I have joked that I am leading a Demon track, not DMin (Doctor of Ministry) track at the seminary where I teach. This is no reflection on my students, but on me. In fact, as I will share, there is hope for my track because of my students!
Perhaps the DMin Director’s little boy has picked up on the banter his father and I have engaged in regarding the wording DMin and demon in various settings. Regardless of where he picked up on “demon,” his Dad shared on Facebook about how his child was troubled over the fact that he was messing around with the dark side. My colleague had to assure his son that it was not demons he was working with, but people getting doctorates in ministry.
Those of us in ministry have to be on guard against being demons unleashed on the world to lash out and inflict pain. Those of us pursuing advanced degrees in theology and ministry must ask ourselves why we are doing it. As I have written elsewhere, while I have benefited greatly from getting a Master of Divinity degree, I will benefit all the more from being mastered by Divinity. The former does not necessarily lead to the latter. Nothing is spiritually guaranteed either with acquiring PhDs in theology (I fear that at times the abbreviation does not convey doctorate in philosophy/theology, but as someone once remarked “Pile it high and deep”) and DMins.
There is reason for hope for teachers like myself who across North America and beyond have students like the ones I do. My colleagues at my seminary have remarked about how impressed they are with their students as well. Numerous impressions have been made so far by my students in my D.Min. cohort in Cultural Engagement. I will share three of them.
First, they are committed to honing their ministry skill sets, not hyping their expertise. Whether one is in the first year of seminary or last, the last thing the church and world needs is for degree getters to present themselves as having arrived to get the job done, to fix people and solve all their problems. No doubt, there are problems to solve, but we will only be able to do that relationally and in community. As I have observed my students, I am sensing that the needs of the people far outweigh their own self-concerns, reminding me of what one leadership book remarked about good leaders.
Second, they have been engaged in ministry for quite some time and have had the stuffing and wind knocked out of them quite a few times. As a result of releasing all that hot air, they have come to realize that they are in great need of being filled with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. They are not their people’s relational solution. He truly is. My fellow travelers in this Doctor of Ministry track sense how great their need is for Jesus to show up as they engage culture in their various settings. Otherwise, they might as well shut it all down. In other words, they don’t take themselves too seriously, but the Lord Jesus extremely seriously.
Third, these students are learning how to be creative in their suffering. One of the students said about our cohort that it really is a co-hurt made up of pastors, chaplains, social workers and community activists who are coming together to be made whole by Christ. They see their vocation as inviting others to experience Christ’s healing as well, and in a variety of ways.
My students, these new colleagues, are encouraging and inspiring me. I am finding that Christ is continuing to heal my wounds from the hurts of life in ministry through engaging these D.Min. students, who are also my teachers. It is my hope that as we are unleashed on the world it won’t be as demons who unload a world of hurt on others, but whose skills are honed to bear witness to Christ’s healing broken people in a broken world and the loving hope one finds in his embrace.
This piece is cross-posted at The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and The Christian Post.