God has given me a huge desire to equip others to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). Huge desire. One of the joys I have is seeing others ready and willing to roll up their sleeves and contribute to the kingdom work, be it aspiring church planter or pastor or Sunday School teacher. My dissertation project for my Doctor of Ministry was on the topic of “Training Aspiring Ministers in the Basics of Expository Preaching at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY,” where I was able to meet frequently for four months with young men who were ‘guinea pigs’ for this training time.
As much as this is a passion of mine, I did explore at one point pursuing a PhD in Expository Preaching at my alma mater, wanting to study with a former professor and present friend, Hershael York. I even had a topic in mind dealing with and researching antebellum (pre-Civil War) preachers in the South and their justification of slavery all the while preaching freedom in Christ (as a man born in Virginia where it all started, this has been burning in my bones for a while). When it shook out, I wanted to examine how American culture can influence a biblical message without us realizing it.
So when Dr. York came to town last October for our Mile High Preaching Conference, I took him to lunch to ask him about what my next steps should be.
We went to No-No’s Cafe and enjoyed a delicious Cajun meal when he brought up the subject. He knew my heart, and had been somewhat involved in my pastoral ministry for the last decade. Now that Southern Seminary offered a modular PhD where I could take it without having to resign the church I deeply love, I was ready for an outlined plan.
The conversation lasted two minutes. In essence, Dr. York said, in response to my desire to train up leaders, “Matt, you’re already doing it! You don’t need a PhD to do that.” He told me that I brought him out to train up leaders in the local church here in Denver, and I did that with the number of college students who would come up to our church in a suburb of Lexington from EKU.
So what’s my point with all of you? Simply put: do what God has given you a passion to do. Sure, that may involved seminary education, but it doesn’t have to. You have a local church, and God has gifted us to serve the local church ultimately. We need gifted, passionate, potent leaders on the ground behind the pulpits and in the coffee shops equipping others in the Word. Yes, we need seminary professors, but we also need sent pastors all over the planet.
So, Dr. York talked me out of a PhD. I thank you—and my wallet thanks you as well!