As a young M.Div student, newly married and ready to just do something for the glory of God, the idea of hanging around seminary to do another degree after my Master’s seemed about as dumb as a stick. I had heard the saying “those that can, do,” and “those that can’t, teach,” and I knew I didn’t want my life to represent the latter statement. Thus, I was less than compelled about doing a PhD and potentially becoming a teacher.
I was also an idiot and naive and overly self-confident. I’m grateful for the patience of God. My idealism to be engaged in ministry that mattered hit a crossroads when I discovered I really enjoyed school as much as I loved other forms of ministry. The longer I studied for the M.Div, the more I recognized an insatiable appetite to learn. I still have that appetite.
I starting thinking a bit about doing a Ph.D. About that time my school (Southwestern Seminary) inaugurated a focus in evangelism. I couldn’t get away from the thought of this, so I applied, knowing it was hard to get in. But I did get in, and here I am about 30 years later.
Not every minister should do doctoral work. Why spend so much time and money and effort on another degree? Lots of reasons, more than I can list. But if you are capable of doing doctoral work, you should at least give it considerable thought and prayer. Learning and growing are that important.
We need some leaders to grow as leaders of leaders, and to become the key thinkers for the next generation. Doctoral work goes a long way toward preparing for this. How does this relate to evangelism? I can speak primarily of my school at this point. At Southeastern as we are known as the Great Commission Seminary. Our mission statement says it: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission. That’s why our hashtag is #iamgoing and our one word theme is GO. Whether you earn the PhD, the DMin, or the EDD, you will do so in a culture of evangelism with a vision as big as the whole world.
To learn more, go here for the PhD, Go here for the EDD. Go here for the DMin. Or, just go to the main site to learn about everything from our college to M.A. programs, the M.Div, and the Th.M. You can also call to speak to reps at each of the specific programs to learn more (note: offices are closed today in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday).
NOTE: NONE of these degrees involve living on campus. They can all be earned from all over, and involve a few visits to campus over the course of your study. I have students in all programs and virtually none of them are local.
Let me overview the degrees very briefly.
The Doctor of Ministry (DMin) represents a professional degree to help vocational ministers grow in practical ways related specifically to your ministry context. I love, oh how I love teaching these seminars and working with these students. I personally work in the areas of Next Gen (the first of its kind) and Disciple-Making, although I sometimes work with students in preaching or other fields. We now have a track for those who serve in denominational roles as well. If you have been in ministry for a while but have an itch to grow, this is the degree for you.
The Doctor of Education (EDD) equips students to think well and lead out in education. Want to be a much better teacher? Create and write curriculum? Lead in a Christian school? Serve as a student pastor? This research degree may be for you. I have my first three EDD students now (a student pastor and two ladies) and love working with them.
The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is what I earned. It’s called a terminal degree because it almost kills you to earn it :-). This opens all doors into the scholarly world while also helping to equip students for ministry. We have tracks in missiology, leadership, and many more. I have had the joy of working with a lot of PhD students and love it.
Having worked with scores of doctoral students over the years, here are my two cents as you think about this. I’m convinced a big part of why you do a doctorate at a certain school has to do with the professor you want to study with. I stayed at Southwestern for my PhD to get to study with Roy Fish, for instance. I’m always looking for a few new doctoral students, and as I get older want to give more time to mentoring students in these programs.
What keeps you from pursuing a doctorate? Why don’t you simply take the initiative to investigate these? If you are interested in working with me specifically, please send me an email at email@example.com. If you want to know more about the programs in general or learn about other professors you could work with, please contact the specific programs.
I hope you will consider doctoral work. My story is just that, my story, but by the grace of God and for the glory of God, I’ve made more impact in a year or two because I hung in there and earned the PhD than I might have in many years otherwise.
You don’t have to do doctoral work. Unless you do.