now in my study, surrounded by books, books about the Bible, and I love what I do. I just had no idea (10-11).
Perhaps more than ever before in my life (especially contemplating the summer I’m having), I deeply resonate with Scot’s words. Although quite different, I too had a filling of God’s Spirit in high school. But then I had no idea what this was going to mean.
Unlike Scot’s brief story, my “Spirit of God filling” was a calling to ministry. I would then have never thought about a life of study as an academic. Bible study was simply not thought of as an end in itself in the tradition in which I was raised. I knew no one who encouraged a young person to study Greek. So, the only direction I would have understood at the time, to which I could have been directed by the Spirit, was to go into ministry. So as a junior I dedicated my life to full-time ministry. I remember that this “call” was on the basis of a realization; I came to realize that I standing up in front of a group of people to preach a message from the Bible was thrilling; the feeling I got from preaching the Bible was something I wanted to feel the rest of my life.
I went to college to study youth ministry. In the process of studying ministry I began to grow in my appetite for God’s Word. By the middle of my ministry training, I knew I wanted to study more of the Bible so I decided to go to seminary. While in seminary I was also in ministry full-time. In the late 1990’s, as I was both in ministry and seminary, my desire to study became overwhelming. Faced with a tension between ministry and education, I decided to resign from ministry to pursue study of the Bible fully.
Now, almost two decades later, I live such a privileged life. I finished seminary, completed doctoral work in England and since 2006 have taught at NPU. In 2010, I also reentered pastoral ministry at Christ Community Church (by the way, CCC was the church I left back in the 90’s to pursue my studies!). My life is dedicated to the task of studying and teaching the Bible. As I write this I’m in my study surrounded by books, books about the Bible, and I love what I do. I too had no idea.
In what way do you resonate with either my or Scot’s experience?